Master quits hunt named in cruelty allegations

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The Independent Online
ONE OF the masters of a prestigious hunt accused of trapping foxes alive so they can be used for sport has announced he is giving up his position.

Major John Shaw's retirement from the Sinnington Hunt was revealed to members days after The Independent revealed the hunt was facing a fresh investigation into allegations that an artificial fox earth was found on its land. They were also told that a terrierman with the hunt will not have his contract renewed.

Nine months ago, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals rescued a pair of three-month-old cubs, with their ears mutilated, from the hunt's land in North Yorkshire. Last month, the RSPCA began another investigation after photographs and videos were produced, allegedly showing evidence of an artificial earth in the area.

On Boxing Day last year, hounds from the hunt killed a cat in a garden in Kirkbymoorside, and posters began to appear, put up by local farmers, showing a cat lying on its back and the caption: "Latest from Sinnington pantomime productions, Puss in Bits".

A month earlier, Ryedale District Council ordered the hunt to remove an incinerator, used for animal carcasses, which it said had been causing air pollution.

The RSPCA dropped the prosecution over the cubs in December last year, because, it said, it did not have enough evidence. Major Shaw was questioned along with the terrierman and the two other joint masters Andrew Osborne and Adam Waugh. They all denied any involvement in the matter.

Prior to his resignation, Major Shaw had been associated with the hunt most of his life. His father was a master of the hunt before him. He refused to make any comment yesterday, referring inquiries to the Countryside Alliance. A source close to the hunt said he expects to continue riding as a member.

There is no suggestion that Major Shaw was in any way involved in the allegations over the fox cubs or the artificial earth.

According to the source he had demanded that the matters be fully investigated.

The RSPCA said last night: "It is clear that after a number of embarrassing incidents involving the Sinnington Hunt Major Shaw had decided to loosen his links with the hunt.

"If other huntmasters around the country applied the same standards we would see lots of other retirements and resignations."

Last night, Major James Holt, chairman of Sinnington Hunt committee said: "The hunt committee does not employ the terrierman, that is done by the masters.

"I would not like to speculate about the reason for Major Shaw's resignation, but from the letter he sent me it appears to be a financial one. I am not aware he is embarrassed by the hunt. As a hunt, we do seem to get much more than our fair share of adverse publicity and a lot of is is unwarranted."