Police try to quell anger over attack on hunt monitor
Hunt saboteurs are challenging the police to prosecute after one of their members was attacked in Devon.
As a video of the incident - which left a hunt protester in hospital - was shared on social media, Devon and Cornwall Police urged witnesses to come forward and promised to treat the allegations seriously.
Sid Leigh, 46, a hunt monitor from Bodmin, suffered a broken nose and extensive bruising after being punched - and was also trampled on by a horse.
He is being treated at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth after the altercation between members of South Devon Animal Rights and Dart Vale and South Pool Harriers on Saturday at Gullet Farm near Kinsgbridge.
The hunt denies allegations of assault and insists it was acting within the law.
A Devon and Cornwall Police spokesperson said: "We would encourage witnesses to offences to share with us unedited footage and images, and be prepared to give statements to allow us to investigate any allegation of criminality.
"It is clear that while these incidents can and do appear on social media, they remain under reported to the police. We are unable to investigate incidents that are only discussed on social media, they must be reported to us via our official channels.
"We wish to reassure you that we will act impartially and promptly to any incident reported to us."
However, Devon County Hunt Saboteurs responded in a statement: "On an almost weekly basis we encounter illegal hunting, acts of violence and criminal damage. We absolutely reject the police's suggestion that these incidents go unreported to them.
'Very little comes of the police's investigations'
"We have reported every single incident this season and provided detailed witness statements, video and other physical evidence and details of assailants. We have the incident logs and crime reference numbers to prove it.
"In our experience very little comes of the police's investigations... the majority of crimes we report, some of them involving serious threats and acts of violence, result in no police response whatsoever.
"The overall effect of police inaction is to embolden hunts and make the crimes they commit more frequent and more severe. We are worried that unless the police start taking hunt violence seriously and adopt a much more proactive approach, someone will be killed."
These claims were put to the force but no response has yet been received.
Hunt saboteurs across the country record the activities of hunters to ensure they are complying with the 2004 Hunting Act.The fox hunting debate was ignited during last year's general election campaign when Theresa May promised to put the ban to a vote in the House of Commons again – a pledge that has since been dropped.
Opposition to hunting remains at an all-time high, with 85% of the population not wanting a return to hunting. Even in the countryside, opposition to fox hunting is at 81%.
Many believe the ban should be strengthened to close loopholes exploited by hunters who claim to be following a trail and that foxes are killed by accident.