Published: 10:18, 12 November 2019
| Updated: 12:35, 13 November 2019
A defenceless fox was beheaded after being attacked by a pack of dogs, protesters have claimed.
Police are now investigating the reported illegal fox hunt, which took place on Saturday on land between Romney Marsh and Rye, in East Sussex.
WARNING: Video includes graphic content
Members of Kent Hunt Sabs (KHS) - who campaign to stop foxes and hares being hunted - say the 'innocent' creature was killed after being tracked down by hounds during an organised meet.
The group have now released footage of the kill, filmed on a drone.
It shows huntsmen and their dogs running through fields before the dogs zone in on a fox.
The video shows the dogs crowd around the fox and appear to rip it apart.
The final scene of the footage shows the animal lying dead, its head removed. KentOnline has chosen not to show this image.
The hunt was carried out by members of the East Sussex & Romney Marsh (ESRM) hunt, KHS allege, close to Little Cheyne Court Wind Farm, at Dungeness.
Animal activist Harry Blackhurst, a member of KHS, said it was a day "that most of us will never forget that resulted in the brutal death of an innocent fox".
He said: "We decided to join our comrades South Coast Hunt Sabs who were with the East Sussex & Romney Marsh hunt, who were hunting on the Marsh just east of Rye and above Camber.
"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.
"It was a day that most of us will never forget that resulted in the brutal death of an innocent fox..." — Harry Blackhurst
"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."
The team of 30 saboteurs attempted to confuse the hounds by using their own horns.
But the efforts did not work.
Mr Blackhurst added: "We decided to deploy the drone again and quickly we found the hunt and indeed the hounds were in full cry on a scent.
"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 made an attempt to get the body but unfortunately due to navigating around ditches we couldn't get there before the terrier men who came to retrieve the body."
It was then the saboteurs called 999, getting through to Sussex Police.
Mr Blackhurst adds: "We have unbroken footage of the kill and four drone batteries worth of clear illegal hunting that day that lead to the kill.
"It's difficult to see how the hunt will get out of this one.
"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."
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.
Their comment 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."
A police spokesman said: "Sussex Police received a report of illegal fox hunting at Guldeford, near Rye, at 2.09pm on Saturday, November 9.
"Officers were deployed to the scene.
"A video has now been provided and the matter will be investigated.
"Anyone who witnessed the incident is asked to report online or call 101 quoting serial 763 of 09/11.
"We are not able to take reports or witness accounts via social media."
The incident has also sparked concerns from an animal charity.
Adam Grogan, head of wildlife at the RSPCA, said: "Reports such as this highlight the deep concerns the RSPCA has about trail hunting and the real dangers it poses to wildlife.
"Trail hunting involves products from animals (such as urine or body parts) such as foxes being used to lay a trail for hounds to follow.
"Some claim trail hunting is being used as a smokescreen to get around the law and continue traditional fox hunting, which would be a major concern.
"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.
"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."