Reporter Ashley sees hunt monitor's film
Fox Hunting – Alive and Well?
Three years after the hunting ban was introduced Inside Out has been investigating exactly what is happening. Footage shot by the BBC and anti-hunt protestors shows foxes being chased by hounds but huntspeople insist they’re staying within the law.
In January 2008, Inside Out producer Robert Murray spent four weekends with so-called "hunt monitors", Judy Gilbert and Penny Little, who were filming the Heythrop Hunt in Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire.
In one incident, Robert stopped to film on a public road where Heythrop supporters had gathered to watch the hunt.
He saw a fox running across a field and the hounds changing direction to give chase.
Then a Heythrop hunter is caught on camera asking "where did it go back in?"
Liz Wills: no intention to kill foxes
The hunt's view
The Joint Master of the Heythrop, Liz Wills, watched footage of the incident and denied that her colleagues were deliberately hunting foxes.
She said, "They were hunting a trail and then they would have crossed onto the fox.
"There was no intent meant by that at all... that’s what we try and avoid but it does happen."
After another visit to the Heythrop in late January, one of the monitors called our reporter Ashley Blake to say that a dramatic incident had taken place.
Penny Little had filmed the incident from her car.
The hounds head into the wood
Footage of "a kill"?
The footage shows the pack of hounds streaming into a wooded area directly to the right of Penny's car.
They descend on something hidden in a ditch, in a frenzied fashion.
Seconds later, three men pull up next to Penny's vehicle on a quad bike, and one of them kicks her door shut.
The force of the kick knocks the camera out of her hand.
A few minutes later, another anti-hunt campaigner comes back from the woodland with what she describes as evidence of a kill:
"It’s fresh red blood that we found. We believe the hunt took away the carcass.
"But this is what we found and it’s bright red blood on this leaf and also on this twig here, and it was still wet when we picked it up."
The Heythrop Hunt refused to comment on the incident because it was filmed by hunt monitors, not the BBC.
Laying the scent for drag hunting
But Joint Master, Liz Wills, says her colleagues don’t hunt live foxes, they trail hunt, which involves dragging the scent of fox urine across fields and woodlands.
The scent is then followed by the hounds and the hunt. She admits that hounds occasionally kill foxes accidentally, but insist there’s no intent.
To the Heythrop, the hunt monitoring is an unnecessary irritant.
"We find it very, very intrusive and I’m not at all surprised that temperatures do get raised sometimes," says Liz Wills.
"I’m sorry if anything ever untoward happens but it does."
The police say they will respond to complaints about hunting, but only if their workload allows.
PC Jon Palfrey, a Rural Beat and Wildlife Crime Liaison Officer for Gloucestershire Police says:
"It would be wrong of us to pull away from an incident of higher priority but that is sometimes very hard for us to get across to the individual, who, understandably if they’re upset by it, feels that we’re not interested because we didn’t turn up."
Few people thought that the fox hunting issue would just fade away after the ban came into force.
But three years later, away from the public eye, the battle going on is as fiercely as ever.
last updated: 01/04/2008 at 18:20