A leading wildlife charity has been accused of "resorting to bigotry and stereotypes" after sparking controversy with an anti fox hunting campaign.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare, which funds monitors at hunts in Somerset and across the South West has launched a controversial new advertising campaign dubbed ‘The Sly Ones’.

It aims to highlight that 10 years since the ban on hunting with hounds, "foxes are still being hunted" adding, "it’s high time to strengthen the Hunting Act".

Nine hunts have seen members convicted in last decade with 24 completed court cases involving registered hunt groups and fox hunting. Ten have resulted in convictions and 14 cases were either dropped, discontinued or resulted in the defendants being found not guilty.

The Hunting Act 2004 came into force on February 18, 2005 and prohibits the hunting of wild animals with dogs in England and Wales. 

IFAW said: "The current law, the Hunting Act 2004, is good, but it isn’t being treated in the spirit in which it was designed. It is being purposely manipulated by people hell-bent on breaking the law in order to have their ‘fun’ by pursuing and ideally killing a fox or two.

"Concepts such as ‘trail hunting’, created after the Act came into force, do nothing more than act as a mask and a false alibi for old fashioned pre-ban hunting, and as a result of all of the above, charities like IFAW are finding the law increasingly difficult to help enforce."

The campaign has been called "laughable" by the Countryside Alliance and that it is "resorting to bigotry and stereotypes"

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Charlotte Cooper, spokesman for the Countryside Alliance, said: “This advert is pretty laughable and epitomises the prejudice of the anti-hunting movement. They claim to hate the activity of hunting, not the people who take part, but this gives their true feelings away. The actors were chosen for these adverts on two criteria, that they looked ‘posh’ and ‘sly and sneaky’ – I’ve seen the casting call. IFAW is losing the argument against hunting with dogs and so is resorting to bigotry and stereotypes.”

A charge that is denied by IFAW, who said that even before IFAW’s new advert was launched, it had been accused of "playing to class stereotypes".

Adding: "The honest truth is this isn’t about class – it is simply about abiding by a law which was put in place to protect our native British wildlife – a law, just like any law, that must be abided by and respected by all.

What do you think? Get in touch with jonathan.millar@nqsw.co.uk, comment on Facebook or tweet us @CountyGazette.

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