The House of Lords has dismissed appeals by the Countryside Alliance (CA) and other supporters of hunting which claimed the acts banning hunting with hounds in England, Wales and Scotland breached human rights and free trade laws.

But the CA has announced it will now take its appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Five Law Lords heard the cases in October and yesterday returned their verdict — that the appeals should be dismissed.

Simon Hart, chief executive of the CA, said: “We have always maintained that the legitimacy of the Hunting Act would eventually be decided in Europe.

“The Hunting Act was based on prejudice, rather than principle or evidence, and has no justification in terms of public benefit or animal welfare.

“To have found in our favour would have meant the Law Lords finding that the Government has allowed fundamental human rights and European Law to be violated. We believe that the European Courts will support this view, even if the Law Lords were unable to.”

The three test cases were brought by the CA and Union of Country Sports Workers member Brian Friend.

The CA cases strove to prove that the England and Wales Hunting Act infringes the European Convention on Human Rights and is contrary to EU law on free trade.

Mr Friend’s appeal was of a personal nature, claiming that the Scottish Hunting Act had infringed his human rights.

The RSPCA was also invited to give submissions at the hearings.

John Rolls, of the RSPCA, said: “We are glad to see that the Law Lords have unanimously decided to dismiss these appeals.

“We see this as a total vindication of our long-held view that hunting with dogs is cruel and unacceptable in modern Britain.”