By Western Morning News | Posted: January 26, 2014
Youngsters watched on as countrymen with dogs unearthed and shot two foxes, in pictures released by anti-hunt campaigners.
The images show children thought to be as young as five standing just yards away as the animals are dug from an old badger sett and killed.
The incident happened after a hunt on December 28 by the Modbury Harriers, which rides in South Devon.
It was reported to the League Against Cruel Sports by a nearby farmer who took photographs and was appalled to see young children being taken on a hunt.
The RSPCA is said to be investigating to see if it breaches the laws which govern huntsmen, though the Hunting Act – which banned hunting foxes with a pack of hounds – doesn’t cover the use of dogs to flush out animals underground.
The Countryside Alliance said there was “no question” the behaviour was legal, describing the killing as “professional and humane”.
Spokesman Tim Bonner said nobody associated with the Modbury Harriers was embarrassed by the pictures, adding that the “sensational” coverage by the LACS showed that people do not “understand the realities of the countryside and country life”.
The farmer – who wishes to remain anonymous, but keeps a flock of 140 breeding ewes and a few chickens, said: “I sat there in disbelief – how could those guys think any of what had played out was fit for young children to witness?
“In fact, in the eyes of even my most pro-hunt neighbour, what those men showed those kids that afternoon crossed an unacceptable line.
“The saddest sight for me was those lifeless bodies more resembling orange rags being dragged up the hill at the end.”
The series of pictures were taken after the drag hunt rode into the fields then left, followed by three terriermen with their dog, carrying spades and a gun – and the three children.
The farmer went on: “I watched in horror as a whole pack of hounds poured into our neighbour’s field then piled into our meadow.
“They made that hideous blood-curdling squealing – known as ‘speaking’ – which means they are on the scent of a fox. I saw a beautiful vixen flash across the meadow and disappear into an old badger sett on my neighbour’s farm.
“At the top of the hill I saw a couple of guys carrying spades and a terrier on a lead. They were going to dig her out and kill her right then and there.”
“The men came down and filled in the exit holes to stop the fox escaping and then called the children over to watch as they dug out and killed the young vixen – and a second fox found cowering inside the hole.”
The farmer described how the older men looked into the sett as the children craned their necks to see, before shooting.
They began digging before firing two more shots into the hole.
They then dragged the body of the fox out and dumped it on a hedge for the children to see.
“Then the younger guys sprang back into action and started digging furiously again,” he added.
The gunman then fired another shot into the hole and they pulled out a second fox and laid it next to the first.
The farmer said: “This is the dirty underbelly of fox hunting, the bit they don’t like even their followers to see.
But I was disgusted to see the terriermen had brought three youngsters to watch – one was only about five years old.”
The sheep farmer is strongly anti-hunting and has complained about them trespassing on his land. But he doesn’t wish to be named for fear of reprisals.
He said: “We’re proud of the fact that with good husbandry we have not lost a single lamb to a fox in over 17 years.
“The local foxhunt is not welcome here. We have asked them countless times to not hunt or send hounds onto our land but they have never heeded or respected this repeated request.”
Joe Duckworth, chief executive of the League Against Cruel Sports, said: “This horrific incident of animal cruelty shows not only a total disregard for the dogs and foxes but also for the welfare of the ¬children. Terrier work is abhorrently cruel.”
Mr Bonner said he had spoken to the hunt, who told him the killing had been carried out as “pest control” with the permission of the landowner.
“The children were not in the hole – they were close by – and as far as we are concerned it was a totally professional operation and nothing which should upset anyone,” he added.
“They were using the terrier work exemption and properly , professionally and humanely managing the killing of those two foxes.
“There would be plenty of children of that sort of age involved in pheasant shoots and ferreting.
“The vast majority of children eat meat and at the end of the day it is a dead animal.
“The crucial point is that it was all perfectly legitimate and done properly.”
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