Farm animals, other livestock and even exotic birds are at risk from hunts as they ride across the British countryside, according to new statistics released by the League Against Cruel Sports.

During the last hunting season, from October until March, the animal welfare charity received reports of 65 incidents of livestock being worried by hunts. Of those 65, 12 involved hounds chasing and attacking livestock - sometimes fatally.

Since traditional fox hunting was banned in 2005, hunts claim to follow an animal-based scent ‘trail’. During a typical ‘trail’ hunt, which can last up to a day, riders and hounds will cross many fields containing livestock.

Chris Luffingham, director of campaigns at the League, said:

The hunts can’t have been on land with the owners’ permission, because the reports detail shocking incidents of spooked, injured and even killed animals due to the hunts’ recklessness.

“If ‘trail’ hunting is real the hunts would be avoiding fields with farm animals and other livestock in.”

One harrowing report described how a horse had to be destroyed after being worried by the Wynnstay Hunt.

The hunting hounds spooked the horse, which was kept on private land. In its frantic attempts to escape, the horse impaled itself on a fence and could not be saved.

Later that day the League received reports of the hunt killing a fox in a family garden, in front of the children.

Similarly, the Warwickshire Hunt made headlines in December when their hounds trespassed onto a farm, despite already being banned from the land. Consequently, a rhea – a large exotic bird - escaped from the farm onto a busy main road.

Witnesses also reported seeing the hunt chasing a fox later that day.

Chris Luffingham added:Hunts continue to trespass on private land which they do not have permission to access - and where livestock might be kept - because they are chasing live foxes and not hunting trails.

“Many countryside organisations state tackling incidents of sheep worrying in particular is a priority for them, yet they appear to be turning a blind eye every time the hunts do it.”

The National Trust licenses ‘trail’ hunting on its estates. A motion has been lodged by over 200 National Trust members, with the hope that the issue of hunt licensing will be debated at the trust’s annual meeting in October.

Help the League to end ‘trail’ hunting on National Trust land, here: https://www.league.org.uk/nationaltrust.