Controversy over claims of illegal hunting by Lakeland pack

Date: Friday 18th October 2013

CUMBRIA Hunt Watch claims it has video footage of Blencathra Foxhounds pursuing a fox at a recent “off the card” meeting at Braithwaite.

The incident is said to have taken place on Saturday, 5th October, on National Trust land, and the footage, captured by one of the Cumbria Hunt Watch surveillance teams, was allegedly shot shortly after the hounds set off from Braithwaite Lodge.

The National Trust issues licences to local fell packs to trail hunt or exercise their hounds, but this should not involve the pursuing of a fox this has been illegal since the introduction of the Hunting Act 2004.

Landowners who knowingly allow their land to be used for illegal hunting are liable to prosecution under the act.

It is claimed the video footage was passed to the National Trust office at Borrowdale and surveillance team members made statements to Cumbria police.

However, this week the police were unable to confirm whether the statement by Cumbria Hunt Watch, but checks are to be made.

Officers are already investigating an incident, which, it is alleged, occurred at the same event. This involved abusive and threatening behaviour towards a 52-year-old man from Penrith, who, it is claimed, was bombarded with sustained verbal abuse and threats. Blencathra Foxhounds confirmed it was in the area, but denied it was an illegal hunt.

Michael Thompson, master of Blencathra Foxhounds, said: “If there is evidence of illegal activity then I am certain the police and National Trust will be in touch.

“If there is video footage of the incident it will show there was hollering and amplified music of hounds running to try and wrest control of the hounds from our huntsman.

“It will also show our huntsman blowing his horn to regain control of the pack.”

A spokesman for Cumbria Hunt Watch said the group has received dozens of calls from people in the Keswick and Penrith areas since it released contact information several weeks ago.

He said: “Many of the calls are in relation to people who are believed to be illegally hunting, but a surprising number of calls are from those concerned about four-wheel drive vehicles blocking country lanes and the behaviour of hunt supporters towards villagers known to disapprove of their activities.”

Anyone who has information about illegal hunting which they wish to share with Cumbria Hunt Watch can telephone or send a text message to 07939 180681 or e-mail huntwatchoutlook.com.