AN ANIMAL rights group has condemned an alleged attack on one of its hunt monitors.
Devon and Cornwall Police are investigating an attack on Kevin Hill, 55, who was observing the Devon and Somerset staghounds on Exmoor on behalf of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) last weekend.
Mr Hill, who was treated in hospital for his injuries, says the assault was carried out by someone who was following the meet on foot.
The hunt has denied any involvement and has welcomed the investigation.
Josey Sharrad, IFAW Campaigner, said: "We are appalled by this vicious and unprovoked attack.
"Kevin Hill is a respected and extremely professional member of IFAW's campaign team who has devoted the past 20 years of his life to campaigning in the defence of animal welfare.
"Our hunt monitors peacefully observe hunts, gathering evidence to assist in the enforcement of the Hunting Act. We're a law-abiding organisation. We never attempt to intervene. Hunters have been chasing stags over long distances and boasting openly about 'testing the law'."
"IFAW never attempts to intervene in hunt activities. We expect the police to investigate this incident fully."
The law allows two dogs to flush out quarry towards a gun, but anti-animal sport groups claim hunters are using extra hounds to replace tired ones - prolonging the chase.
Diana Scott, joint master of the Devon and Somerset hunt with her husband, admitted hounds were sometimes replaced but claimed they were simply "managing" the deer. But in October there have been four "managed" events planned every week. Mrs Scott condemned the attack on Mr Hill but claimed the Mirror and IFAW monitors provoked the situation. She said: "People were trespassing on private property and could have been shot.
"These people have spent the last 17 years trying to provoke a situation and, for the first time in my mastership, that might have happened. Although I deeply suspect it was a put-up job. Hounds are on occasion changed and there is nothing in the Act to say they shouldn't be."
The stag escaped during the confusion. Meanwhile, police are searching for a middle- aged man in connection with the alleged assault on Mr Hill.