South Gloucestershire hunt accused of illegally killing foxes

This video contains distressing images
  • Watch Caron Bell's report

It is fifteen years since the hunting ban came into effect, banning the use of hounds to kill wild animals.

But ITV News has seen disturbing footage which campaigners claim shows illegal fox-hunting in South Gloucestershire.

They accuse the Beaufort Hunt of routinely and deliberately killing foxes.

Under the Hunting Act, hunts are allowed to use hounds to follow an artificial scent trail - known as trail hunting. It is an offence to deliberately use hounds to chase or kill a wild mammal.

But in court, hunts have maintained that their hounds accidentally followed a real animal, instead of an artificial trail, and cases have hinged on whether a huntsman's intention can be proved.

The Beaufort Hunt insists it only ever trail hunts. Based on the Badminton Estate, it is the West Country's oldest and largest fox hunt.

Prior to the 2005 ban, it counted Princes Charles, William, Harry and the Duchess of Cornwall among its members.

Fifteen years on, the Beaufort is still very popular. It rides out around four times a week between September and March, often with up to a hundred riders in tow.

In a statement to ITV News, it rejected claims that it hunts illegally.

Since the Hunting Act came into force, over 500 people across the country have been convicted under it, with a further 47 admitting an offence and receiving a police caution. None were members of the Beaufort.

Many campaign groups would like to see the Hunting Act strengthened, arguing that as the law stands, hunts are able to use trail hunting as a smokescreen for the real thing.

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