TWO men have been convicted of animal cruelty after dragging a trapped fox from a tunnel during a hunt in Oxfordshire.

Ian James Kirby Parkinson, 65, of Lower Road, Haddenham, Buckinghamshire, and Mark Anthony Vincent, 53, of Kimblewick, Aylesbury, were both found guilty yesterday at Oxford Magistrates’ Court. 

Both were charged with one count each of causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal, on New Year's Day of this year, which they denied.

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The charges linked to illegal fox hunting near Moreton Field Farm in Moreton, near Thame, during the Kimblewick Hunt.

Detective Chief Inspector Dave Horsburgh, who covers South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse, said: "Vincent and Parkinson were captured on a camera forcefully removing a fox from a manmade tunnel shortly before the arrival of hounds from The Kimblewick Hunt.

"The court found this was a cruel activity which subjected the animal to unnecessary suffering.

"Thames Valley Police treats rural crime as a priority and it will not be tolerated."

Both men were charged in June and will be sentenced at the same court on November 26. 

Animal rights group Hunt Saboteurs Association (HSA) released the footage publicly in January, which was filmed secretly by a camera on the forest floor.

It appeared to show a fox being held captive, trapped in pipes underground, before 'terriermen' pull it free ready for hounds to follow. 

One man could be seen assembling a rod from pipes, which the association said was used to push the fox into position. 

Another man then appeared to forcibly drag the fox out of the hole by its hind legs as the animal tries to squirm away, before letting it run loose. 

Minutes later a pack of hounds run past, sniffing at the ground. 

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Lee Moon, a spokesperson for the Hunt Saboteurs Association, stated: “We're pleased that justice has been done and look forward to Vincent and Parkinson receiving the prison sentence their actions deserve."

He called for further prosecutions against others, claiming the pair's actions were part of a wider 'criminal conspiracy'.

Mr Moon also urged the Countryside Alliance to condemn the hunt and the Masters of Foxhounds Association to 'kick them out of the association', adding: "Anything less will be tacit approval of animal cruelty and illegal hunting."

A spokesperson at the Countryside Alliance said: “Hunts should be open and accountable whilst operating to the highest possible standards at all times. There is no justification for this type of activity.”


What is the law on fox hunting?

Legislation introduced in 2004 made it illegal to hunt and kill a fox and other wild mammals with dogs in England and Wales.

The ban came after a fierce campaign from animal welfare activists. 

The tradition continues but most now instead operate 'trail hunting', such as at Oxfordshire's Heythrop Hunt, in which hounds chase artificially-laid animal scents such as fox urine rather than real animals. 

Kimblewick Hunt dates back to 2002 and sees members hunt in Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire, Hertfordshire and Oxfordshire.

Its website states: "We act at all times both within the law and according to the Hunt Constitution.

"We conduct legal activities that enable the Hunt to maintain its structure and integrity with regard to our staff, hounds, supporters, subscribers and members."