“We asked our local Pony Club UK about fox hunting and they said their branch didn’t have anything to do with it. Then I found the club on the pcuk website and it has links with a fox hunt. Why did they deny it? We were shocked. We want parents like us to know that their kids could be groomed in cruelty and exposed to crime by attending a Pony Club.”
So you thought the Pony Club UK was about sweet, apple-cheeked children trotting around on shaggy ponies, being taught to ride safely and wisely for a lifetime of harmless equestrian pleasure? There’s some of that. But the Pony Club isn’t just loosely linked to fox hunting. As we reveal in this article, it seems to be deeply mired in supporting and enabling it.
How the Pony Club UK supports fox hunting
Going by what’s available in the public domain online, the Pony Club has many clear and current fox hunting links. Here’s the evidence.
First, a Google search reveals a string of Pony Club ‘branches’ that clearly relate to fox hunts.
Next, there’s a searchable list of qualifications and announcements on the Pony Club UK website. We searched ‘hunting’ and ‘hunt’, and it returned more than fifty different documents with the words ‘hunting’ or ‘hunt’ in them.
Opening and searching the documents in the list shows the Pony Club mentioning hunting time after time. Here are just three examples.
Then there’s this, the results of a 2022 Pony Club competition. See the hunts mentioned?
If you still think there isn’t enough evidence to link fox hunting and The Pony Club UK, here’s a final screenshot. On this Pony Club web page they don’t even bother calling them ‘Pony Clubs’ or ‘branches of’ the Pony Club. They’re just called hunts.
We rest our case.
Fox hunting has been illegal since the Hunting Act 2004. But Pony Club documentation freely talks about hunting and the club doesn’t try to hide its hunt connections. Because fox hunting falls perfectly under the CPS definition of organised crime (‘planned and co-ordinated criminal behaviour and conduct by people working together on a continuing basis’), it isn’t something you want your children exposed to. It can lead to a criminal record and teaches young people that animal cruelty is normal and acceptable.
The UK Pony Club is a charity – Is a charity allowed to support crime?
Charity Trustees must make sure their charity complies with the law, taking reasonable steps to find out which laws apply. And charities, like every organisation and individual, have to obey ‘general laws’ including English Statute law. Fox hunting in England and Wales has been illegal for almost two decades. Why is the PCUK enmeshed in it twenty years down the line? Why hasn’t it moved with the times, leading the way to an enlightened future for young riders instead of hanging onto a failing, increasingly embarrassing status quo?
As far as the legal duties of a charity go, the Trustees must act in its best interests. Is it in the Pony Club’s best interests to keep the link with hunting, with its potential for social media shame, criminal convictions, prison sentences, and reputation damage? Surely it makes more sense to campaign to bring the Club up to date and end the slaughter.
Charity Trustees must also handle conflicts of interest wisely. There’s a clear conflict of interest when a charity dealing with children and young people has connections with crime. Finally Trustees must manage their charity’s resources responsibly, which means putting the right financial controls in place to manage the risks it faces. It doesn’t seem responsible to risk the reputation of a charity, the good work it does and ultimately its finances by supporting a few stubborn law-breakers when the overwhelming majority of people want to see the hunting crimewave end.
Questions for UK Pony Club Trustees
The Chairman is Tim Vestey, the Vice Chairman is Clare Valori, the Treasurer is Nigel Howlett, and the Trustees are Liz Lowry, Helen Jackson, Andrew James, Philip Freedman, and Justine Baynes. Are these influential people trapping the Pony Club in the Dark Ages?
Those who control and manage the Pony Club UK must know their organisation feeds into fox hunting, creating new generations of people who kill our wildlife. As we’ve shown, hunting pops up indiscreetly all over the PCUK website. The Trustees probably look at the site every day and know the contents inside out.
They’ll know about the Hunting Act 2004. They’ll have seen the online meeting outing ‘trail hunting’ as a lie, which led to the landmark Mark Hankinson court case. And they’ll be watching as the list of fox hunting convictions steadily increases thanks to social media, wearable tech, better policing, and growing public disgust.
Will they carry on ignoring the inevitable? If so, when the next government comes in the PCUK could be in trouble. If we were in charge of the charity we’d change tack now, before it’s too late.
Does the donating public know about this?
Charities exist to make a positive social and cultural impact. Is the PCUK’s hunt support making a positive social and cultural impact? Quite the opposite. There’s more. What about the donors? While plenty of donors will know exactly what’s going on because they’re members of the hunting scene, many won’t. Would they donate if they did?
What happens when a charity has links with crime?
The PCUK is a perfectly legal charitable organisation with unfortunate fox hunting connections and affiliations. Fox hunts fall under the official definition of organised criminal gangs. The Pony Club UK’s hunt-focused optics are not good, the future isn’t bright for hunting, and if it isn’t illegal for a charity to have links with wildlife crime – and spend donor money perpetuating it – it is certainly immoral.
What to do about fox hunting and the UK Pony Club?
We believe there should be a comprehensive drains-up investigation at the PCUK to dig out the charity’s fox hunting roots and completely change its focus. We also recommend a change of Trustees, replacing the current reactionary leadership team with future-savvy people from a variety of ages and backgrounds who know change is vital, and realise the writing is on the wall for hunting.
Advice for parents – Find an independent pony club
If you love wildlife and hate fox hunting, you can keep your child safe by finding an independent pony club that doesn’t have fox hunting links.
Advice to help the Pony Club change
The Charity Commission is your destination if you’d like to ‘raise a concern’ or make an actual complaint about the backwards-looking roadmap the Pony Club UK is on. Click here for the right page on the .gov website.