By politics.co.uk staff
Police will stop monitoring illegal hunts in a change of policy that could mark the effective collapse of the hunting ban.
New guidance from the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) said that enforcing the Act was impossible and should not be a priority.
Speaking to the Times, Richard Brunstrom, chief constable of North Wales and Acpo spokesman on rural affairs, said: "Hunting is definitely not a policing priority. We recognise it is the law of the land and the duty of the police to enforce it - but to do so proportionately and according to priorities."
The guideline, which does not have any legal weight, was approved by senior officers this week who were urged to avoid "acrimonious, time consuming, frustrating and ultimately fruitless activity".
Mr Brunstrom said: "If there are offences they are likely to be taking place in a remote rural environment. We are not very well equipped to follow hunts and get evidence and nor do we think we can justify it. Pursuing hunts is an expensive and sophisticated operation."
Under the new guidelines, hunts will no longer need to inform the forces of when and where they would take place.
The guidance found that gathering information on illegal hunting was too difficult and the Hunting Act, introduced by Labour in 2004, was branded 'cumbersome' and 'unenforceable'.
Rather than the police monitoring them, information about illegal hunts should be obtained by anti-hunt activists.
But such groups should be handled with caution since they viewed hunting as an 'emotionally charged' subject, the report said.
Since the Act was introduced, only three convictions were made out of the eight prosecutions pursued in total. The League Against Cruel Sports said the ban would still be legally enforceable.
Louise Robertson, of the League Against Cruel Sports said: "The guidelines recognise that the Hunting Act is the will of the parliament and is legislation supported by the vast majority of the public and we will continue to work with the police to ensure this is enforced effectively."
A spokesman for the group said: "We fought for 80 years for the hunting ban and, while we accept it is not a high priority for police, a ban was the will of parliament and is the will of the people and we are going to press for more prosecution cases to be brought."
The Countryside Alliance said: "We have always understood what a difficult job the police have in dealing with such a confusing piece of legislation. But the guidance suggests that the sort of engagement some police forces have had with animal rights groups should, quite rightly, be avoided."
The hunting ban was introduced less than five years ago.