A Yorkshire estate which is home to a cousin of the Queen has hit back at 'scurrilous' allegations of animal slaughter.

Harewood estate has been lambasted in a report by the League Against Cruel Sports.

It is accused of being one of the worst offenders among a number of estates that it is claimed are slaughtering wildlife at an unprecedented rate in order to protect valuable game bird stocks for commercial shooting.

But the allegations have been described as 'outrageous' by an official from the estate who is stressing that far from slaughtering animals Harewood is actually leading the way in conservation.

In the report. War on Wildlife, campaigners say investigators visited land near Harewood House - home to the Earl of Harewood - following tip-offs from members of the public, including one whose dog had become trapped in a snare.

They say they uncovered graphic evidence showing the systematic slaughter of wildlife - including a 'death pit' with more than 100 rotting animal carcasses, including foxes, squirrels and rabbits apparently being used as bait for nearby traps.

The report, which was published today, refers to incidents that are alleged to have happened last year. And it drew an angry response from Harewood's resident land agent, Christopher Ussher, who questioned why the league had waited eight months to publish its allegations.

He stressed that Harewood did not have an animal shoot, and that all gamekeepers and outside staff were given a strict code of conduct they were expected to adhere to.

"This is nonsense," he said. "Apart from the fact that we don't have an animal shoot, how on earth can I possibly investigate this eight months after it is supposed to have happened. It is ridiculous."

He stressed that the behaviour alleged in the report would not be condoned by Harewood. "If it happened it is not something we would condone here. If that sort of thing was going on I would want to know about it.

"We pride ourselves on our best practices. We have got a conservation record which stands the test.

"If they can't look at an estate such as ours and see best practice why didn't they say there is something wrong here. I would have said thank you for letting me know - it would have been dealt with."

He stressed that Harewood had an outstanding record and was an example setter in conservation.

"It they had something to say why on earth didn't they tell me eight months earlier.

"It is a publicity attack, not a genuine report of wildlife misdemeanour - and I don't think it is going to achieve anything."

During its UK-wide investigation carried out in 2008 - and published today - the league says it uncovered a catalogue of shocking practices on sporting estates, many of which are illegal or in breach of guidelines designed to prevent unnecessary cruelty and suffering.

It says snaring practices in breach of the industry's own code of best practice were found, including snares set on drag poles.

The League's shooting campaigner, Katy Roberts, said: "The lack of regard with which some estate owners and gamekeepers treat our wildlife is nothing short of despicable. Wildlife is being wipe out in a brutal fashion to protect game birds being reared for commercial shooting and ultimately line the pockets of the estate owners. Persecution on this scale is simply not acceptable."