A man has been arrested after 16 fox cubs were found in a barn linked to a fox hunt.
The animals, aged between six and eight weeks, were rescued following an undercover operation by worried activists.
The League Against Cruel Sports alleged they were being reared as prey for hounds and huntsmen on horseback to pursue them across the countryside for pleasure.
But a huntsman and landowner insisted the claim was “rubbish”.
The League’s Dr Toni Shephard said that in her opinion the cubs had been “kidnapped for cruelty” because no adult foxes were in the shed.
She added that it would “blow apart the argument that (fox) hunting is ‘wildlife management’”, if it was proved.
Video footage shot last month shows a man entering a barn on land linked to the Middleton Foxhounds Hunt in North Yorkshire.
He was covertly filmed going into the shed, which anti-hunt campaigners said contained the cubs.
Ten officers later raided the barn and rescued the animals, though one later died.
Police confirmed the cubs were fed while they were kept in the property.
A man who works part-time for the hunt was arrested and bailed pending further inquiries.
The Countryside Alliance told the BBC the Middleton Hunt was confident no-one associated with the Hunt had committed any criminal offence.
Police said: “Officers conducted a search of an outbuilding near Malton on Sunday morning, under the Animal Welfare Act.
“They found 16 fox cubs, all aged from about six to eight weeks old.
“Officers rescued the cubs and they are now being cared for in an animal sanctuary outside North Yorkshire.
“The foxes were being fed and had access to water, but police need further information as to how they got in the barn, why they were there, and who put them there.
“A man has been arrested in connection with this incident, and has been released on police bail as the investigation continues.”
The discovery came after the League Against Cruel Sports was tipped off about the cubs on the Birdsall Estate in Malton, North Yorks. The Middleton Hunt keeps kennels on the land.
No vixens or adult foxes were seen in film from the inside the barn.
The charity said it believes this showed the young foxes had been “forcibly removed” from their den
Dr Shepard added: “Footage, the intelligence we have received, and testimony from people who have been involved in hunts all show that raising foxes to be hunted was, and still is, a common practice among hunts.
“Why would people working for a hunt be keeping young foxes?”
She added that in the League’s opinion, “the answer is simple but terrible – they capture foxes so there is always a ready supply of animals to be chased by the hunt”.
The Birdsall Estate’s Lord Middleton, who hunted three times last year, denied the cubs were being raised as quarry.
Speaking as the landowner, he said: “That’s rubbish. We’re not allowed to hunt foxes with hounds.
“They’re not being kept for hunting. (But) it’s not illegal to keep foxes.”
Lord Middleton said he “had no idea whatsoever” the cubs were being kept on his land, but added that they were not being mistreated.
He said he did not “condone” keeping foxes, and suggested the cubs were being cared for by the Hunt for kind reasons.
“I think people have rung up and said, ‘Hey, look I’ve got foxes that needs rescuing, their mother’s dead’, or, ‘I can’t live with them where they are, can you look after them?’
“The Hunt obviously has a supply of meat from farmers etc and it would be able to feed and look after them and then release them back to the wild.”
Pro-hunting campaigners have stepped-up their calls for MPs to be given a vote on axing the 10-year-old hunting ban in the wake of the Tories’ election win.
David Cameron promised to give the Commons a say on scrapping the Hunting Act.
The Mirror revealed last month how the Prime Minister texted bloodsports’ supporters moments after his May 7 victory to thank them for their backing.
Article taken from: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/man-arrested-after-snatched-fox-5866849