A letter sent out to all masters of hounds last week by the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) has been dismissed as “comical” by the Countryside Alliance (CA).

Last Thursday, LACS sent a letter to all masters listed in Baily’s Hunting Directory by recorded delivery. In it, Mike Hobday, “head of prosecution unit” for LACS, outlines “advice” to hunts.

“As a result of the judgements in court, there is new information that should guide hunts who wish to obey the law,” he wrote. “I am writing to you with this information in order to assist you in this and to ensure you are unable, if prosecuted, to claim a reasonable belief to the contrary.”

The letter goes on to state that 13 people have been convicted under the Hunting Act, that eagle owls cannot hunt and kill foxes and implies that decisions by magistrates courts have set legal precedents.

Masters of Foxhounds Association (MFHA) chairman Stephen Lambert disputed the claims and described the letter as “very arrogant and desperate”.

“It’s hardly worth comment because it contains so many factual errors. We immediately sent a note to all masters telling them to bin it,” he said.

The MFHA says that claiming 13 people have been convicted under the Hunting Act is misleading as this number includes poachers and other people unrelated to hunting. Both cases quoted are awaiting appeal and were heard in a magistrates’ court so cannot establish legal precedent and they say the information about eagle owls is incorrect as there is abundant evidence they can both hunt and kill foxes.

Chief executive of the CA, Simon Hart, dismissed the letters as nothing more than a “comic development”.

“It’s provided us with some light amusement in the dark days of foot-and-mouth,” he said.

A spokesman for LACS explained the letters: “After each criminal prosecution under the Hunting Act 2004, the hunting community has claimed that the law is unclear, something that LACS disagrees with. However, because of this we have decided to write to hunts in England and Wales to inform them of what is not exempt under the law. We hope our guidance will help hunts to better understand the law.”

Fraser Wakerley, chairman of the Barlow Foxhounds, whose joint-masters received the letter, said: “This letter has not caused any great concern to our joint-masters. The cases it quotes are up for appeal and who can know their outcome?”

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (27 September, ’07)