The RSPCA is investigating after a woman was filmed by a hunt saboteur group apparently punching and kicking a horse.
The woman was condemned by the anti-hunting campaigners, as well as the naturalist Chris Packham and the organisation that oversees hunting with hounds in the UK.
Packham called upon the RSPCA to “urgently investigate and definitively prosecute this appalling abuse – thus upholding our standards of animal welfare protection”.
Megan McCubbin, a zoologist and a presenter of BBC Springwatch, called on anyone with information to forward it to the RSPCA, adding that the footage showed “disgusting behaviour”. She said: “Yet another ugly side of an activity some call ‘sport’.”
The RSPCA called the footage “really upsetting”, adding: “We will always look into complaints made to us about animal welfare. We would urge anyone with first-hand information about this incident to contact us.”
The Hunting Office told ITV News it “expects the highest level of animal welfare at all times – both on and off the hunting field – and condemns the actions taken by this individual, who is not a member of the hunting associations”.
Hertfordshire Hunt Saboteurs said it filmed the incident on Saturday while observing the Cottesmore Hunt, which is based in Rutland and claims to trace its heritage back to the 17th century. The group said the incident demonstrated “violence running through their veins”.
According to ITV News, the hunt said it did not condone the actions shown in the video “under any circumstances” and added: “We will be reminding all of our supporters that this will not be tolerated.”
The reputation of the UK’s hunting community was damaged last month, when a prominent huntsman was convicted of encouraging others to hide the illegal hunting of live foxes behind a “smokescreen” of trail hunting.
Mark Hankinson, the director of the Masters of the Foxhounds Association, was found to have encouraged people to commit an offence during two webinars broadcast to more than 100 of the organisation’s members which were obtained by hunt saboteurs, who passed them to the media and the police.
Trail hunting involves a trail layer dragging a rag coated in an animal scent for the hunt to follow instead of a live fox.
But Hankinson told members: “We need to have clear, visible, plausible trail laying being done throughout the day … It’s a lot easier to create a smokescreen if you have got more than one trail layer operating, and that is what it’s all about, trying to portray to the people watching that you are going about your legitimate business.”