Hunt saboteurs from Sussex have claimed responsibility for exposing a network of artificial earths which they say are used to encourage foxes to breed.

The West Sussex Wildlife Protection Group says it was the first to uncover a large number of artificial earths in the south of England, including two on land used by the South Down and Eridge Hunt.

Hunt saboteur Simon Wild said his organisation first discovered an artificial earth in 1998.

He also disclosed that it was his organisation which helped provide the evidence for recent national publicity about the system, which was highlighted by the League Against Cruel Sports.

It has been claimed that huntsmen are luring foxes into "cosy, specially-built dens" in order to have a ready supply to kill.

Mr Wild said: "Huntsmen claim praise for killing foxes and yet are doing all in their powers to increase their number for sport".

The Alliance maintains that earths are a management tool so that foxes are limited to areas where they are expected to be found instead of straying.