The Countryside Alliance has hit back at reports of North Yorkshire hunts illegally chasing British wildlife.
The League Against Cruel Sports has catalogued incidents including “terrified” foxes chased to exhaustion across the North Yorkshire countryside.
Badger setts have also been blocked up near hunt meets, they claim, to stop foxes taking refuge during the chase, with horses and hounds trespassing in pursuit of wild animals and hunt hounds killed on a main road.
Incidents in North Yorkshire form part of more than 282 reports of suspected illegal hunting across the UK received by the League since the hunting season began on November 1.
They claim 60 animals were witnessed being chased and killed, including 42 foxes and four hares which were torn apart by packs of hounds and 17 deer which were pursued for miles until exhausted and then shot.
But the Countryside Alliance has hit back at the figures - and insists that the infrastructure of hunting is here to stay.
“Packs of hounds within North Yorkshire operate within the law to comply with the Hunting Act 2004,” a spokesperson said.
“Hunts are regularly subjected to spurious allegations regarding their legal hunting activities. Hunts are frequently plagued by balaclava-clad animal-rights activists who intimidate and harass hunt supporters and landowners, seeking to provoke a response they can then broadcast on social media.
“Anti-hunting activists exploit the fact that social media amplifies their highly emotive messages regardless of the facts.
“Their tactic of spreading highly edited footage works well online but it often results in hundreds of hours of wasted police time, which is totally unacceptable. Action can only be taken when evidence exists.
“It is 14 years since the Hunting Act was enforced yet there have been just 24 convictions under the Hunting Act 2004 relating to registered hunts, despite more than a quarter of a million days hunting having taken place by over 250 hunts during this time.
“These figures do not suggest that hunts are breaking the law and is confirmation that the infrastructure of hunting remains an integral part of the countryside and is here to stay.”
Chris Luffingham, Director of Campaigns at the League Against Cruel Sports, said: “Despite hunting being banned in 2004, hunts are still sickeningly chasing and killing wildlife in North Yorkshire.
“These figures are sadly just the tip of the iceberg but they show that the hunts are breaking the law and killing foxes, hares and deer for their so called ‘sport’.”
The figures supplied by the League Against Cruel Sports come from reports by the public into the League’s Animal Crimewatch service, reports by monitoring and saboteur groups posted on Facebook, and from professional investigators employed by the League to monitor hunts.
Mr Luffingham said: “We are calling for the hunting ban to be strengthened with the introduction of prison sentences for those caught illegally hunting.”