Ledbury Town Council has confirmed it will raise with police the subject of trail hunts in the county following accusations that these are a cover for illegal fox hunting.

Councillor Liz Harvey told a council meeting: “If there is evidence that West Mercia Police is not upholding the law, that’s bad,” and proposed contacting the force over this.

Town clerk Angela Price confirmed afterwards she intended to discuss the subject with the force, which covers Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Shropshire.

John Rose, who runs the Ledbury Anti Fox Hunt Group, told the meeting that West Mercia “haven’t been interested in this for years”.

Liberal Democrat councillor Matthew Eakin put forward a motion, narrowly defeated, that the council should not facilitate the Boxing Day meet in the town.

He cited alleged evidence from the Malvern Hills Trust of frequent violations of the rules around trail hunting on the land it manages.

Last month the trust indefinitely withdrew permission for trail hunts to use its land, following a similar move by the National Trust.

Inspector Greg Tudge of West Mercia Police said: “Our rural and business crime team investigates all information we receive about breaches of the Hunting Act and proactively patrols the countryside.

“Any reports of illegal hunting are taken seriously and all complaints investigated. I would encourage anyone who has any concerns about breaches of the Hunting Act to report to us online.”


Seasoned anti-hunt campaigner Lynn Sawyer of the Three Counties Hunt Sabateurs claimed to have seen recent evidence that a hunt had blocked badger setts prior to a day’s hunt.

Though illegal, blocking setts is often done to prevent foxes going to ground in them, she claimed.

Neighbouring Gloucestershire Constabulary has recently set up an Operation Hunt to monitor hunts, and has attended them with posters on the side of its vehicles warning of the potential six-month jail sentence for interfering with a badger sett.

“But West Mercia Police don’t tend to come out or get back to us,” Ms Sawyer said. “There is a massive difference between the two.”

She accepts that it would be “very difficult” to prove such a case in court. “You can’t monitor setts round the clock,” she said. “The terriermen mask up and hide their number plates. And the cameras we place by the setts tend to get stolen.”

A separate and more recent group, the Herefordshire Sabs, focuses its efforts on the neighbouring Herefordshire Hunt. “We have never seen them even attempt to lay a trail,” the group said.

It claimed it also had seen evidence of sett interference during a hunt in October, and that police had attended on that occasion and on three subsequent hunts.

The Badger Trust says interference with setts is on the up nationally. Of more than 600 cases of badger-related incidents notified last year, two-thirds related to sett disturbance – a 40 per cent rise on 2019. Nearly 100 of these were considered to be due to hunt activity.

Judging whether enforcement differs in different policing areas is complicated by the fact that some, particularly Gloucestershire, have seen more monitoring of setts during the recent official badger cull, according to Badger Trust representative, speaking anonymously.

West Mercia “has a number of trained officers who try their hardest”, he said.

“We are working with forces and the Crown Prosecution Service to improve the evidential trail, but it’s extremely difficult to investigate.

“If the hunts just complied with the law, there wouldn’t be a need for all this monitoring.”

This may be about to change. Countryside Alliance chief executive Tim Bonner last week wrote on the field sports campaign group’s website: “Hunts will always attract more attention than nearly any other group and have to operate to higher standards.

“That will mean hunts not just operating legally, but having to show very overtly that they are operating legally.”

Meanwhile, the Ross Harriers hunt in the south of the county “has successfully transferred the hounds to a man-made scent which hounds are diligently following”, according to a recent post on the This is Hunting UK Facebook page.

Meanwhile Herefordshire Council has confirmed that it has received applications for road closures to enable hunt meets over the Christmas period not only in Ledbury but also in Bromyard, Ross-on-Wye and Kington.

A council spokesperson said: “Provided our highways team are correctly notified of any request for a road closure, we do not differentiate between different types of event that may take place under temporary road closures.

“We expect all hunts to be totally compliant with the national legislation in relation to the Hunting Act 2004 and any related legislation. Any prohibited activity should be reported to the police to investigate.”

The Ledbury Hunt and other Herefordshire hunts were contacted for comment.