Campaigners from wildlife charity the League Against Cruel Sports have described the Eggesford Hunt’s Boxing Day parade as a “lame public relations exercise” to mask animal cruelty.

The hunt parade at Oaklands Farm near Okehampton attracted a crowd of spectators despite recent concerns that the hunt may be trespassing and illegally hunting foxes

Earlier this month North Tawton Town Council debated a report from a resident who raised concerns about the presence of hounds in gardens and a housing association field, and photos of dead foxes and cubs posted on Facebook after the meet.

In response to the concerns, the council agreed to report the hunt’s activity to the police and make an online complaint to the hunt itself.

Emma Judd, head of campaigns at the League Against Cruel Sports, said: “The Eggesford Hunt Boxing Day parade is nothing but a lame public relations exercise designed to cover up the reality of the harm they cause to wildlife and rural communities. They are attempting to mask that brutal reality, but their masks are slipping.

“No one really believes the hunts’ claims anymore that they are following trails. It’s time for change. It’s time for hunting laws to be strengthened in the UK so that the barbaric and sordid world of fox hunting is finally consigned to the history books.”

In 2018, Devon County Hunt Saboteurs reported seeing Eggesford Hunt hounds kill a vixen fox at its Boxing Day meet, and in 2022 said that saboteurs had witnessed the hunt chase five foxes in one day.

In July 2021, two Eggesford Hunt terriermen were found guilty of interfering with badger setts after they were filmed trying to flush out a fox.

Figures compiled by the League Against Cruel Sports on the scale of fox hunting in Devon showed 19 cases of suspected illegal hunting and 30 incidents in which hunts caused havoc.

The statistics were collated over five months during the last hunting season, which took place between November 2022 and April 2023.

In a statement, the Countryside Alliance said: “Figures presented by the League cannot be taken at face value and often consist of dubious reports from alleged members of the public, as well as spurious evidence gathered from social media. Time and time again evidence from anti-hunting groups is proven to paint a false picture and lacks appropriate context. A recent independent review found anti-hunt activists regularly submit ‘heavily edited’ footage to police claiming it shows evidence of illegal hunting activity”.

“Across the country tens of thousands of people came together to support Boxing Day meets and in so doing, supported their rural communities and many fragile local businesses.

“Trail hunting forms part of the backbone of rural life in Britain. That an obsessive group of activists could look at these scenes and want to see that way of life legislated against for political kicks is deeply disturbing.

“It took seven years, 700 hours of parliamentary time and a huge amount of political capital to get the Hunting Act onto the statute book. Any new legislation would be a pointless waste of time and create division in the countryside, the likes of which have not been seen since the last Labour Government passed the Hunting Act in 2004”.

The Hunting Act bans the use of dogs to hunt foxes and other wild mammals in England and Wales.