A Wearside MP has signed a petition calling for tougher laws against hunting.
Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West, has signed the petition amid growing concerns that British wildlife is still being targeted due to loopholes in the law.
Signing the petition, launched by animal welfare charity the League Against Cruel Sports, Mrs Hodgson met with representatives from the charity, to find out how ‘trail’ hunting is being used as a cover for illegal hunting and how exemptions and loopholes in the law are resulting in wildlife being chased and killed in the name of ‘sport’.
She said: "I wholeheartedly support the league’s petition to stop the barbaric killing of innocent animals by hunting hounds.
"Animal welfare is a big concern to many of my constituents and I will continue to press for tougher sentences for those convicted of abusing any animal.”
The Hunting Act 2004 prohibits packs of hounds from chasing and killing foxes, deer, hares and mink, but most hunts converted to ‘trail’ hunting after the ban and use this, as well as exemptions within the law, as an excuse to continue targeting animals.
Trail hunting was invented by the hunts and purports to closely mimic traditional hunting. It involves laying a trail of fox urine, or other animal-based scent, across areas where wildlife is found and without the huntsmen who should be controlling the hounds knowing where that trail has been laid.
The League’s evidence shows that trail hunting is a deception and genuine trails are hardly ever laid. The charity’s investigators are witnessing hunting that looks very similar to pre-ban activity, but when foxes and other wildlife is chased and killed, the hunts claim it was accidental.
Strengthening of existing hunting legislation is urgently needed to prevent trail hunting and other false alibis being used to circumvent the law.
Chris Luffingham, Director of Campaigns for the League Against Cruel Sports, said: “One of the reasons hunting was banned was because animals suffer terribly when chased by a hunt.
"It’s cruel, it’s illegal and it’s time we strengthened legislation and prevented the cruel minority from flouting the law.”
There are still more than 300 active hunts across Great Britain, the majority of which now claim to be ‘trail’ hunting. Despite these claims, hunts are still being witnessed chasing and killing foxes, hares and deer, and rampaging across private property with no care or consideration given to the people and pets that live there.
Chris, said: "The majority of people back the ban on hunting and they’re becoming wise to trail hunting.
"The hunts might claim it’s a legal activity, but the evidence tells a very different story. Hounds are being caught trespassing, foxes are being killed, and even people’s pets are being chased and killed. This isn’t trail hunting, this is abhorrent behaviour passed off as a bit of ‘fun’ and it shouldn’t be allowed to continue."
The league says 85% of the public are in support of keeping the ban on fox hunting, and opposition to legalising deer hunting, hare hunting and coursing is even higher.
The League is encouraging members of the public to sign their petition by visiting takeaction.league.org.uk/page/19719/data/1.