Illegal fox hunting has taken place in Lincolnshire recently - according to an animal welfare charity.
The League Against Cruel Sports claims to have catalogued incidents including what it describes as ‘a terrified fox chased to exhaustion across the Lincolnshire countryside before being torn apart in the jaws of the hunt’s hounds’.
It claims that badger setts have also ‘been blocked up near a hunt meet to stop foxes taking refuge during the chase’.
The League says it is aware of two alleged incidents in Lincolnshire since December - and a further six in the past year. However, the Countryside Alliance disputes these claims.
Chris Luffingham, director of campaigns at the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS), said: “Despite hunting being banned in 2004, hunts are still sickeningly chasing and killing wildlife in Lincolnshire.”
LACS claims to have received more than 282 reports of suspected illegal hunting across the UK since the hunting season began on November 1.
A spokesman said: “Across the country 60 animals were witnessed being chased and killed, including 42 foxes and four hares, which were torn apart by packs of hounds - and 17 deer which were pursued for miles until exhausted and then shot.”
Mr Luffingham added: “These figures are sadly just the tip of the iceberg, but they show that the hunts are breaking the law and killing foxes, hares and deer for their so called ‘sport’.
“The good news is that the new technology being adopted by the people monitoring hunts means it is becoming far more difficult for the hunts to get away with their illegal activity.”
The League spokesman added: “The rise of smart camera phones and social media use by the public and hunt monitor groups means that the scale of the hunts’ illegal activities are coming increasingly under the spotlight – much more so than happened in the immediate aftermath of the ban. Professional investigators employed by the League Against Cruel Sports back this up by using sophisticated techniques and new technology to uncover the hunts’ illegal activity.”
LACS claims the figures come from reports by the public into its Animal Crimewatch service, reports ‘by monitoring and saboteur groups posted on Facebook’, and from professional investigators employed by the League to monitor hunts.
“Some of the professional investigators are former police officers who bring years of front-line experience to the League,” added the spokesman.
The League is now calling for the hunting ban to be strengthened with the introduction of prison sentences for those caught illegally hunting.
Mr Luffingham concluded: “We need a proper deterrent to stop the barbaric activities of the hunts and we also need to close down loop holes that allow hunts to use transparent excuses such as trail hunting.”
We contacted the Countryside Alliance about the League’s claims. A spokesman told us: “Packs of hounds within Lincolnshire operate within the law to comply with the Hunting Act 2004.”
Speaking about legal UK hunts, they continued: “Hunts are regularly subjected to spurious allegations regarding their legal hunting activities. Hunts are frequently plagued by balaclava-clad animal-rights activists who intimidate and harass hunt supporters and landowners, seeking to provoke a response they can then broadcast on social media. Anti-hunting activists exploit the fact that social media amplifies their highly emotive messages regardless of the facts. Their tactic of spreading highly edited footage works well online but it often results in hundreds of hours of wasted police time, which is totally unacceptable.”
They added: “It is 14 years since the Hunting Act was enforced yet there have been just 24 convictions under the Hunting Act 2004 relating to registered hunts, despite more than a quarter of a million days hunting having taken place by over 250 hunts during this time. These figures do not suggest that hunts are breaking the law and is confirmation that the infrastructure of hunting remains an integral part of the countryside and is here to stay.”
Hunting with hounds was banned in 2004, but the League Against Cruel Sports claims the practise is ‘still rife in the British countryside’.
Last January we reported on how police were investigating an alleged fox hunt in Asterby after a resident claimed to have witnessed a fox being pursued by riders and hounds near his home.
Any suspected illegal hunting activity can be reported to police on 101 - or to the League’s Animal Crimewatch service at www.league.org.uk/animal-crimewatch
Alternatively, call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.