Footage shows foxes being fed in area where hunting takes place

Footage appears to show food being left out for foxes in areas where they are hunted. Credit: Hunt Saboteurs Association

By Rupert Evelyn: ITV News Correspondent

Think of a reason why anyone would repeatedly throw away dead chickens, rabbits, eggs and rats in an isolated Gloucestershire field.

These are the images covertly captured by the Hunt Saboteurs Association and, to answer the question, the HSA believe that what they've filmed shows the North Cotswold Hunt (NCH) leaving food out for foxes to eat.

The footage is graphic and raises important questions about what the NCH have been up to.

The time stamp on the video clearly shows the NCH pick-up, which we have filmed at their kennels, returning to the field over a number of months and it shows at least two foxes in the same location.

In both the HSA footage and ITV News footage the North Cotswold Hunt can be seen with hounds and horses in the same field.

And there are still tyre tracks in the field, which can also be seen from the aerial view on Google Maps.

The Hunt Saboteurs claim that "somebody would be doing this purely to encourage foxes to breed, to stay here so that they can obviously be in the vicinity of when the hunt choose to hunt.

"if they have a food source they don't need to travel and they don't need to go anywhere else.

"It's obviously certainly immoral. It would go against their own guidelines."

When the Hunting Act was passed in 2004 it became illegal to hunt foxes with dogs but the act does not cover the flushing out of an unidentified wild mammal and does not affect drag hunting.

Foxes are seen eating in the same area where the hunt later takes place. Credit: Hunt Saboteurs Association

The Master of Foxhounds Association golden rules say: "Hunting as a practice is the hunting of a wild animal in its wild and natural habitat with a pack of hounds. Nothing must be done which in any way compromises this".

So how does the NCH explain these images? They don't. We have sent them still frames from the video, offered to show them the full footage ahead of an interview, but the NCH has refused to engage with our approaches and, despite ample opportunity, refused to explain what has been shown.

Hounds and horses can be seen in the same field. Credit: Hunt Saboteurs Association

Of course, there maybe a perfect legitimate explanation, but in lieu of a statement from the NCH this remains a mystery disposal of dead animals, in a field inhabited by foxes, frequented by the NCH which is more than five miles from the hunt kennels in Broadway.

They have told us they are not involved in illegal fox hunting but hunt lawfully following a trail.

They have pointed out that 10 years on from the introduction of the Hunting Act their activity is still politically controversial.

Back then, one of the arguments in favour of continued fox hunting with hounds was pest control.

Then and now it would be very hard to argue "pest control" if foxes were being deliberately fed - which is why it is even more important that the North Cotswold Hunt explain what the Hunt Saboteurs Association have filmed.