The British Hound Sports Association has suspended the Cotswold Hunt, whose kennels are based at Ossage Farm near Cheltenham, for allegedly participating in illegal activity at the Miserden Estate between Stroud and Cirencester.
It is claimed that footage broadcast by Channel 4 News last night shows an illegal hunting practice known as “fox bagging”.
According to Protect the Wild fox are sometimes kept in a bag for ‘turning out’, or releasing, during a hunt meet.
Foxes are then given the opportunity to run away but, more likely than not, the hounds will successfully kill the creature because of their unfamiliarity with the area.
Footage was captured by hunt saboteurs over the past two weeks while they were following the Cotswold Hunt at the Miserden Estate.
So far the hunt has not commented on the allegations.
Gloucestershire police have confirmed they received a report of illegal fox hunting on Saturday, March 18.
Specialist rural crime officers are investigating and currently conducting enquiries.
Rural Crime Team Leader, Inspector Simon Ellson said: “We take all reports of illegal fox hunting very seriously.
“Our rural crime officers have gathered evidence in relation to this case and will pursue any offenders.
“If you see any rural crime in action please do contact police.”
Channel 4 News has also broadcast new footage appearing to show the Royal Agricultural College Beagles allegedly hare-coursing this weekend – an act that has been illegal since 2005.
Chief Correspondent Alex Thompson spoke on Channel 4 to anti-hunt campaigners and activists on concerns of an increase in illegal practices, just a month after students from the RAU were filmed parading a dead fox strapped to a car during a charity rally.
The footage filmed by Cirencester Illegal Hunt depicts a fox buried alive in a bag underground in a man-made den, moments after a member of the mounted hunt – who is now under investigation – calls hounds away from the area.
Wildlife rescue experts were called to the scene and confirmed that the rescued fox was a female, possibly lactating at the time of discovery, and the bag she was found in was described as “sodden” with urine after being trapped for many hours and possibly days.
Activist and campaigner Chris Packham said: “We’re in the midst of biodiversity crisis, we cannot waste wildlife, simply for human gratification is absolutely abhorrent.
“Imagine if that was someone’s pet dog that was tied in a bag in a hole in their garden… But somehow or other, because it’s a fox, and we have this ghastly tradition of fox hunting in the UK, they are getting away with it.”
In a statement to Channel 4 News, the British Hound Sport Association said: “The BHSA has launched an immediate investigation following allegations being made against one of its member hunts.
“Although spurious allegations are regularly made about hunts’ activities by anti-hunting activists and foul play cannot be ruled out at this stage, the seriousness of these allegations has resulted in the Cotswold Hunt being suspended from the BHSA whilst an investigation is conducted.
“If there is any evidence of illegal activity or a breach of the BHSA’s core principles, the matter will be referred to the Hound Sports Regulatory Authority to consider appropriate disciplinary measures.
“In the meantime, should there be any police investigation into these allegations the Cotswold Hunt will fully assist with any enquiries.”
In response to the revelations of hare-coursing by the RAC Beagles, a spokesperson for the Royal Agricultural University, said:
“The Royal Agricultural University does not condone illegal activity in any form.
“The RAC Beagles are independent of the University however we would work in partnership with the police should there be any allegations of students involved in criminal activity.”
Landowner of the Miserden Estate Nicholas Wills said: “The Cotswold Hunt were allowed onto the estate with the strictest understanding that they hunt within the law.
“We will assist with any subsequent investigation and if found guilty the hunt will no longer be welcome on the estate.
“The Miserden Estate always tries to balance a large number of land-uses from public access and recreation through to food production and conservation.
“We do not condone illegal fox hunting on the estate.”