Hunters in Derbyshire have been illegally chasing and killing British wildlife- according to reports received by an animal welfare charity.
The League Against Cruel Sports has catalogued incidents including ‘terrified foxes chased to exhaustion’ across the Derbyshire countryside before being ‘torn apart in the jaws of the hunt’s hounds’.
Hunting hounds have also ‘attacked a herd of alpacas’, say the charity, resulting in an animal being euthanised as a result of substantial injuries.
The incidents in Derbyshire form part of more than 282 reports of suspected illegal hunting across the UK received by the League since the hunting season began on November 1.
Across the country 60 animals were witnessed being chased and killed, including 42 foxes and 4 hares which were torn apart by packs of hounds and 17 deer which were pursued for miles until exhausted and then shot.
Chris Luffingham, director of Campaigns at the League Against Cruel Sports, said: “Despite hunting being banned in 2004, hunts are still sickeningly chasing and killing wildlife in Derbyshire.
“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 figures come from reports by the public into the League’s Animal Crimewatch service, reports by monitoring and saboteur groups posted on Facebook, and from investigators employed by the League to monitor hunts.
The charity say that, in the UK, there are 271 hunts still in existence according to the Hunting Office which represents them.
This includes 179 foxhound packs, 55 beagle foot packs which target hares, 18 harrier packs which target either hares and foxes, eight fell packs which target foxes in Cumbria, six basset hound packs which target hares, three staghound packs which target red deer and two hunts which target roe deer.
But the Countryside Alliance say that anti-hunting activists are using social media, ‘highly emotive messages’ and ‘well-edited footage’ to distort the facts.
A spokesman said: “Packs of hounds within Derbyshire operate within the law to comply with the Hunting Act 2004.
“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.
“As the Cheshire Police recently commented, action can only be taken when evidence exists.”
Hunting with hounds was banned in 2004 but is still rife in the British countryside, say the the League Against Cruel Sports.
But the Country Alliance Spokesman 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.”