Yorkshire ranks as one of the top spots in the country for suspected illegal hunting, according to new survey

Countryside campaigners say they are victims of “spurious allegations” after a charity claimed illegal hunting was still “rife” in the countryside 14 years on after the ban on foxhunting.

Since the season began the League Against Cruel Sports has had 282 reports of suspected illegal hunting

The League Against Cruel Sports said it had received 16 reports of suspected illegal hunting across Yorkshire - with 10 in North Yorkshire - since the start of the season on November 1.

It said incidents included terrified foxes chased to exhaustion; badger setts blocked up near hunt meets to stop foxes taking refuge and hunt hounds killed on a main road.

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The most recent was a report of a hare chased and killed by hounds during a meet of the Rockwood Harriers at Wortley near Sheffield on February 7.

A fox heads away

Two days before a fox was seen chased near Yedingham, North Yorkshire during a meet of the Derwent Hunt.

On January 26, according to reports to the League, a fox was chased across Byram Park, during a meet of the Badsworth & Bramham Hunt/York & Ainsty South Hunt, with the animal escaping by hiding under a farmshed.

Throughout the UK there were 282 reports, with the most reports - 23 - from Gloucestershire, then Dorset with 20. Yorkshire was in fifth place.

In all 60 animals - foxes, hares and deer - were witnessed being chased and killed.

Director of Campaigns Chris Luffingham said the figures - which come from the public, as well as posts on social media from monitoring and saboteur groups and from professional investigators - were “sadly just the tip of the iceberg.”

The Countryside Alliance, commenting on behalf of hunts in Yorkshire, said they “operate within the law” and were “regularly subjected to spurious allegations” regarding their legal hunting activities.

A spokesperson said: “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.”

The Alliance said highly edited footage worked well online but often resulted in hundreds of hours of wasted police time, adding: “As the Cheshire Police recently commented, action can only be taken when evidence exists.”

In 14 years since the Act was enforced there had only been 24 convictions relating to registered hunts, it added.