The figures were compiled from the League’s Animal Crimewatch service, which consists of reports from members of the public and from the League’s professional investigators, as well as from evidence gathered from social media.

Chris Luffingham, director of campaigns at the League Against Cruel Sports, said: “These figures sadly show the scale of the killing still taking place in the British countryside by fox hunts. “We know these reports are just the tip of the iceberg, with fox hunts killing indiscriminately across the UK and lying about their bloodthirsty activities to cover up their crimes. However, I believe the tide is turning. Political parties are now recognising the need to take animal welfare much more seriously and put in place stronger legislation to protect British wildlife.”

An online petition was launched earlier this year calling for Cheshire police to prosecute illegal hunters.

It followed a recent review of the policing of illegal fox hunting arranged by Cheshire’s Police and Crime commissioner David Keane, late last year, which highlighted the challenges posed by the current legislation, and proposed strengthening it.

Mr Luffingham added: “The issue of animal welfare has never been such an important issue for the public and political parties and it is becoming vital to electoral success. We are calling for the hunting ban to be strengthened with the introduction of prison sentences for those caught illegally hunting. We need a proper deterrent to stop the barbaric activities of the hunts and we also need to remove the loop holes that allow hunts to get around the law.”

However, a spokesperson for the Countryside Alliance commented: “Hunts are regularly subjected to spurious allegations regarding their legal hunting activities yet packs of hounds within Cheshire operate within the law to comply with the Hunting Act 2004. These figures cannot be taken at face value since they were compiled from the League’s Animal Crimewatch service, which consists of reports from members of the public and as well as from evidence gathered from social media. There is absolutely no evidence to suggest these allegations are true. Even a Cheshire police spokesperson recently commented that you shouldn’t believe everything you see on social media and confirmed that action can only be taken when evidence exists.”

Any suspected illegal hunting activity can be reported to the League’s Animal Crimewatch service at www.league.org.uk/animal-crimewatch.

Alternatively, phone in confidence on 01483 361 108 or email on crimewatch@league.org.uk.