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Fox bait investigation

AN INVESTIGATION has been ordered into the running of the 337-year-old Cottesmore Hunt after a member of staff admitted moving a vixen and two cubs from an earth, in breach of hunting rules.

The disclosure of trouble at the Cottesmore before the final stage of the Hunting Bill in the Commons a week last Monday gave the anti-hunt campaign a boost. The hunt’s four joint masters, its huntsman and the employee responsible have been suspended pending a hearing by the Masters’ of Foxhounds Association.

Investigators for the International Fund for Animal Welfare filmed Dean Jones, who carries out general labouring duties for the hunt, in the Midlands, moving foxes to an artificial earth at Cheseldyne Spinney in Leicestershire.

Hunting rules ban the moving of any fox or litter of cubs under any circumstances.

Phyllis Campbell-Rea, the British director of the animal welfare group, said: "These pictures show that far from needing to keep numbers of foxes down, hunts are deliberately encouraging foxes on to hunting land."

Hunting chiefs were told about the film last week. Mr Jones admitted that he had moved the foxes and was suspended, as was his boss, Neil Coleman. The four suspended joint masters are David Manning, a businessman, Charles Gordon-Watson, a bloodstock agent, and Nicholas Wright and Roger Dungworth, both farmers. A formal hearing is due to take place.