Gruesome footage shows a fox chased and killed by a pack of hounds in East Yorkshire.
The incident was filmed by an anti-hunting activist during a New Year’s Eve event organised by the Holderness Hunt.
Humberside Police confirmed it is investigating the circumstances of the incident captured in the video, while the hunt refused to comment on it when contacted.
The activist who filmed it said he was “heartbroken” to witness the incident, the first occasion he had witnessed a kill first hand.
He had attended the hunt around midday alongside others from East Yorkshire Coast Hunt Saboteurs and filmed the hounds as they followed the fox and attacked it.
“It’s absolutely heartbreaking,” he said. “It’s horrible. You just think about what you could’ve done differently to save that fox’s life.”
Fox hunting has been illegal in England and Wales since the Hunting Act came into force in February 2005.
But the ancient tradition has continued to thrive in the form of trail hunts, where hounds chase a fake scent rather than a live animal.
It has remained controversial, with foxes and other animals regularly being pursued and killed by hounds during hunts in spite of the law.
Activist groups often attend hunts to try and capture footage of any illegal activity or stop kills if possible.
“You always go in with a level of apprehension and very cautiously because you don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said.
“We try to stay out of the way because there are sometimes tensions and we don’t want to escalate anything.”
On New Year’s Eve, he and the other ‘saboteurs’ had watched the hunt meet in the morning as a small speech was given and then followed as they rode away.
“They got to a farm and from there we followed the hunt up to another road and they flushed along a canal bank,” he said.
“The hounds were in cry, which implies that they’re chasing an animal.
“We ran parallel to them and a few minutes later found them on the canal bank with the hounds obviously excited, dashing in and out of a thorn bush, cutting their faces on the thorns.”
He managed to capture the rest of what happened on video.
A fox breaks away from the bushes and dashes out right underneath some of the hunters’ horses, with the hounds in hot pursuit.
The man chases the pack into a nearby field, pleading with the hunters to call off the dogs, passing another hunter on the way who laughs and says: “Well done young man, well done.”
He catches up to the hounds again, but the fox makes another break and they take off.
He chases them screaming “leave it”, but they soon catch up to the fox.
The footage carries on rolling as several hounds pile on to the fox, gripping it between their teeth and shaking it viciously.
The fox’s lifeless body is dragged away by one of the dogs as the man continues trying in vain to save it.
In another clip taken shortly afterwards, another of the saboteurs is seen carrying the dead fox in his arms.
As the camera pans around the field a number of hunters are clearly visible nearby and a horn can be heard as they ride away.
The saboteurs shared the footage on their Facebook page a few days later.
“Sometimes we can stop the kills,” said the man. “The adrenaline kicks in and you know you have to get there to stop the hounds if you can or record the illegal activity.
“If you get there you might put the hounds off. But the law is weak and convictions are so difficult because the burden of proof is so unbelievably high.”
One woman who lives in the area said she has seen the hunt going out before: “A lot of people who live around here are very against it. There’s a perception that a lot of rural people support it but I think it’s the opposite.”
Humberside Police statement
A spokeswoman from Humberside Police said: “Enquiries are being carried out after a report was received from a member of the public that a fox had been killed by dogs, believed to be part of a hunt, on New Year’s Eve in Driffield.
“Officers from the wildlife crime team attended the Hempholme area at around 12.50pm on the day and are now currently working to establish the circumstances of the incident and if any offences have been committed.
“If you have information about the incident or any events prior to it, please call our non-emergency 101 line, quoting log number 233 of Tuesday, 31 December.”