The video, obtained by ITV News, has been widely condemned, as Rupert Evelyn reports
Illegal hunting of foxes with a pack of hounds is “prolific” in this country, says the police officer who leads on hunting-related crime.
Reacting to the ITV News story of the Avon Vale Hunt releasing foxes to a pack of waiting hounds, Chief Superintendent Matt Longman tweeted: “Many requests to comment on hunting today. Deliberately killing a fox with a pack of hounds is illegal, it’s wrong and it’s prolific in the UK.
"National experts will offer support to investigating Forces to raise the game of UK policing. Much more to do."
His intervention comes on the day the Avon Vale Hunt was effectively expelled from the sport of hunting.
After ITV News revealed “sickening” footage of foxes being dug out of the ground and “thrown” to the hounds the organisation that runs the rural pursuit, the British Hounds Sports Association (BHSA) has decided “the evidence revealed serious breaches of the Core Principles and Rules of the BHSA.
On reaching their conclusions, the Panel were minded permanently to expel the Hunt and its Masters, Huntsman and Kennel Huntsman from membership of the BHSA. This would mean that in all probability the Hunt would no longer be able to function.
The footage has caused outrage. Chief Executive of the Countryside Alliance, Tim Bonner, said: “The video of the Avon Vale hunt is disgraceful and wholly unacceptable. Those involved must be investigated and prosecuted, but this incident also highlights the importance of proper standards and effective regulation of hunting.”
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Emma Smith, director of operations at the League Against Cruel Sports, said: “This sickening footage shows that hunts are still targeting foxes and that ‘trail’ hunting is a sham and a smokescreen being used to deceive the public, police and courts."
Danny Kruger, the MP for Devizes in Wiltshire, said: "The video obtained by ITV News appears to show a flagrant breach of the Hunting Act.
"I am pleased that the police are treating this case with the seriousness it deserves, arresting the three individuals involved, and that the British Hound Sports Association have suspended the Avon Vale Hunt itself.
"Anyone responsible for deliberately hunting foxes with hounds should be prosecuted."
With many calling for a tightening of laws around hunting to prevent loopholes being exploited, Labour’s Shadow Environment Secretary Jim McMahon said: "What we're seeing is a very clear demonstration of people who were flouting the rules.
"If we have legislation that has a loophole in it, that goes completely against the will of Parliament, then Labour will be the party that maintains high animal welfare standards. And we will make sure that that loophole is closed."
The government said: “The Hunting Act 2004 makes it an offence to hunt a wild mammal with dogs and anyone who believes that an offence has taken place should report the matter to the police. Those found guilty under the Act are subject to the full force of the law."
Wiltshire Police today called on the public to help them identify those in the video. Which they said appeared to show offences taking place.
As for the Avon Vale Hunt. Well, more than a century of hunting, most of it spent legally killing animals, it’s now facing it’s own demise for, of all things, hunting foxes.
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