A leading British huntsman has lost his position as Master of one of the nation’s most prestigious hunts following an investigation into a 70th Birthday celebration hunt during lockdown. Joss Hanbury was found to have “seriously damaged the reputation of hunting” after a birthday gathering of hounds and fellow Quorn Hunt members was held at his home to mark his 70th birthday, while the rest of the country were subject to Covid restrictions on movement. The Masters of Foxhounds Association (MFHA) have suspended Mr Hanbury for two seasons while another Master, Rowan Cope, has been suspended for six months. The MFHA say their actions had not been “responsible”. A letter to members of Leicestershire’s Quorn Hunt seen by ITV News confirmed that neither Master would be continuing in their roles. It says that “following an incident on March 18th 2021 we will be saying goodbye to Joss Hanbury and Rowan Cope from the Mastership. We are grateful for their efforts in the past.” Hunts were given clear guidance that during lockdown hounds should only be exercised from their kennels.
On Joss Hanbury’s birthday the dogs were loaded into a vehicle and driven half an hour to land near his home where Hanbury and two others took to the the countryside dressed in full hunting clothing for what is claimed to have been “hound exercise”. Video of the birthday gathering seen by ITV News showed two huntsmen on horseback dressed for hunting as the hounds zeroed in on what hunt opponents believe may have been a foxhole or badger sett. The police have told ITV News that the incident is still under investigation.
Lee Moon at the Hunt Saboteurs Association said: “Whilst it's pleasing to see that action has been taken against these individuals we do wonder if that's only because the event became public and was covered by the press? Presumably others in the hunt felt comfortable at the time participating in an event that appears to be a clear breach of Covid guidelines."