New figures highlight the need for the next government to strengthen fox hunting laws

A massive increase in suspected illegal hunting incidents during the last fox hunting season has been reported to national animal welfare charity the League Against Cruel Sports.

Campaigners say the scale of suspected law-breaking highlights yet again how important it is for political parties to commit to strengthen hunting laws during the next parliament.

The new figures, released today, show both reports related to suspected illegal hunting as well as the havoc fox hunts wreaked on rural communities across England and Wales.

Nearly 1,400 incidents, comprising 526 reports of suspected illegal hunting and 870 reports of hunt havoc, were recorded in the League’s end of hunting season report covering November 2023 to March 2024.

It is a huge increase on the 982 incidents recorded during the same period the season before.

Emma Judd, the League’s head of campaigns, said: “What these figures show is that hunts are unashamedly ignoring the law. Where they are seen chasing or killing foxes, or even being in places like major roads, railways, or private property where pre-laid trails simply can’t be, it’s clear only stronger laws will deter the hunts, or at least allow the police to properly enforce it.

“It’s time for change. Pressure is building for all political parties to include a manifesto commitment to strengthen fox hunting laws and for the next government to consign old fashioned fox hunting to history where it belongs.”

The reports comprised of 417 incidents in which a fox was seen being chased by a hunt, alongside other incidents including the involvement of terrier men digging up foxes that had bolted underground.

The hunt havoc incidents included hunts running amok on roads; trespassing on private land and railway lines; chasing livestock and people’s pets; chasing other wildlife such as deer; damaging badger setts to prevent foxes fleeing underground; horses and hounds being mistreated; threatening and irresponsible behaviour; and members of the public being caused mental distress.

The figures are collated by the League from reports into the League’s Animal Crimewatch serviceand other monitors.

  • There were 549 separate fox hunt meets at which suspected illegal hunting or hunt havoc took place, across 46 different counties and involving 107 fox hunts.
  • The counties with highest number of incidents were Gloucestershire, Dorset, Somerset, Devon and Yorkshire.
  • The worst offending hunt in England and Wales is the Blackmore and Sparkford Vale Hunt which was briefly suspended this season by fox hunting’s governing body after being caught on camera and exposed on Channel 4 Newsfor killing a fox.
  • The Warwickshire Hunt, which is reported to have struck a secret police deal, is also in the top five worst offending hunts and was filmed killing a fox earlier this season.

Emma Judd added: “This is both an animal welfare issue and one impacting on law and order so it’s time for all politicians to listen to our concerns and act by pushing for stronger laws which crack down on the hunts appalling behaviour.

“We are calling for political parties to commit to strengthening the law by closing its loopholes, banning ‘trail’ hunting, and introducing custodial sentences for those convicted of illegal hunting.”


Notes to editors
The full sets of data for the 2023/2024 fox hunting season are available on request.

An infographic is enclosed highlighting the national picture of suspected illegal hunting and hunt havoc.

Trail hunting, the excuse often used by fox hunts, has been described by Chief Superintendent Matt Longman, the most senior police officer in England with responsibility for fox hunting crime, as a “smokescreen for illegal fox hunting”. He also described illegal hunting as “prolific”.

Trail hunting was banned in Scotland in 2023 when the Scottish Parliament strengthened its own fox hunting laws.

The campaign to strengthen the Hunting Act 2004 and ban trail hunting is backed by the Time for Change Coalition Against Hunting representing 34 animal welfare and environmental organisations.

For more information or interview requests please contact the League Against Cruel Sports press office on 01483 524250 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 2004, the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act 2021, the strengthened fox hunting laws of the Hunting with Dogs (Scotland) Act 2023 and a ban on the use of snares created by the Agriculture (Wales) Act 2023.

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 wildlife reserves. Find out more about our work at Registered charity in England and Wales (no.1095234) and Scotland (no.SC045533).

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