Somerset council is the focus of hunt and anti-hunt arguments today.

Today (Friday, May 27), the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) is set to meet outside County Hall in Taunton to launch a petition which calls on Somerset County Council to end trail hunting on land that it owns and manages.

However, animal welfare campaigner Jim Barrington has accused the League of attempting to ‘waste valuable council time’.

He is a former director of the League and is now a consultant for the Countryside Alliance.

Jim said: "LACS has a history of spreading mistruths about the reality of trail hunting.

"Trail hunting is a legal activity, which involves the laying of an artificial scent for hounds to follow.

"Somerset, like elsewhere across the country, is facing a cost of living crisis and clearly all attention should be on alleviating the anxiety that many in the county are feeling.

“LACS are either totally oblivious to the concept of reading the room, or they are deliberately attempting to waste valuable council time.

"This petition has nothing to do with animal welfare, but everything to do with anti-rural prejudice.”

Somerset County Council was recently gained by the Liberal Democrats.

Jim said: “The Liberal Democrats have positioned themselves as a rural focused party and made the noble commitment of promoting sports and culture.

"Clearly, depending on the outcome of this petition, that will be tested. No council should be banning or curtailing a legal activity, particularly when it is fuelled by deeply unpleasant, anti-rural sentiment.”

There are 15 registered hunts that are either based in Somerset, or that trail lay in parts of the county.

READ NEXT: Famous Cornish pub bans fox hunts from its land

John Petrie, regional campaign manager at the League Against Cruel Sports: “Fox hunting and deer hunting are still rife in Somerset despite the hunting ban and the anguish local residents feel at the relentless pursuit and killing of wildlife in the county.

“Trail hunting was recently dismissed by the deputy chief magistrate for England and Wales in a landmark court case as a ‘cover for old fashioned illegal hunting’ and a ‘sham’ and a ‘fiction’.

"For the Countryside Alliance to attempt to claim it’s a legal activity after one of its top people was convicted of hosting a masterclass in how to use trail hunting as a smokescreen for illegal hunting is simply jaw-dropping.

“Enough is enough. Hunting is a squalid and brutal activity which needs to be consigned to the history books.

“The 15 registered hunts referred to by the Countryside Alliance blood sport apologists are a stain on the county of Somerset and engaged in brutal activities that will sicken people across the county.

"A fox and deer hunting ban outlawed hunting with dogs in England and Wales in 2005 but, in the last four years alone, the League has received reports of nearly 300 incidents in Somerset – marking it out as a hunting hotspot.

"Somerset is also one of only two counties which see deer being hunted by three stag hound packs.

“Somerset Council has an opportunity to set an example to the rest of the south west and ban hunting on its land, and that’s what the League is campaigning for.”

Cornwall Council debated a similar petition in January and saw councillors from various political parties defend trail hunting.