ANIMAL welfare campaigners have called on Somerset County Council to ban fox and deer hunting - including trail hunting - on its land, writes Daniel Mumby.

Members of the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) and Action Against Foxhunting (AAF) gathered outside County Hall, Taunton, yesterday (Friday, May 27) before speaking to people in the town centre and encouraging them to sign a petition.

A letter urging the council to take action was presented to two LibDem executive members Cllrs Sarah Dyke and Tessa Munt.

They promised to see what can be practically achieved, including a review of the terms of tenancies on the county farms.

Foxhunting and deer hunting with dogs was banned in 2005, but LACS has received reports of nearly 300 incidents in Somerset in the last four years.

Nick Weston, LACS’ head of campaigns, said: “Foxhunting and deer hunting is still widespread across Somerset despite the ban on hunting with dogs and the public’s anguish at the chasing and killing of animals.

“Somerset County Council now has the chance to set an example to the rest of South West England and make a landmark decision to ban hunts from its land.”

AAF's Pip Donovan said: “We’re currently doing a survey with rural residents and the overwhelming majority of people in the countryside oppose foxhunting and are aware that foxes are still being killed.

“Council land is our land and we don’t want the hunts taking their hounds onto it to pursue their barbaric activities.”

Jim Barrington, of the Countryside Alliance, said: “Trail hunting is a legal activity, which involves the laying of an artificial scent for hounds to follow.

“Somerset, like elsewhere across the country, is facing a cost of living crisis and clearly all attention should be on alleviating the anxiety that many in the county are feeling.

“LACS are either totally oblivious to the concept of reading the room, or they are deliberately attempting to waste valuable council time.”

The council passed a resolution to ban hunting on its land in 1995, but this was overturned as it was found to be unlawful.

Cllr Munt said fewer than 3,000 acres of the land in Somerset are owned by the council, with most of it leased to other units, including farm tenants.

She said: “Some people have got lifetime tenancies where we can’t change anything, some people have got business tenancies.

“We might have a look to see if we can pop in a clause into new tenancies that come up to encourage people not to encourage trail hunting.

“We can have a good think about what we can do about future business arrangements and tenancies.”

Cllr Dyke said: “Our focus is to really push forward with our climate change and environment agenda, and we’ll be doing everything we can to make the best choices going forward.”

Pictures: Steve Richardson.