A charity says foxes have been illegally chased a number of times in Banburyshire recently but the Countryside Alliance argues hunts are operating within the law.
The League Against Cruel Sports says foxes were chased by the Warwickshire Hunt near Bishop’s Itchingdon on December 14, 2018, near Horley on January 17, and near Hornton on January 26.
Three other chases by the Warwickshire Hunt were reported to the charity as well as five incidents in Oxfordshire.
In Oxfordshire, a fox was killed by hounds and an artificial earth was found – a trap used to rear foxes before being released on the day of the hunt.
Chris Luffingham, director of campaigns at the charity, said: “Despite hunting being banned in 2004, hunts are still sickeningly chasing and killing wildlife in Oxfordshire and Warwickshire.
“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’.”
Videos on Facebook by the West Midlands Hunt Saboteurs appear to show the foxes being chased by packs of hounds with huntsmen on horses in the Banburyshire villages.
The incidents form part of more than 282 reports of suspected illegal hunting in 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 four hares which were torn apart by packs of hounds and 17 deer which were pursued for miles until exhausted and then shot, according to the charity.
Incidents are either reported to the League’s Animal Crimewatch service, posted by saboteur groups’ on social media or picked up by professional investigators.
However the Countryside Alliance, which represents the hunts, says all activities comply with the Hunting Act 2004 and there is no evidence to the contrary.
“Hunts are regularly subjected to spurious allegations regarding their legal hunting activities,” a spokesman for the organisation said.
“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.”
The 2004 act banned the hunting of foxes in England and Wales but there are exceptions that hunts use to continue the activity legally – the League says some hunts are breaking the law but the Alliance disagrees.
Mr Luffingham called on the hunting ban to be strengthened with prison sentences as a ‘proper deterrent to stop the barbaric activities of the hunts’ and close ‘loop holes’.
The Alliance spokesman pointed out there have been only 24 convictions since the 2004 act was introduced despite more than 250,000 days of hunting across the UK.
“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,” she added.
Any suspected illegal hunting activity can be reported to the League’s Animal Crimewatch service at www.league.org.uk/animal-crimewatch
Alternatively, phone in confidence on 01483 361 108 or email on firstname.lastname@example.org