We welcome this conviction, which will act as a deterrent to others who think they can get away with cruelty towards British wildlife.
The League Against Cruel Sports today welcomed the conviction of a gamekeeper for keeping a fox in cruel conditions in a disused outbuilding, which it believes was being held to be chased and killed by a local hunt.
Nigel Smith, head gamekeeper of the Buckminster Estate, was found guilty of charges brought under Section 9 of the Animal Welfare Act for failing to meet the welfare needs of an animal, at Lincoln Magistrates Court late last week.
He was caught on camera by investigators from the League Against Cruel Sports with a bag and net outside the disused building the day before the Belvoir hunt met.
This followed a successful League operation during which investigators had found the fox, captured it and taken it to a local vet for treatment, before releasing it back into the countryside. The fox had been found in appalling conditions and in a terrified state.
Chris Luffingham, League Against Cruel Sports director of campaigns, said: “We welcome this conviction which will act as a deterrent to others who think they can get away with cruelty towards British wildlife.
“We’re outraged that hunts are still chasing and killing foxes in the British countryside. Before the hunting ban came in they claimed this was about wildlife management but this case blows that argument out of the water and shows that foxes are being kept so they can be released for ‘sport’.
“The hunts have been conning the public since the hunting ban was introduced with their argument that they are ‘trail’ hunting rather than chasing and killing animals.
“This proves everything we’ve been saying since the myth of ‘trail’ hunting began to be touted about by the hunts after hunting was banned in 2004.
“This completely shatters the illusion of hunting being some sort of genteel activity wrapped up in tradition. It’s not. It’s barbaric and bloodthirsty and has no place in a modern, compassionate society.”
Darryl Cunnington, League Against Cruel Sports head of investigations, who lead the operation to free the fox, said: “We’re delighted with this conviction.
"The judge has sent out a clear message to any hunts across the country that are keeping foxes that this cruelty is not to be tolerated. He made it very clear that the consequences of doing this again would be very serious.”
Nigel Smith was fined £400, has to pay a £40 victim surcharge and pay £1,200 costs.
The League is encouraging members of the public to sign its petition, titled ‘stop the killing of animals by hunts in the UK’.
Brendan Montague is editor of The Ecologist, founder of Request Initiative and co-author of Impact of Market Forces on Addictive Substances and Behaviours: The web of influence of addictive industries (Oxford University Press). He tweets at @EcoMontague.