Three members of the Grove and Rufford Hunt, found guilty last year of illegal fox hunting, yesterday had their conviction overturned. Also this week, joint master of Dorset’s Portman Hunt was acquitted of illegal hunting, after a trial heard that his pack of hounds chased a fox.

Director of Campaigns for the League Against Cruel Sports, Chris Luffingham, said:

“This week is a sad week for British wildlife. The Hunting Act made chasing and killing foxes with packs of dogs illegal, but for people intent on flouting the law for their own entertainment, loopholes and exemptions in the Act mean they’re all too often getting away with it.

“Most hunts now claim to be legally ‘trail’ hunting, but we believe this is just a cover for illegal hunting. The excuse of trail hunting is being used time and again by the hunts to try and hide what they’re really doing, which is intentionally persecuting wildlife in the name of sport, just as they did before the hunting ban came in.

“We want to see the Hunting Act strengthened, so people can no longer use the trail hunting excuse or any other excuse, and so the wildlife being deliberately targeted by the hunts gets better protection.”

In the March 2017 trial of three members of the Grove and Rufford hunt for illegal hunting, the defendants had insisted their dogs were following a trail when they came across a fox. The fox was killed by a pack of more than 40 hounds in full view of a birdwatcher, who gave evidence at the trial.

In the Portman Hunt incident, hounds pursued a fleeing fox across land belonging to the National Trust in Dorset. Footage of the incident can be seen here.