Councils in England and Wales have handed hunts more than £160,000 of taxpayers’ money in grants intended to help businesses struggling during the pandemic.
Shropshire has given out £50,000 – the highest total donated by the seven local authorities that have paid out.
Critics said it was outrageous that hard-working taxpayers should be subsidising hunts.
Under government rules, any business that occupies a property and receives small business rate relief or rural rate relief is eligible for a small business grant for Covid-19.
The cash comes from central government and is administered by local authorities.
Earlier this month, The Independent revealed that the Devon and Somerset Staghounds received a £10,000 grant and a £50,000 loan from taxpayer-backed coronavirus business schemes.
As a result, the Keep the Ban group, which campaigns against hunting, asked local authorities across England and Wales under Freedom of Information laws how much they had handed to hunts.
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Shropshire county council gave five business grants to registered hunts at a total of £50,000. It said it awarded the money in line with government eligibility criteria.
Powys county council provided a hunt with £30,000 via the small business grants fund.
Rutland council awarded the Cottesmore Hunt a retail, hospitality and leisure grant of £25,000 – the maximum available – and a business rates discount of £6,716.30.
The expanded retail discount scheme was introduced when lockdown began to give full business rates relief to charity shops, museums, galleries, theatres, historic houses, sports clubs and village halls.
Babergh district council in Suffolk granted £10,000 each to two hunts under the small business grant fund.
The Isle of Wight council and South Northamptonshire council each gave £10,000 to a hunt.
Together with the £10,000 awarded to the stag hunt by Somerset West and Taunton district council, the total makes £155,000. Adding Rutland’s business rates discount brings it to £161,716.30.
About 180 local authorities said they had not given any funding to hunts. Some refused to give the information.
During lockdown, hunts have been unable to carry out activities that pay for expenses such as hound kennels and staff wages.
Hunts insist that they obey the law banning fox-hunting by laying scent trails for hounds to follow.
Rob Pownall, founder of the Keep the Ban campaign group, said: “Families across the country are suffering incredible hardship and having to make tough sacrifices due to Covid-19. Why are hard-working people now being made to subsidise hunts to the tune of £160,000?
“Taxpayers’ money should be going to help local people. It is shocking that money supposed to help struggling businesses survive is being handed to hunts to support their activities.
“Now the ‘cubbing’ season has started where the hunts train the hounds to kill by ripping small fox cubs to pieces.
“This government is out of touch with the public and instead panders to a small minority.”
The government has exempted hunting and shooting from the limit of six people meeting at once under coronavirus restrictions.
More than 100,000 people have signed a petition against the exemption.
Shropshire county council said that “if businesses met the criteria set by government – and after the council had carried out appropriate due diligence to eliminate the possibility of fraud – there was a legal obligation to award them funding”.
Aled Davies, Powys county council’s deputy leader, said businesses were entitled to the grant when the criteria were met, adding:“Hunts are an important part of the rural culture and economy, and give support to livestock farmers.
“I am pleased that we were able to deliver the Welsh government support during this difficult time.”
A spokeswoman for Babergh council said “there was no discretion around the distribution of the small business grant or retail, hospitality and leisure grant”.
A Rutland council statement said: “The Cottesmore Hunt is one of a number of organisations in Rutland that was awarded Covid-19 grant funding by the government, with the intention of supporting property costs.
“The eligibility criteria for awarding retail, hospitality and leisure grants were set by the government, and Rutland county council was obliged to provide grants to any company or organisation that met that criteria.
“Local authorities, like Rutland county council, have carried out a purely administrative role within this grant process. Decisions about what types of organisation were eligible for a grant and how much money they should receive were taken at the national level.”
The Independent has also asked the Cottesmore Hunt and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to comment.
A spokesperson for Somerset West and Taunton council, which gave the stag hunt its £10,000 grant, said: “All companies that received grant payments did so based on the criteria of the scheme that they applied for.”