FARMERS against fox hunting have expressed "extreme concern" over a pack of hounds wandering onto a railway track during a hunt at the weekend where several dogs were killed by a passing train.
The farmers' group said it saw the incident as "yet further evidence of the havoc wrought by fox hunts" which it described as "an absolute menace to farmers and their livelihoods".
Iarnrod Eireann has confirmed that the 14.50 train from Waterford to Dublin's Heuston station hit a pack of hounds on the track at Mullinavat, Co Kilkenny, just after 3pm on Saturday.
A spokeswoman said the rail company had not been contacted prior to the fox hunt. The train ploughed into the pack of dogs killing a number of them.
She said if they had been contacted they could have given the train timetable for the area but she also stressed that it was "very dangerous for people or animals to be on the track with trains passing at high speed".
In most areas the track was protected by fences or hedges and to be on the track was trespassing, she added.
Chairman of the Kilkenny foxhounds, Ned Morris, said that he was away on Saturday and "only came back, so I don't know how many dogs were killed".
He said that the group would normally contact Iarnrod Eireann prior to hunting. The company would be good about "slowing down trains and that kind of thing" when hunts were being held, he said.
"Dogs getting killed would be a kind of freak thing now," he added.
The Association of Hunt Saboteurs disagreed and condemned the failure of the hunters to control the pack of hounds and protect their welfare.
"The death of hounds while hunting is not an isolated incident. Accidents in the past have involved road accidents, other train accidents and deaths of other animals caused by hounds out of control," said a spokesman.
The Farmers Against Fox-hunting and Trespass group said it believed hunting should be banned.
"Our main objection is the damage they cause to farm property.
"They ride through fields of crops, ripping them up and scattering or killing livestock, knocking fencing and, as frequently happens, killing family pets," the group said.