ANIMAL rights activists have protested after a high speed train was forced to stop after colliding with a pack of foxhounds near Cirencester.

The League Against Cruel Sports said the incident happened east of the Sapperton tunnel when the driver of a First Great Western train saw the hounds and a huntsman on the line. The league said at least one hound was killed. It was not known if any were injured. The incident came almost a year to the day since hounds were killed on the same line, it said.

A spokesman for the League Against Cruel Sports described the incident as "typical of the disregard that hunts show the public".

"Quite apart from the horrific way in which at least one hound has been killed, it shows a terrific disregard for the rail-travelling public and for their safety. For a huntsman to be stood with twenty hounds next to a railway line beggars belief," the spokesman said.

The league said it was unclear which hunt was involved, and none have admitted involvement. The League called on the hunt "to own up and apologise to the public.

The incident is reported to have happened at 3.50pm on Monday, January 17. A Cheltenham to London train was cancelled, and others delayed for 20 minutes.

A statement from British Transport Police said it had a report from Network Rail staff of a fox hunt on the line. The driver of the train had reported striking at least one hound.

But when BTP officers from Bristol arrived, there was no trace of any fox hunt in the area.

There was an understanding that if hounds did stray onto a line, riders should not follow.

Members of the Vale of The White Horse Hunt, The Beaufort Hunt and The Cotswold Hunt said they had no reports of any incidents.