Hounds showing signs of weakness are shot in the head or clubbed to death while tiny, week-old puppies are executed if they are not considered strong enough
Hounds will be the “other victims of fox hunting” if the sick sport is allowed to return, campaigners warn.
On Wednesday MPs will vote on an amendment to the Hunting Act, which opponents claim will effectively legalise the bloodsport.
But as well as the foxes at risk of being ripped apart, thousands more hounds will also be slaughtered.
Former huntswoman turned anti-hunt campaigner Lynn Sawyer revealed it was seen as “normal” to shoot and incinerate dogs once they were no longer “productive”.
She said: “The hounds are very much the other victims. With every fox hunt that goes ahead, hounds are at risk of dying too.”
Lynn said any dogs showing signs of weakness were shot in the head or clubbed to death, sometimes at half their life expectancy.
Week-old puppies are also killed if they are not considered strong enough to join the 200 packs across Britain.
Clifford Pellow, another ex-hunter, claimed hounds were often tortured for chasing the wrong scent
Mr Pellow, who exposed the full cruelty of the bloodsport in the Mirror, said: “I have been told of pups with any kind of disfigurement having their heads dashed against the kennel floor. They die instantly.
“If a fully grown hound makes a sound when it is not supposed to during a hunt meet, or if it bays when it is supposed to, they are punished.
“Another offence would be chasing the wrong animal instead of the fox the hunt is pursuing.
“I have seen hounds being whipped quite frequently. They wallop them with a whip crop. The hounds flinch, yelp and cower.
“Hounds are disposed of immediately if they are perceived to have failed in any way.
“As soon as a hound enters the pack it is taught to be savage, which is not its natural instinct, so if they deem it not savage enough they will remove it and kill it.”
Estimates of the number of hounds killed each year vary between 3,000 and 10,000, but up to 4,000 is a figure accepted by several respected animal welfare groups.
This is based on the 200 hunts in Britain each having up to 40 hounds at any one time. Dogs considered too old are replaced in a constant cycle.
Britain – and the Daily Mirror – has been piling pressure on MPs to say no at Wednesday’s vote.
Under the Hunting Act, which came into force in 2005, it is permitted to use two dogs, under close control, to flush a fox out of its cover to be shot, and also to observe and retrieve injured animals.
The amendment would allow a full pack of hounds to do the same thing.
It is feared that this change would make it nearly impossible to prosecute anyone hunting with dogs.
Warning of the consequences for dogs, Lynn said: “A fox hound that is elderly has reached the end of its productive life and it is shot without remorse.
“They don’t live out their days as pets nestled next to their owner even though an eight-year-old dog is still considered quite young. Once they are killed they are thrown in an incinerator.
“This is common knowledge on hunts – I don’t think anyone would deny it. It is normal practice.”
Lynn, who spent years with hunts in the 1980s, added she had heard members talk about killing with “humour”.
She explained: “I’ve heard them look at a dog and go “That one’s dead’, there’s very much a gallows humour. it’s part and parcel of it.”
Lynn has also seen dogs killed during hunts and said: “I saw one run over by a lorry, one killed on train tracks.”
The Mirror has been shown footage which appears to show a huntsman shooting a helpless hound with a pistol behind kennels.
The dead dog is then thrown into what appears to be a bin.
It was filmed in 1996 – nine years before the sport was banned in 2005 – and was originally given to the League Against Cruel Sports.
Barbaric treatment of hounds has continued as packs are kept for drag hunts, but it is feared things will get worse if the ban is relaxed.
Veteran animal welfare campaigner Alan Kirby said: “This has been going on since hunting with hounds started in this country.
“I have no reason to think it has stopped since the hunting ban was introduced ten years ago. The hunters themselves admit they cannot be homed, that hounds cannot be domesticated.
“That’s not true but it does confirm they’re getting rid of their hounds.”
The 1999 Burns Inquiry into hunting estimated 3,000 hounds are put down at the end of their working life each year, however this figure was provided by the pro-hunting Countryside Alliance.
Charity the RSPCA later provided a figure of 10,000 killed each year, but some with good knowledge of hunts thought this was excessive.
Mr Kirby, of Protect Our Wild Animals, said he had calculated the figure at around 7,000 deliberate deaths each year.
“They are always breeding more hounds, trying to get the perfect cross, so, as there is a constant number, we know the old ones are killed.
“More are bred than are actually needed so many are killed soon after they are born.
“Others are killed after the first trial when the hounds are assessed by the huntsmen. If they are not good enough, they are put down.”
The Countryside Alliance said it had no record of the number of dogs killed, but claimed the figure was more like 2,000.
Director of campaigns Tim Bonner said: “Hounds can, and do regularly, hunt to the age of nine, 10 or even older.
“Hounds live in a pack environment throughout their working lives and most do not settle in a domestic environment and are unhappy outside the pack structure so they are put down at the end of their working lives.
“There are around 10,000 foxhounds in registered kennels in England and Wales but there is no central record of how many are drafted [given to other hunts], die or are put down each year but it is probably around 2,000.
“Hounds are valued hugely by hunt supporters, who often rear puppies at home before they join the pack.”
Source : Daily Mirror