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.

It's particularly awful to hear because quite often you'll hear a holler - that's a supporter who'll shriek if they see a fox trying to escape. And that brings the huntsmen and hounds onto its trail if it has a chance of getting away.

Denise Ward, Cirencester Illegal Hunt Watch

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.

500

people convicted for illegal hunting since 2005

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.

The Beaufort Hunt operates within the law by trail hunting and retains evidence of each trail laying day in case required. Like other packs, we are regularly faced with spurious allegations about our activities but reject any suggestion that we are not operating legally.

Statement from The Beaufort Hunt

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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