Published: 12:26, 13 November 2019
| Updated: 13:44, 13 November 2019
A hunt group has hit back at claims their hounds illegally killed and beheaded a fox.
A nine-minute long video, released by animal activists Kent Hunt Sabs (KHS) and filmed using a drone, shows a pack of dogs crowding around a fox on land between Romney Marsh and Rye, in East Sussex.
The animal is torn apart, with its head removed.
KentOnline has decided not to show this image, and has published a shorter version of the video, below.
The footage has been passed to Sussex Police who say they are now investigating "a report of illegal fox hunting".
But members of East Sussex and Romney Marsh Hunt (ESRM) have today released a statement claiming their activities on Saturday were legal.
They say the fox may have already died when their dogs discovered it, in fields close to Little Cheyne Court Wind Farm, at Dungeness.
In addition they have blasted the saboteurs actions as 'dangerous' after they sounded their own horns to try and confuse the pack.
The statement reads: "The hunt was carrying out legal trail-hunting activities on Saturday, November 9, when it appears that some hounds, unknowingly to the huntsman or other hunt officials, deviated from the path of the scent which had been laid for them and subsequently drifted on to the scent of a mammal.
"There is no evidence to suggest that this mammal was alive when the hounds found it and could have already been dead.
"When this footage was taken there were anti-hunting activists blowing their hunting horns and using other methods of distraction which may have caused these hounds to become confused and disorientated.
"The saboteurs’ actions are incredibly dangerous and we implore them not to interfere with our hounds and legal activities."
Members of KHS - who campaign to stop foxes and hares being hunted - paint a different story to the day's events.
Harry Blackhurst attended with around 30 other protesters.
He said: "We quickly got on the hunt and it was clear from the start that they were not trail hunting or even attempting to lay a trail.
"The huntsmen was repeatedly casting his hounds across ditches and through thick gorse.
"All areas where it would be impossible to lay a trail.
"The point of trail hunting is to move, to follow something and what was immediately apparent is that the hunt were not moving.
"The hounds were being pushed in to the same area constantly almost in circles all day.
"We followed them going up and down ditches for 12 minutes with the huntsmen encouraging them on, terrier men lurking in the background and unfortunately they found what they’d been searching for.... a beautiful fox that was hiding in the gorse.
"They tore it to shreds beheading it in a process that lasted three minutes from start to finish. Neither the huntsmen or the terrier men made any attempt to intervene.
"We finished the day, heartbroken that we couldn’t save the fox.
"We’re concerned that this still happens in this day and age, and more motivated than ever before to see an end to hunting for good.
“There were children at this meet...how on earth can people think it’s socially acceptable to take children to an event where an animal gets it’s head torn off, alive by a pack of hounds!? The mind boggles."
KHS posted their statement on Facebook; it has received 584 comments and 1,500 shares so far.
Hunting wild animals with dogs was made illegal in 2005 following the introduction of The Hunting Act.
But riders still hold ‘drag’ hunts, where an artificial scent is laid for hounds to follow.
The weekend's incident has also sparked concerns from the RSPCA.
Adam Grogan, head of wildlife at the charity, said: “This new ‘sport’ was adopted by hunts after the Hunting Act 2004 was passed. But despite the ban on traditional hunts, continuing to train hounds to follow such scents can lead to wild quarry animals such as foxes, deer and hare, and other wild animals, being disturbed, chased and killed if the hounds pick up the scent of a live animal on the trail.
Drone footage captures the dogs zone in on the fox
“The RSPCA is opposed to any so-called ‘sport’ which causes suffering to animals. We believe that the use of the scent of dead animals is totally unnecessary as there are other alternatives, such as drag hunting, in which hounds follow an artificially laid scent not derived from animals, which does not pose a threat to wildlife.”
Sussex Police are investigating the incident.
Any witnesses are asked to report it online or call 101 quoting serial 763 of 09/11.