Hunt leaders are continuing their fight against tne banning of the blood sport after a report revealed groups in the West suffer the most attention from anti-hunt monitors. In a call for unity from Countryside Alliance chief executive Simon Hart, the pro-hunt leader admitted supporters in the north and the east of England were questioning the need for a repeal of the controversial hunt ban – because few of them ever saw an anti-hunt monitor.
But, in a candid assessment of the situation, Mr Hart said hunts across the West were "suffering" from being constantly monitored and their colleagues in the north should remember that.
Anti-hunt groups once again launched a new recruitment drive for hunt monitors amid claims hunts are continuing to routinely break the ban four years on from its inception.
Writing in The Field magazine, Mr Hart said the experience of hunters in the West was unlike those from any other part of Britain under the hunt ban.
He said: "Few packs in the North ever see an anti-hunting activist and monitoring of hunting activity is carried out, as it should be, by local police forces.
"Allegations of illegal hunting are rare and prosecutions unheard of, which has led some to question whether pursuing the repeal of the Hunting Act is a sensible strategy."
Mr Hart cited the experiences of two West huntsmen, Julian Barnfield from the Cotswold-based Heythrop Hunt, who is currently facing two separate court cases over illegal hunting, and Charlie Watts, from the Cattistock, in Dorset, who is monitored by anti-hunt activists every week.
He said: "They have the dubious honour of hunting the two most scrutinised packs in Britain.
"They know exactly why repeal is an urgent necessity, not just a nice idea. Each sees more anti-hunting activists in a month than every pack in the North sees in a season.
"Both have been questioned by the police over allegations made by anti-hunt activists."
Talking about his recent prosecutions, which are awaiting the outcome of the High Court interpretation of the Hunting Act in the wake of the Tony Wright case on Exmoor, Mr Barnfield described the anti-hunt monitoring of his pack as 'vindictive scrutiny'.
He said: "I don't care what you are doing – driving a car, running a restaurant – that level of vindictive scrutiny is bound to lead to some sort of allegation, and it could happen to anyone.
"We get targeted because we are a high-profile hunt with activists living in our country.
"Charlie has antis in his patch and on Exmoor they have full-time League Against Cruel Sports employees.
"Anyone could end up in the same boat, and if it's you I promise you don't question whether or not we need to get rid of this stupid law."
The League Against Cruel Sports is once again appealing for help to monitor even more hunts.
A spokesman said: "Of course, we are hoping that hunters will obey the law, but if they do not, it is important that the police investigate them and that they end up being prosecuted in the courts.
"In particular, it is important to understand the difference between a proper 'drag hunt', and the illegal hunting of wild mammals."
"The League receives many allegations of illegal hunting when hunts claim to undertake legal activities but in reality are disguising what we suspect are illegal activities."