Eight foxhounds were killed after running into an electric rail and then being hit by a train on Saturday.
The incident happened just after 1pm when New Forest Foxhounds chased a fox which ran across the Bournemouth to Waterloo line between Brockenhurst and Beaulieu Road. Shortly afterwards the hunt issued a statement which said: “Staff and members of New Forest Hounds are distressed and shocked by the death of eight of their hounds on the railway line near Brockenhurst.
“Paul Woodhouse, our professional huntsman, is devastated by the incident. The hounds ran to the railway line and were immediately stopped by hunt staff before reaching the railway fence. Some ran behind the staff and on to the line where the railway fence was down.
“The railway authorities were immediately informed but unfortunately a train hit them before the power was switched off. The hunt did have staff up and down the railway line to try to prevent this from happening, but the fence was damaged at that particular point.”
But the incident has sparked criticism of the hunt and calls for restriction on hunting near train tracks by anti-hunt campaigners.
The South-West spokesman for the League Against Cruel Sports, Graham Sirl, said video film was obtained seconds after the hounds had gone on to the line.
It would be presented to the impending government inquiry into hunting.
Mr Sirl said: “This is the sort of evidence we shall be using to demonstrate how hounds can get out of control when they are hunting.”
There is the added safety aspect that trains travelling quickly through the countryside suddenly have to stop.”
The league’s New Forest and East Dorset regional spokesman, Nick Ridge, said: “We have asked in the past for an exclusion zone near the railway line and we will definitely be asking again.”
He added that letters would be sent to both the Forestry Commission and to British Transport Police renewing the exclusion zone calls and to Countryside Minister Elliot Morley, who was involved in a dispute about a year ago when a suspension was slapped on the hunt.
British Transport Police Sergeant Andrew Pavett confirmed that the train involved was the 10.33 from East Croydon to Bournemouth which, he said, could have been travelling at as much as 70mph as it did not stop at any of the smaller stations between Southampton and Brockenhurst.
“It appears that there was a hunt member who was present close to the track. The front eight hounds went through after the fox, but he managed to stop the rest of the pack,” he explained.
He added that the electric line was switched off for about an hour and some football fans, travelling to support Millwall at Bournemouth, were on trains travelling behind the one which hit the hounds.
When their trains arrived at Brockenhurst, they were transferred to a stopping train which allowed them to get off at Pokesdown and get to the match in time for the kick-off.
The incident in general and the filming of the hounds in particular by anti-hunt campaigners sparked a heated exchange between hunt supporters and opponents and Hampshire police officers were called to restore order.
“There was a minor public order dispute at the scene in the heat of the moment. It was dealt with by our officers, but no one was arrested,” said Inspector Mark Wise.
The fox is believed to have escaped unharmed.
Source : Southern Daily Echo