Hunts face amalgamation to survive
Increasing development and the growth of urban attitudes are forcing hunts to consider amalgamating and sharing countries, warns the Masters of Foxhounds Association (MFHA). It is putting a process in place to ensure that more than a dozen hunts struggling due to lack of country and income can keep going.
Under MFHA guidelines, a hunt must: have enough country to allow hounds out at least two days a week; a pack of hounds; suitable kennels; a reasonable level of local support; and enough money to cover costs – including one full-time and one part-time member of staff in the kennels.
This November will see the first opening meet for the Essex with Farmers & Union Hunt following the amalgamation of Essex Foxhounds and Essex Farmers & Union. The merger was formally ratified in May.
“The biggest issue was the name change,” says Christopher Padfield, Master of the Essex, “but what it has done is taken the pressure off each of our countries and made it much easier to navigate round all the shoots. We now have a massive country [stretching from Bradwell-onsea to the Cambridgeshire border] and are indebted to the local farmers and landowners for their support.”
Adapting to the changing countryside is vital for hunting to prosper said Polly Portwin, who runs the CA’S hunting campaign. “If that means resources have to be shared to reduce overheads, amalgamations or mergers considered, or even the rare closure of a hunt through no fault of its own other than being simply unsustainable, then this is how hunting has to progress to ensure it not only survives, but actually thrives,” she said.
A new disciplinary body and more staff training are among the reforms announced by the MFHA for hunts in England and Wales.