This disturbing image shows three young children looking on as a fox is dragged from a hole before being brutally killed. Released by anti-fox hunt campaigners, the picture shows the sickening attack on the helpless vixen by three men and their dog during a hunt by the Devon-based Modbury Harriers.
After the incident was reported to the League Against Cruel Sports, the RSPCA was called in to investigate whether there were grounds for a prosecution under the 2004 Hunting Act.
In a sickening ritual, the fox was trapped in a badger sett along with another cowering animal before the men flushed both out with guns, killing the petrified creatures as the children watched on.
A local farmer who witnessed the incident told the Western Morning News: "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."
Before being trapped, the fox had been spotted by the farmer running across a nearby field. "I watched in horror as a whole pack of hounds poured into our neighbour’s field then piled into our meadow," he said.
"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."
Despite the grisly scene, Tim Bonner, a spokesperson for the Countryside Alliance described the slaughter as legal, and even as "professional and humane", adding that nobody associated with the Modbury Harriers was embarrassed by the pictures.
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."
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