There's something fishy about the hunts' claims of drifting scents

Working for the League Against Cruel Sports can be rewarding but the daily reports coming into the head office of kills by hunts under the guise of trail hunting are simply heartbreaking - foxes and hares being literally torn to pieces by packs of hounds and deer being chased for miles before being shot.

And this is 2018. Surely hunting was banned back in 2004? So what is going on here and what is the extent of the illegal hunting with packs of dogs across the British countryside?

On my computer screen, video footage from hunt monitors and members of the public shows body parts of foxes, intestines in this case; hunts accompanied by masked terrier men on quad bikes armed with spades and caged terriers; a pack of fox hounds out of control in a cat sanctuary. This is just a fraction of the grisly scenes we have witnessed since the New Year.

One of the latest incidents in early February in Hertfordshire saw 40 hounds invade a farm and terrorise around 65 alpacas, a gentle South American mammal kept for its wool. The shocked farm manager Nigel Beckwith described the experience as 'totally traumatic' and he feared for the alpacas who were 'highly stressed'.

Thankfully the hunt didn't kill on this occasion but as everyone started looking at the breaking media reports, something unexpected happened. One of my colleagues burst into laughter. "They're claiming their 'trail' drifted", she said incredulously.

"The Puckeridge Hunt is saying that had been trail hunting within the law when 'regrettably it appears the scent of our trail must have drifted from where it was laid and some hounds unexpectedly entered the property'. The Countryside Alliance has also apologised on behalf of the Puckeridge Hunt saying that the hounds 'unexpectedly entered the property as a result of drifting scent'."

I'm afraid this is the hunts and Countryside Alliance trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the British public. We've been watching them and their barbaric ways and in very few cases do our monitors witness the hunts laying trails. They simply go and chase and kill animals and use 'trail' hunting as a cover for their activities.

'Trail' hunting was invented by hunts after the hunting ban in 2004. It purportedly mimics traditional hunting but claims to follow an animal based scent rather than chasing wildlife. It is widely regarded as a fraudulent deception masking illegal hunting activity and the chasing and killing of animals. Around 250 hunts switched to 'trail' hunting after the ban but in fact they are responsible for the deaths of thousands of foxes, hares and deer every year.

One could argue that the claim that the hunts' 'trails' are subject to 'drifting', then 'trail' hunting is fundamentally flawed as their hounds will regularly be out of control and could end up in dangerous locations for themselves and others. Perhaps this explains why we regularly witness hounds on busy roads, railway lines, in people's gardens and terrorising and killing people's pets and livestock. Or is all this talk about 'trails' completely missing the point?

There are no drifting 'trails'. There are no 'trails' full stop. What's really going on is hunt havoc and the illegal chasing and killing of British wildlife. This recent incident simply saw the alpaca being in the wrong place at the wrong time as a hunt rampaged around the British countryside.

The public would be horrified if they knew quite how many animals are meeting a cruel death at the hands of the hunts. 85 per cent of the British public support the hunting ban according to our latest polling figures and they would be horrified if they knew that the hunts were lying and deceiving the British public. If they saw the video footage we see every day, the public would simply be horrified.

The Hunting Act 2004 needs to be strengthened. A 'recklessness' clause needs to be included so hunts can be prosecuted if their hounds are not prevented from chasing animals. Custodial sentences should be introduced in a bid to deter illegal hunting activity.

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