ONE of the country’s leading foxhunts, accused last year of trapping fox cubs for hunting, faces a new investigation after allegations that an artificial earth was found on its land.
Less than eight months ago the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals rescued a pair of three-month-old cubs from an underground cage on the Sinnington Hunt’s land in North Yorkshire.
The RSPCA dropped the prosecution of the Sinnington last month because, it said it did not have enough evidence. The hunt masters denied they knew the cubs had been trapped.
Now the RSPCA is carrying out another inquiry after photographs and video film were produced, allegedly showing evidence of an artificial earth in the same area.
Artificial earths are not illegal. But the rules of the Masters of Foxhounds Association states: “Foxhunting as a sport is the hunting of the fox in his wild and natural state with a pack of hounds. Nothing must be done which, in any way, compromises this rule.”
Animal rights campaigners say trapping foxes to be let loose for hounds undermines the argument of blood sport supporters that hunting is an essential form of pest control.
The photographs of an earth were first said to have been taken in 1997. Video footage apparently shot earlier this month is said to show the earth was still there.
The League Against Cruel Sports, whose undercover investigators discovered the captive fox cubs, are demanding closure of the Sinnington Hunt.
They intend to organise a demonstration in the area at the weekend. Steve Rackett, one of the campaigners, said: “It is clear this hunt is encouraging fox numbers. The Sinnington Hunt has been involved in other trouble, and it really is time for it to be closed down.”
On Boxing Day last year, hounds from the hunt killed a cat in a garden in Kirkbymoorside. Owner Joan Salmon and her children failed to save her pet. She accused the hunt of being arrogant and failing to apologise.
A month earlier, Ryedale District Council ordered the hunt to remove an incinerator, used for animal carcasses, which it said had been causing air pollution.
Posters have begun to appear in villages in the area, put up, it is said, by local farmers, about the hunt. One shows a cat lying on its back with legs up in the air and the caption ” Latest from Sinnington pantomine productions, puss in bits”.
John Shaw, one of the joint masters of the Sinnington, referred inquiries to the Countryside Alliance. John Haigh, for the Alliance, said: “We do not oppose an RSPCA inquiry, but we would like to point out that any photographs or video shots must have been gathered by trespassing on private property and they may not be genuine.
“Artificial earths aren’t there to bring in foxes but just to encourage them to stay in the area. The reason we have the healthiest fox population in Europe in this country is because of hunting.”
“As far as the discovery of the fox cubs is concerned, we are, of course, totally opposed to keeping foxes in cages, but there was an investigation into the matter by the Masters of Foxhounds Association, and the hunt was cleared.”
Last night James Holt, the chairman of the Sinnington Hunt said: “As far as I know, at this moment there is no second artificial earth at Muscoates Whin where they say it was found. And anyway, even if there was I don’t know what the fuss is about.”
Mr Holt’s ex-wife, Annabel Holt, a former huntswoman, is now a campaigner against blood sports and intends to set up a register of landowners opposed to hunting.