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Avon Vale Hunt future in doubt after video emerges

The hunt has been suspended by the British Hound Sports Association after footage obtained by ITV News shows a fox being thrown to hounds, reports David Tomlinson

TROWBRIDGE, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 16: Nick Bycroft, Kennel Huntsman with the Avon Vale hunt sounds his hunting horn prior to riding out from a hunt meet near Trowbridge on February 16, 2010 in Wiltshire , England. This week marks the fifth anniversary of the hunting ban that was introduced by the Labour government in 2005. Many hunt supporters are hoping that the Conservative party will repeal the ban if they win power at the next general election widely expected to be called in the next few months. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

Formerly known as Captain Spicer’s, the Avon Vale Hunt was formed in 1912, hunting a country in mid-Wiltshire that once formed part of the Beaufort’s country. However, the future of the hunt is now in serious doubt, following a video obtained by ITV News of members of hunt staff digging out a fox from an earth and throwing it in front of waiting hounds. As the dug-out fox bolts, a second fox follows it. It’s not known whether either fox was killed.

Opponents of hunting have greeted the so-called grisly video with a mixture of horror, claiming that the video provides serious proof that trail-hunting is nothing more than a smokescreen for real hunting, which was outlawed by Tony Blair’s Government in 2005.

Animal rights activist Brian May, interviewed for ITV following the screening of the video, said: “This footage speaks for itself. It’s so shocking, so disgusting that it can’t leave any decent people in any doubt about what trail-hunting really means.” Chris Packham added: “This is a case now for the police and for the RSPCA. This insidious, vile habit has to be stamped out once and for all.” The British Hound Sports Association (BHSA) responded by immediately suspending the hunt as it was found to have made serious breaches of the BHSA’s core principles and rules. Tim Bonner, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, commented: “It is disgraceful behaviour but it doesn’t reflect the vast majority of hunting that is going on in the UK at the moment, which is legal and legitimate.”

The poor-quality video, which appears to have been taken on a mobile phone, isn’t dated, but seems likely to have been shot last autumn. Perhaps surprisingly, it wasn’t taken by hunt saboteurs. Wiltshire Police commented: “We have received a report of alleged wildlife offences and will be reviewing the evidence that has been presented.” Any prosecutions are likely to be difficult, as the figures in the grainy video are difficult to identify.