FOXHOUNDS ripped a fox apart during a hunt meeting in Blencathra Foxhounds at the weekend – a year after the hunting ban came into force.

Huntsmen say they were powerless to stop the dogs tearing into the animal, whose death they said was an accident.

Anti-hunt campaigners have now called on the National Trust to ban hunts from their land.

The incident was revealed by the Northwest Animal Welfare (NAW) yesterday. Cumbria police confirmed they had received six complaints about illegal hunting since the start of the year.

Peter Stratton, of NAW, said: “An hour after telling police they were trail hunting the Blencathra Foxhounds’s huntsman, Barry Todhunter, was blowing his horn.

“The National Trust must investigate this incident and ban all Cumbrian hunts from their land.”

Blencathra secretary Bob Fell confirmed a fox was killed on Saturday but said that it was an accident and did not fall foul of the law.

He said the foot pack’s hounds were following a trail when a fox appeared and they gave chase with Mr Todhunter blowing his horn to try to call them off.

Mr Fell added: “He was trying to stop the hounds. It was all over in a matter of minutes – if that. It was one of those things.

“Our hunt master keeps a daily diary and when this sort of thing happens it will be in there. We have nothing to hide.”

Mr Fell said there were “lots” of people at Saturday’s hunt, which met at Littletown Farm and hunted in Newlands Valley near Keswick.

He said he had no figures about the number of foxes accidentally killed since the hunting ban became law.

A National Trust spokeswoman said all complaints are investigated.

NAW have also hit out at Cumbria police, claiming they do not treat enforcing the hunting laws a priority, saying the force “has a duty to uphold the Hunting Act”.

But Supt Steve Turnbull said all complaints about illegal hunting were investigated and cases would be passed to the Crown Prosecution Service when backed up by strong, expert evidence.

He added: “Fox hunting is not a policing priority. Our priorities are set through public consultation and handed down from the Home Secretary.

“But we act on any information or intelligence that is given to us.

“We do not, on a day-to-day basis, police fox hunting because we cannot do it. It is physically impossible.”

Supt Turnbull said there have been as many as six complaints about illegal hunting since New Year.

Before the ban started the force held talks with hunt officials and landowners.

Almost a year on from the introduction of the hunting ban, hunt supporters in Cumbria claim their groups are still going strong.

Adrian Francis, a Countryside Alliance campaigner and spokesman for the Cumberland Foxhounds, said hounds are still being exercised through trail hunting while staying within the realms of the law.

Source: News & Star

Hunt Details: Blencathra Foxhounds

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