As next government is urged to toughen fox hunting laws, what do you think?
- Credit: PA
Prison sentences should be imposed on people caught fox hunting, campaigners have urged.
The demand comes after a poll revealed the majority of people support introducing custodial sentences for those convicted of illegal hunting.
Although hunting with dogs was made illegal in 2004, 'trail' hunts - in which a scent is laid for hounds to follow - is still permitted. Dogs may pick up a real scene during trail hunts, prompting fears that foxes could be killed.
Trail hunts led by groups including Dunston Harriers and Waveney Harriers often take place in Norfolk, with Boxing Day activities an annual tradition for many.
But The League Against Cruel Sports is now calling on the next government to strengthen the Hunting Act by introducing a "recklessness" clause, preventing trail hunting being given as a reason for the accidental killing of foxes.
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Animal welfare activists say the new rules would close "loopholes" and should be backed up with prison sentences.
Chris Luffingham, director of campaigns at the League Against Cruel Sports, said: "Fox hunting is a barbaric activity which has no place in a modern, compassionate society of animal lovers and yet it is still taking place.
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"Tougher legislation, coupled with the introduction of prison sentences for illegal hunting will help to end the brutal killing of our wildlife."
A survey for the League conducted by YouGov revealed 60pc of people thought illegal hunting should be punishable by a prison sentence as well as, or instead of, the current fines that can be imposed.
Just 21pc of those surveyed thought prison sentences should not be introduced, and 19pc said they were unsure.
Of the 1,639 people quizzed, 61pc thought that it should be made illegal to hunt foxes during trail hunting as a result of reckless behaviour, while only 16pc disagreed.
Mr Luffingham added: "It's time for political parties to adopt tougher fox hunting laws that reflect the wishes of the general public who are united against hunting."
But Tim Bonner, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, questioned the timing of the latest campaign.
"It is quite extraordinary that anyone can think that obsessing over people wearing red jackets, riding horses and taking part in legal activity is a priority at this of all times," said Mr Bonner.
"Hunts operate legally, prosecutions are incredibly rare and the countryside faces any number of huge challenges from Brexit, to climate change, to flooding."