The RSPCA has issued an urgent call for witnesses after “upsetting” footage emerged of a hunt rider kicking and hitting a horse.
Anti-hunting roup Hertfordshire Hunt Saboteurs posted the video online showing a woman being aggressive with the animal after it ran into a road.
The rider, from Rutland-based foxhound pack Cottesmore Hunt, is shown kicking the horse before pulling it into a vehicle by the reins.
Conservationist and broadcaster Chris Packham flagged the RSPCA to the video on Twitter, saying: “Good afternoon [RSPCA] as a VP [vice president] can I call upon you to urgently investigate and definitively prosecute this appalling abuse – thus upholding our standards of animal welfare protection. Thank you.”
The RSPCA urged anyone with “first hand” information about the incident to come forward.
It said in a statement: “This footage is upsetting. We will always look into, and if necessary, investigate any complaints made to us about animal welfare. We would urge anyone with first hand information about this incident to contact us on 0300 123 4999.”
Britain’s national body, the Hunting Office, also condemned the incident, saying it “expects the highest level of animal welfare at all times – both on and off the hunting field”.
It added that the woman in the footage is “not a member of the hunting associations.”
Cottesmore Hunt claimed it did not condone the actions shown in the video “under any circumstances” – and that it “will be reminding all of our supporters that this will not be tolerated.”
National Trust members last month voted to ban trail hunting amid fears it is being used as a “smokescreen” for chasing and killing foxes.
Members supported a motion not to allow the activity on trust land, with those who proposed it stating that “overwhelming evidence leads to the conclusion that ‘trail hunting’ is a cover for hunting with dogs”.
‘Enough is enough’
The Hunting Act 2004 banned hunting with dogs.
Trail hunting simulates a traditional hunt without foxes being deliberately chased or killed by laying an artificial scent for riders.
Andy Knott, chief executive of the League Against Cruel Sports, said: “Enough is enough. Now the membership has voted to permanently end it, we must insist the National Trust’s trustees listen and act.
“The trust must ban ‘trail’ hunting on its land for good. Other landowners should take note and immediately follow suit.”
But Polly Portwin, the Countryside Alliance’s director of the campaign for hunting, said there is “absolutely no mandate for prohibition of a legal activity which has been carried out on National Trust land for generations”.
She argued that adopting the motion “would totally undermine the Trust’s own motto: ‘for everyone, for ever’, adding that the alliance remains ready to work with the trust “to ensure that everyone can have confidence that trail hunting activity is open, transparent and legitimate”.