SO the hunting season is upon us again and the Countryside Alliance's new figurehead Kate Hoey, MP for Vauxhall, is assuring us that hunting smells the same and looks the same.

Hunts are claiming that more supporters are out in the field. This is all fine, as long as what the hunts are doing is within the law.

The League Against Cruel Sports never wanted to stop people enjoying a great ride in the countryside and a social stirrup cup or two. For us it is clearly an animal welfare issue and we fought an 80-year-long campaign to reduce animal suffering in the misguided name of sport.

Our intelligence shows that the majority of hunts are keeping within the law, but a significant minority are criminalising themselves by continuing to hunt wild mammals with dogs.

A popular way of breaching the Hunting Act, is to take a token bird of prey out and claim that the packs were flushing a fox to the bird. This exemption was made for falconry, and if, as some hunts admit, the bird is never released, then it is simply not falconry.

To all those in the countryside or visiting the countryside, who abhor animal cruelty, we say, keep an eye out for illegal hunting.

If the hunters freely choose to criminalise themselves, they will realise that they must face the consequences.

John Cooper, chairman, League Against Cruel Sports