WARNING: This story is accompanied by graphic video content.
A teenage boy and his mother were left distraught after discovering the body of a fox in a field used by the local hunt.
But claims by the League Against Cruel Sports that hounds were responsible for the death have been dismissed.
Kelly Byrne, 42, and her 16-year-old son Remus found the fox near St Margaret of Antioch Church, Isfield. Its body was still warm, they said.
Investigators from the League Against Cruel Sports later claimed video footage and photographs of the fox taken at the scene were consistent with it being attacked by a pair of hounds.
Director of Campaigns Chris Luffingham said: “Fox hunting, which was banned 14 years ago, is a cruel and barbaric pastime which should be consigned to the history books.”
Miss Byrne and her son, of Ringmer, said they found the fox just five minutes after two hounds from a hunt left the field.
She said she then saw up to 20 hounds, people on horseback wearing red coats and heard the hunt blowing a horn nearby.
The Southdown and Eridge Hunt said there was no proof it had anything to do with the fox’s death and Sussex Police are not treating it as a hunting-related incident.
Miss Byrne said: “I was honestly devastated by what we found. My son and I hugged and cried.”
She reported the discovery to the Animal Crimewatch service at the League Against Cruel Sports. Investigator Roger Swain said: “The injuries are consistent with those that a small number of hounds would inflict on a fox.”
A spokesperson for the Southdown and Eridge Hunt said: “The Southdown and Eridge Hunt operates within the law to comply with the Hunting Act 2004.
“Hunts are regularly subjected to spurious allegations regarding their legal hunting activities as is the case on this occasion.
“Those organising hunting activities plan their days to ensure they are carried out in a safe, legal and sensible way. There is no proof that the hunt had anything to do with the fox’s death.
“If there is any evidence to suggest illegal hunting has taken place then it should be reported and investigated through the correct channels.”
A Sussex Police spokesman said: “A fox was found dead at Isfield on March 11 at a time when the Southdown and Eridge Hunt was meeting in the area. It was reported to police, but examination of the body indicated no signs of mutilation other than a small wound on the neck, which may have occurred post mortem.
“There was nothing at the scene to indicate the presence of hounds and police are not treating it as a hunting-related incident.”