Great Thurlow Hunt investigated by police after alleged illegal killing of fox

Comes within days of poll showed 85 per cent of people did not want it to be made legal again

Police are investigating allegations a fox was killed illegally on a Boxing Day hunt.

Suffolk Police were called to attend the Great Thurlow Hunt, in Suffolk, after receiving reports a fox had been killed and a disturbance had broken out between observers and members of the hunt.

Images posted on social media purported to show the dead animal.

No arrests have been made, but officers are gathering evidence and police are appealing for witnesses, or anyone who has video footage of the incident, to come forward.

Suffolk Police said in a statement: "As a result of an incident between the hunt and hunt observers, officers are currently investigating allegations of offences committed under the Hunting Act 2004.

"Police are asking anyone who may have witnessed the incident or have any evidence such as video footage, to contact the rural crime team at Suffolk Police on 101."

It comes as thousands met for more than 250 registered Boxing Day hunts just days after it was reported Prime Minister Theresa May will abandon her Conservative general election manifesto pledge to give MPs a free vote on whether to overturn the fox hunting ban.

Man assaults female saboteur as she tries to film and monitor fox hunt in Warwickshire

Organisers said around 6,000 supporters turned out for Oxfordshire's Heythrop hunt, and joint-master Nessie Chanter added: "Every year we are humbled by the number of people that turn out - whatever the weather - to greet us in the square at Chipping Norton."

Sam Butler, chairman of the Warwickshire hunt, which met at Upton House, near Banbury, said: "People put this date in the diary as part of their annual festivities and although we don't meet in a town centre, the crowd increases year after year.

"It's magnificent that so many well-wishers make such a huge effort to get here to show their support."

The Countryside Alliance said hunting was younger and more diverse than it had ever been, with a survey of registered hunts showing more women and young people taking part in legal hunts such as "trail" hunting than 10 years ago.

The organisation's head of hunting, Polly Portwin said: "With huge crowds showing their support again today and an increasing number of young people joining the hunting field, the future of hunting is secure."

But polling for the League Against Cruel Sports showed continued widespread opposition to repealing the Hunting Act, which came into force in 2005 and outlawed the hunting of animals including foxes and deer with dogs.

A survey of 2,003 people by Ipsos MORI for the League Against Cruel Sports found that 85 per cent did not think fox hunting should be made legal again, while opposition to legalising deer hunting stood at 87 per cent, and hare hunting and coursing at 90 per cent.

Opposition to legalising fox hunting had risen from 73 per cent in 2008 to 85 per cent this year, the animal welfare organisation said.

Chris Luffingham, director of policy, communications and campaigns for the League Against Cruel Sports, criticised the portrayal of Boxing Day hunts as a "celebration of a great tradition with huge public support".

He added: "With 85 per cent of the public saying they do not want fox hunting made legal again, there has never been a better time to strengthen the Hunting Act and bring an end to the illegal persecution of wildlife still going on under the guise of 'trail' hunting."

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