An animal welfare charity is calling for hunts in Somerset to cease hunting in the face of the equine flu crisis, which has led to a shutdown of horse racing. Reports indicate one of the horses infected with equine flu, is based in Somerset, at the Millfield School near Glastonbury.

The League Against Cruel Sports is urging hunts to stop hunting immediately to prevent the spread of horse flu among its horses and hounds and beyond. Many horses involved in racing also take part in hunting and this virulent disease spreads easily in horses, and it can even jump across to the hunting hounds.

There have been reports from Friday and Saturday that fox hunts were out hunting on horseback. The Blackmore and Sparkford Vale were witnessed killing a fox in neighbouring Dorset on Saturday according to a report by local monitoring and saboteur groups and the Seavington Hunt and Axe Vale Hunt were seen on a joint hunt on Friday.

Meanwhile, the activities of some of the other hunts in the county have been postponed over the weekend.

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

“There is a serious risk of horse flu spreading among both horses and hounds if they continue meeting up.

“It would be grossly irresponsible of the hunts to ignore the precedent being set by the horse racing authorities.”

During the foot and mouth crisis in 2007, hunts were confined to stables and kennels.

There are currently 16 mounted hunts in Somerset with 13 targeting foxes, two targeting red deer, and one targeting roe deer.

Chris Luffingham said:

“It would be shameful and irresponsible if the hunts were to be out in the countryside this week given the risks.

“They should be putting the welfare of their horses and hounds before their cruel pleasure in chasing local wildlife for ‘sport’.”

-ENDS-

Notes to Editors

Video footage is available on request.

For more information or interview requests please contact the League Against Cruel Sports Press Office on 01483 524250 (24hrs) or email [email protected]

The League Against Cruel Sports is Britain's leading charity that works to stop animals being persecuted, abused and killed for sport. The League was instrumental in helping bring about the landmark Hunting Act. We carry out investigations to expose law-breaking and cruelty to animals and campaign for stronger animal protection laws and penalties. We work to change attitudes and behaviour through education and manage sanctuaries to protect wildlife. Find out more about our work at www.league.org.uk. Registered charity in England and Wales (no.1095234) and Scotland (no.SC045533).