A Hunt with a 30-year tradition was disbanded just days after the launch of an investigation by the RSPCA into allegations of cruelty, it emerged last night. The committee for the South Cornwall Hunt voted in favour of folding at a crisis meeting held five days after hunt master Stephen Parkin was charged by the animal welfare charity with causing unnecessary suffering to a hound.
Yesterday Mr Parkin, 42, a farmer from Whitemoor, near St Austell, denied the allegations through a statement issued by his solicitor Clive Rees. The case against Mr Parkin was adjourned for a pre-trial review to be held at Bodmin magistrates’ court on March 16.
A senior member of the hunt denied that the decision to shut it down was in any way linked to the charges against Mr Parkin.
The dog at the centre of the allegations, a foxhound bitch, is currently being held by the RSPCA at its rescue centre in St Columb Major.
The remainder of the 30-strong pack of foxhounds have been shared between the North Cornwall and Four Burrow hunts.
Rob Skinner, the RSPCA inspector handling the case, said: “Charges of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal were brought against Mr Parkin on September 5 last year.
“The South Cornwall Hunt folded shortly after this happened.
“Our understanding is that they called an emergency meeting five days later and disbanded the hunt.”
The hunt began in the mid-1970s and covered the china clay region of Cornwall, running from Bodmin and following the Roseland Peninsula back to Fowey.
Founding member Geoff White, of Golant, said all the hunt members had now joined other hunts.
He said: “There is no more hunting here now.
“We were advised by the Foxhunting Association to stop.” Mr White denied the reasons for the demise of the hunt were linked to charges against Mr Parkin.
“We ran out of country,” he said. “Our ground was on loan to us from the Four Burrow and North Cornwall hunts and they wanted to take their land back again. That was the main reason.”
He refused to comment on the animal cruelty allegations. “I don’t have anything to say until after it has all been cleared up,” he said.
Alison Hawes, South West regional director of the Countryside Alliance, said: “Hunts are a business and when they get short of country or when the figures don’t stack up then it isn’t viable for them to continue.
“There are 50 hunts in the South West and this was always the one that would be most likely to cease hunting.”