THE row over the use of hares at a recent Scouting exercise has rumbled on, with the head of the Countryside Alliance offering his support to the Scouts.

The use of hares on a recent survival skills exercise was slammed by animal rights activists Cheshire Monitors alleging that children were being 'taught that it's okay to kill an endangered species'.

Now the Countryside Alliance has hit back at the comments from Cheshire Monitors, with chief executive Tim Bonner saying children should be free to learn without 'fear and intimidation'.

"Hares are not an endangered species and game meat is an ethical and healthier alternative to many other red meats," said Mr Bonner.

"It is totally wrong for this extreme group to target the Cheshire Beaver Scouts in the way they have.

"Their facebook post deliberately encourages a pile-in and has generated several vicious and nasty comments aimed at the kids and their parents.

"Thankfully there are a growing number of people defending the beaver scouts, which is a testament of their great work.

"Teaching children the valuable lessons of how to prepare food in this way is a good thing and should be encouraged.

"Children should be free to learn about survival skills without fear and intimidation.”

But Cheshire Monitors are unhappy with Mr Bonner's comments, saying that they encourage the practice of teaching children where meat comes from, but not at the expense of hares.

A spokesperson for Cheshire Monitors said: "Cheshire Monitors wholeheartedly support the practice of teaching children where meat comes from, but we question the relevance or wisdom in using hares to do this, we aren’t living in Victorian times.

"Today, hares are not only an iconic animal for a huge number of people in this country, but their decline in numbers is quite clear, with a population of more than four million a century ago to less than 800,000 today.

"Some people may be confused by abundant populations of hares in some areas, but these often supply a poorly-monitored area of the game industry which shoots an estimated 300,000 of these creatures each year.

"Most shockingly, this includes during their breeding season, considered particularly cruel as dependent baby hares are left to starve when their mothers are shot. Reports of hare coursing which is illegal are also on the increase."

The group are now petitioning for a closed hunting season for Hares to be put into place.

"Cheshire Monitors are now joining other groups in calling for improved legislation relating to hares, which would provide a long overdue update to the woefully outdated 1892 Hares Preservation Act," the spokesman added.

"As a start, we would like to see a new bill introduced that creates a closed season consistent with other mammals and birds, giving this increasingly endangered animal the protection it so clearly needs."