A complaint has been made to the Controller of BBC Radio 4 over its coverage of illegal fox cub hunting in its flagship radio drama The Archers.

Chris Luffingham, Director of Campaigns at the League Against Cruel Sports, has written to Gwyneth Williams to express concern at the BBC’s portrayal of autumn hunting – a pretence for cub hunting. This involves the brutal practice of hounds being let loose in woodland to hunt and literally tear apart fox cubs in the run-up to the hunting season.

A Daily Telegraph news story exposing the issue which was published earlier this week contained a quote from the BBC perpetuating the myth of trail hunting, which is simply a deception being used by hunts to cover up illegal fox hunting.

In his letter, Chris Luffingham said:

“I am deeply concerned that the BBC is using one of its flagship radio programmes to perpetuate lies about illegal hunting. The BBC recently defended references to so-called autumn hunting in The Archers with the explanation that they were actually referring to ‘legal trail hunting which involves an artificial scent rather than fox cubs’.

“This is incorrect. Autumn Hunting does not refer to trail hunting and it is not legal. In fact it is far worse.

“The truth is that autumn hunting is a well-known euphemism for the hunting of fox cubs, commonly known as cub hunting. Cub hunting takes place in the run up to the hunting season as a training exercise for hounds. During a cub hunt, hunt members surround small areas of woodland and drive their hounds through, teaching them how to kill fox cubs and get a taste for their blood – by literally tearing the fox cubs apart.

“Even the hunts themselves tend only to use the cover of trail hunting when referring to the illegal hunting being perpetrated during the hunting season which begins in November and goes through to March. This is very different, taking place in open countryside, all despite fox hunting being banned 13 years ago.

“Professional investigators from the League Against Cruel Sports, including many former police officers, follow the activities of hunts from the beginning of August each year through until the end of October, and corroborate the cruel killing of fox cubs. It is estimated thousands of fox cubs are killed every autumn and summer in this gruesome practice.

Cub hunting is cruel and illegal and has no place in a modern, compassionate society –  and for the BBC to show it as otherwise, whether for dramatic purposes or not – is grossly irresponsible at best, and covering for illegal hunting at worst. The BBC should be exposing the dreadful realities of what is really going on, reflecting the views of the 85% of the population who wish it to remain illegal, and not reinforcing the hunts’ lies and dirty secrets."