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RSPCA accused of a political agenda over prosecution

RSPCA accused of a political agenda.
The RSPCA has rejected claims that its successful prosecution of a hunt and two of its members for contravening the Hunting Act was politically motivated.

All three defendants in the case — Heythrop Hunt Ltd, huntsman Julian Barnfield and master Richard Sumner — were fined last month after admitting four charges of unlawfully hunting a wild fox with dogs.

However, the fact that Prime Minister David Cameron has ridden with the hunt, and has promised a free vote in the Commons on a repeal of the Act, has led to claims of an ulterior motive behind the prosecution.

After the case at Oxford Magistrates’ Court, Julian Barnfield said: “They could have picked on any other hunt, but they picked on Heythrop because we are in David Cameron’s constituency.”

RSPCA chief executive Gavin Grant said that it would prosecute illegal behaviour wherever it found it, however.

He said: “This hunt believed they were above the law — it was wrong. This law protects our beautiful wild animals. We will ensure it is enforced as Parliament intended.”

It is the first time that the RSPCA, which was co-founded by foxhunting MP Richard Martin in 1824, has prosecuted a traditional hunt.