Complaint made to police and RSPCA after claims councillor 'struck horse'
- Credit: Norfolk/Suffolk Hunt Saboteurs
A complaint has been made to Norfolk police and the RSPCA after a video appeared to show a senior county councillor striking a horse whilst on a hunt.
Anti-hunt activists claim the clip, which was filmed during a hunt near Lexham Hall, in west Norfolk, shows Bill Borrett, a Conservative councillor, hitting his horse twice with the handle of his hunting crop.
The activists, from a group called Norfolk/Suffolk Hunt Saboteurs, have accused him of "cruelty" and have reported the incident, which happened on December 18, to the RSPCA and to Norfolk Constabulary.
Mr Borrett, who is the cabinet member for adult social care, public health and prevention at Norfolk County Council, refused to comment when approached by this newspaper.
However, a day after the video was posted online he resigned as the director of a hunt group. It is not known if his resignation was linked to the video.
Companies House - a register of UK companies - shows Mr Borrett, who represents Elmham and Mattishall, resigned as a director of West Norfolk Foxhound Hunt Ltd on Tuesday, December 21.
Despite multiple requests for comment on the incident and his resignation from the hunt group, Mr Borrett did not respond.
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When a reporter visited Mr Borrett's house in Hoe near Dereham he declined to comment and closed the door.
In a statement posted online with the clip, the saboteurs accused Mr Borrett, of "hitting his horse in anger after it appeared to be refusing his instruction".
A spokesman for the group, who was at the hunt, added: "He was struggling to get his phone out of his pocket to film us, that's when he lost control.
"You can tell when a horse doesn't want to do something, it will often try to walk backwards waving its head from side to side. Riders then try to 'encourage' it forwards."
The spokesman also said riding crops frequently used by members of hunts usually have a heavy end and often are made of wood with a metal end.
The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in its code of practice for the welfare of horses sets out that it is an offence to cause unnecessary suffering to an animal.
While punishment can be used to suppress unwanted behaviour, DEFRA warns this can cause psychological distress and fear, and using a whip inappropriately can cause pain and affect learning.
Norfolk Constabulary confirmed they have received a report of the incident, which its rural crime team was looking into. No formal investigation has begun at this stage, however.
The RSPCA said they could not comment on complaints about specific people for legal reasons, but that anyone with concerns should contact them on 0300 1234 999.
The West Norfolk Foxhound Hunt group Mr Borrett was a director of and Andrew Proctor, leader of the county council and Norfolk conservative chairman, were also contacted but neither responded to requests for comment.
On social media, members of the public said they had reported the incident to Norfolk County Council, but a spokesperson for the authority said that its councillors' code of conduct only covered individuals while they were acting in their capacity as a councillor and that the council would not be able to comment.
The incident follows a recent high-profile case of a woman who was filmed kicking and slapping her horse while on a hunt in Leicestershire earlier this year. Sarah Moulds, a mother of two and primary school teacher, was then sacked from her job earlier this month.
Earlier this year Mr Borrett faced calls to quit as is the cabinet member for adult social care, after a high court judge ruled Norfolk County Council had acted unlawfully over care cost changes for disabled people.
A judge ruled the county council had discriminated in "an unintended and unforeseen way" over changes it made to the minimum income guarantee (MIG) used to calculate the cost of care.