The Beaufort Hunt, which the Prince of Wales and his friend Camilla Parker Bowles follow keenly, has been accused of breaking rules by breeding foxes for the chase.
Undercover video footage, presented to Newsnight, the BBC2 programme, by the International Fund for Animal Welfare, allegedly showed a Beaufort employee leaving food for foxes outside artificial earths built by the hunt. The footage appears to show its official terrierman, Thomas Burton, shovelling offal on to stone slabs. A sheep was also allegedly put out.
The fund claimed that the hunt was breaking its own rules which state: “Foxhunting as a sport is the hunting of the fox in his wild and natural state with a pack of hounds. No pack of hounds, of which the master or representative is a member of the Masters of Fox Hounds Association, shall be allowed to hunt a fox in any way that is inconsistent with this precept.”
The fund accused the hunt of feeding fox cubs which had lost their mother to ensure that there were foxes to hunt. Captain Ian Farquhar, the master of the Beaufort, who was not available yesterday, told Newsnight that the vixen in question was run over on a road.
Mike Baker, the fund’s chief executive, said: “Foxhunters claim that they are engaged in vital pest control and yet here they are apparently rearing foxes for the kill. The association should suspend the hunt.” Simon Hart, of the Countryside Alliance’s Campaign for Hunting, said: “There is no secret about artificial earths. We took the Burns inquiry to see artificial earths.
“Let’s wait until Monday to see what they have to say about them. The foxes are not forced to live there. The earths are built to encourage them to live where they can be hunted safely and do not cause a nuisance, which means not by the motorway and not by the pheasant pen.”
Alastair Jackson, the association’s director, said: “If any rules have been broken we will act swiftly.” In some hunt countries, he said, it was common practice to build artificial earths, not unlike nesting boxes, in which foxes were free to come and go.
There was no law to prevent food being put down for foxes. He said: “Fox hunting is about controlling the fox population, it is not about exterminating the fox population.” Supporters of hunting said it was a frequent practice for animal lovers to feed foxes, even urban ones, to see them in their gardens.