HOODED anti-bloodsport protesters lined up on the Quantock Hills in an attempt to disrupt a legal meet of the West Somerset Fox Hounds.

Around 15 members of an unnamed group met on Saturday morning (April 1) at Crowcombe near where horses, hounds and huntsmen were preparing a trail chase.

Three men were arrested following the event and have been bailed on suspicion of theft after one of the hunt's hounds was reported missing to police.

Huntsman Nick Cooper told the Mercury: "They turned up from the start of the day but we didn't see them much during the event because we stayed ahead of them.

"At the end we all met up and discovered that one of the hounds had gone missing. I think the police had already been tipped off that there was going to be protesters there and they stopped a car on the road back into Bridgwater."

Officers stopped a car in the Weacombe area, in West Somerset, and recovered a hound from the vehicle which was then returned to the hunting group.

A 25-year-old from Merseyside, a 19-year-old from Solihull and a 21-year-old from Northants were arrested at the scene and have all been bailed pending further investigation and are due to answer to police in May.

Mr Cooper went on: "We have never had any trouble before to be honest. We were all very surprised to see protesters there.

"Some had a Land Rover and I think there must have been other off road vehicles there too."

The West Somerset group was taking part in a trail chase, which is one of the ways to hunt with dogs that is still allowed under UK law.

A scent is laid across the Quantock Hills by a vehicle and the hounds pick it up to follow.

The Hunting Act states that if a drag or track hunt comes across a fox it is the responsibility of the huntsmen to call the hounds off.

The League Against Cruel Sports and the RSPCA protests that this does not always happen in time and the animal still suffers distress.