A petition calling for a ban on Atherstone Hunt riding across county-owned land in Hinckley and Bosworth has gained more than 2,300 signatures.
The protest, launched by former Barlestone resident Jack Riggal, wants Leicestershire County Council to stop allowing the hunt to use Market Bosworth Country Park.
Jack, a keen conservationist and animal lover, has set up the petition online at change.org and posted a link to the Facebook page of West Midlands Hunt Saboteurs.
The link features video which the group says was filmed on February 28 at Sibson. They claim it shows members of the Atherstone Hunt ride at the saboteurs to prevent them intervening and hounds chase a fox into a hedge.
One of the protesters is filmed bleeding from cuts to the face. According to the group officers from Leicestershire Police were at the scene but took no action.
Atherstone Hunt assert no laws were broken by their actions.
Jack said: “I am concerned about this in particular because, against a backdrop of increasing wildlife crime in the UK – raptor and badger persecution are good examples – I believe that how we relate to wildlife needs to improve and quickly.
“I grew up in Leicestershire and volunteered on the country parks to gain habitat management experience for my career as a conservationist.
“The fact the Atherstone Hunt have a relationship with Market Bosworth Country Park therefore is appalling to me.”
On its Facebook post the saboteur group say they have given up making complaints to police, preferring to highlight hunt wrongdoings via publicity on social media instead.
A spokesman for Leicestershire Police said no complaint had been received from either party regarding the Sibson incident.
He added attendance at a hunt, as with all public events, was deemed necessary on a case by case basis.
According to a Leicestershire County Council spokesman hunting is not allowed on any country parks.
“We do not allow any of our country parks to be used for fox hunting. Local by-laws at each park prohibit users from using the parks for hunting or shooting. If country park rangers or other members of staff suspect there is illegal activity taking place within the country parks, including hunting, they will contact the police.”
Jack’s petition reads: “The country parks of Leicestershire, where I grew up, provide a home for many incredible species of animals and plants as well as giving the much needed green space for hundreds of thousands of people, if not millions, to enjoy every year – but the managers of these areas also have insisted on a relationship with wildlife criminals who brutally persecute red foxes. The Atherstone Hunt, who use Market Bosworth Country Park before their Boxing Day Hunts, have been repeatedly seen breaching The Hunting Act of 2004 and intimidating/assaulting those who oppose their acts in the field.
“For any and all visitors to these parks and those who stand against the cruel treatment of animals, I urge you to sign this petition, and I urge the Country Park Service to ban the Atherstone Hunt from all of your land for good. Wildlife criminals should not be welcome on sites intended to preserve nature.
“I’m currently campaigning against wildlife crime, with a petition intending to start to stamp it out in the local area. I was recently appalled to see the Atherstone Hunt not only hunt a fox illegally but attack the hunt monitors that attempted to save its life. A scan of the Facebook page for West Midlands Hunt Saboteurs shows that even this year the Atherstone Hunt have been repeatedly breaching the Hunting Act of 2004 and the Protection of Badgers Act of 1992. My petition stands at over 2,200 signatures and calls on the Country Park Service to ban the Atherstone Hunt, especially from Market Bosworth where they meet for Boxing Day, and publicly condemn wildlife crime.
A spokesperson for the hunt said: “The Atherstone Hunt has complied with the law since the Hunting Act came in 10 years ago and no formal charges of unlawful hunting have ever been made against us.
“These are ungrounded and malicious allegations made by animal rights fanatics and are an irresponsible waste of police time and resources.”
To sign the petition, click here: https://www.change.org/p/leicestershire-county-council-country-park-service-ban-the-atherstone-hunt-from-accessing-your-parks