‘Grotesque’ video of fox being stabbed with garden fork sparks outrage

A minister has called for action on "grotesque" animal cruelty after a video showed a fox being attacked with a garden fork.

Secretly-filmed footage from earlier this month showed a man stabbing the fox with the pitchfork, before carrying it away from the site in Essex.

The acts captured on the video, filmed by hunt saboteurs, were condemned by Zac Goldsmith, minister for the Pacific and the environment.

"I’ve seen the video and it is grotesque. We have just increased the maximum sentence for cruelty from six months to five years," he said on Twitter.

"This video shows extreme cruelty and the relevant authorities need to follow up."

I’ve seen the video and it is grotesque. We have just increased the maximum sentence for cruelty from 6 months to 5 years. This video shows extreme cruelty and the relevant authorities need to follow up. https://t.co/V5GNdKu9X7

— Zac Goldsmith (@ZacGoldsmith) December 24, 2021

A 48-year-old man was arrested by Essex Police and has since been released under investigation.

Essex Police said it had “arrested a 48-year-old man from the Bures area after receiving reports of animal cruelty.

"He was arrested on suspicion of offences under the Hunting Act 2004, the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and the Wild Mammal Protection Act 1996."

Lee Moon, spokesman for the Hunt Saboteurs Association, said: “This is some of the worst abuse we have ever witnessed by hunters and the wanton cruelty is hard to fathom.

"Even if people believe fox numbers need controlling (which we don’t), then the catching and killing should be done in the most humane way possible using appropriate equipment. Repeatedly stabbing a fox with a pitchfork is nothing less than torture.

"While most people who watch the video will be horrified, the calm and methodical manner in which [he goes] about catching and torturing this poor fox show how commonplace the actions are."

A local hunt told ITV News that it had "been made aware of an incident on December 4, which does not involve any of the hunt’s employees and is unrelated to any activities of the hunt who were not out hunting on that day” adding: “In light of this [we are] making further enquiries."

Tough new laws to prevent animal cruelty

Tougher sentences for animal cruelty came into force in June as part of the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act, with the five-year maximum making the UK home to one of the toughest penalties in Europe.

The measures received support from animal charities, including the RSPCA and Battersea Dogs and Cats Home.

The Act also prevented people who attack or injure service animals from claiming self-defence. This was prompted by injuries to Finn, a police dog stabbed while pursuing a suspect.

At the time, the Government said the change would "enable courts to take a firmer approach to cases such as dog fighting, abuse of puppies and kittens, illegally cropping a dog’s ears and gross neglect of farm animals. It added: “As well as a prison sentence, offenders can also receive an unlimited fine."

The move is part of a series of policy changes brought in to protect animals by the Government, measures thought to be influenced by the Prime Minister’s wife, Carrie Johnson, a veteran animal rights campaigner.

Other measures include a move to recognise animal sentience and a ban on the import and export of shark fins.

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