Calls for blanket ban on hunts during horse flu crisis

An animal welfare charity is calling for hunting activities across the Britain to cease in the face of the equine flu crisis which has led to a six-day shutdown of horse racing.

The League Against Cruel Sports is urging over 200 hunts to stop hunting immediately to prevent the spread of horse flu among both 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.

The horse flu crisis is suspected to have started after three horses were taken ill at trainer Donald McCain’s Backhouse stables in Cheshire, in an area that the local hunt frequents.

Cheshire has been in the headlines recently with seven fox kills by hunts reported in only the last six weeks. This has led to increasing scrutiny of the hunts, pressure on the police for better enforcement and questions being raised by local MPs in parliament.

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 209 mounted hunts operating the UK – with 199 targeting foxes, ten targeting hares, three targeting red deer and two targeting roe deer.

Chris Luffingham said:

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

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


A League petition called ‘Stop the killing of animals by hunts in the UK’ attracted over 100,000 signatures and was handed into Downing Street in December.

League Against Cruel Sports President and naturalist and TV presenter Bill Oddie joined League CEO Andy Knott MBE for the hand-in.

Details of the League’s petition which is still open here:



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

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 Registered charity in England and Wales (no.1095234) and Scotland (no.SC045533).

Sign up for our newsletter

We'd love to keep in touch. With your permission we'll let you know the very latest news on our fast-moving campaigns, as well as appeals and other actions (such as petitions) so you can continue to help protect animals.

If you would like to know more about your data protection rights, please read our privacy policy.

© 2022 The League Against Cruel Sports. Registered charity in England and Wales (1095234) and Scotland (SC045533).
Registered in England and Wales as a company limited by guarantee, no. 04037610.
Registered office: New Sparling House, Holloway Hill, Godalming, GU7 1QZ, United Kingdom.