Young foxes are being taken from the wild and kept in captivity so they can be hunted illegally, a charity has claimed.
Covert video evident taken by the League Against Cruel Sports shows 16 fox cubs, some as young as three months, locked in a dark shed on land near Malton.
The video will be released today at 6.30pm.
Filmed as part of a League investigation in late May, it shows a shed fitted out to mimic a fox earth, and the cubs being visited by a hunt employee and fed on dead chickens and provided with dirty water in bowls.
The league says there were no vixens or adult foxes - arguing the cubs were forcibly removed from their earths.
Dr Toni Shephard, Head of Policy and Research for the League Against Cruel Sports, said that the League had alerted the police who removed the foxes and arrested the hunt employee.
The foxes, one of which died shortly after the rescue, are being kept at a secret location.
“This blows apart the argument that hunting is ‘wildlife management,’” he said. “Why would people working for a hunt be keeping young foxes? The answer is simple but terrible – they capture foxes so there is always a ready supply of animals to be chased by the hunt. Put bluntly, these foxes were kidnapped for cruelty.”
“We’re sure that there will be a denial that these captured foxes are linked to the local hunt, but the evidence is right there. The other footage, the intelligence we have received and testimony from people who have been involved in hunts all show that raising foxes to be hunted was, and still is, a common practice among hunts.
“A vocal minority are trying to get the Hunting Act repealed, and one of their key arguments is that hunting with dogs is some form of ‘fox control’ service. Anyone seeing this footage can now see what a despicably false argument that is. Hunting with dogs is nothing to do with fox control. It is simply a cruel sport, nothing more – and now it is clear that it is even crueller than most people ever knew.”
The charity’s investigation also claims that more than 20 hunts allowed captured foxes to be hunted in the last 15 months.
Footage is also reported to show a young fox in the Northamptonshire/Leicestershire area, being fed, then members of the hunt unblocking the earth so that the fox escapes just prior to the hounds running past.
Further video, provided by the Hunt Saboteurs Association, is also reported to show foxes being fed by members of a hunt.
“We’ve known for a long time that this is a practice carried out by many hunts, but this is the first footage that graphically shows the scale of what they are doing, and links it directly to members of the hunt,” added Dr Shephard.
“This would be appalling enough even if hunting was still legal. But the fact is, all the intelligence and evidence we have put together over the last few months has pointed to this going on right now – while hunting is banned. This can only mean one thing – some hunts are routinely breaking the law, and they are doing it in a most disgusting manner by capturing and feeding the very foxes they are planning to chase and kill.”
Clifford Pellow, a kennelman and huntsman for 23 years and now retired, said: “I’ve worked with many hunts across the country and seen foxes kept in milk churns, cages and sheds and encouraged to breed in artificial earths so there’s a ready supply to be hunted. I’ve even seen a fox deliberately strung up in a tree to send the hounds into a frenzy, so it’s no surprise to me this cruelty carries on.
“Though hunts insist they are there to provide a wildlife control service, the fact they break the Master of Foxhounds Association rules over and over again shows that this just isn’t the case. They’re still in it purely for the blood ‘sport’, with a nasty, cruel streak and no respect for the law.
“The hunting world’s last possible justification for repealing the Hunting Act has been well and truly blown out of the water.”
* North Yorkshire Police arrested a man in connection with the discovery of 16 fox clubs in a barn near Malton on Sunday, May 31. He is due to answer bail in the coming weeks.