Huntsmen have been accused of breaching regulations by holding foxes captive before shooting them at point blank range. The League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) filmed the Croome and West Warwickshire Hunt catching foxes in a chamber before killing them.
Campaigners say the practice flouts hunting guidelines that animals should be pursued in their natural habitat. But the hunt denies it has breached the code of conduct.
The LACS footage was filmed during a four-month investigation into the hunt’s activities following an alleged tip-off from a hunt follower. Officials recorded examples of “terriermen” using their dogs to locate foxes in artificial earths, or man-made chambers, during hunts between last December and March.
In one sequence, the huntsman digs out part of the chamber to improve access as drain rods are used to push the fox to one end. The animal is then shot and thrown to the waiting hounds as a reward for their efforts.
LACS chief executive Douglas Batchelor said that, while the chambers do not break the law, they contravene hunt regulations that foxes should be tracked and killed only in a wild and natural state.
He said: “If this was happening in Africa, people would call it canned hunting where rare animals are encouraged into a space and then shot for sport. This is, in effect, the same thing for foxes in the UK and I think people will be astounded.”
He added: “This really is gruesome – it is a blood sport without the fancy dress.”
Labour MP for Nuneaton Bill Olner told a press conference in Stratford-on-Avon on Tuesday that the film had renewed his resolve to see fox-hunting banned.
But the hunt, which is based in Kinnersley, near Worcester, said there was nothing new or wrong about artificial hides.
Nicky Driver, the hunt’s community liaison officer, said: “There were absolutely no rules broken in that video. Just because the fox is in an artificial earth does not mean it isn’t in its natural habitat.“
Miss Driver said that hunts were invited by the landowner who had the final say over whether a fox should be destroyed. Some farmers are happy to have foxes on their land but they want to keep them away from lambing fields, for example. Nobody wants to exterminate the fox, they just want to keep them under control.”
She added: “They are trying to portray it to the public as a deep, dark secret. We are saying we are not doing anything wrong and anyone is welcome to come along and have a look. Hunting is very well regulated by an independent body and anyone can come and see this for themselves.”