PROTESTERS attempting to film a fox hunt claim they were attacked with sticks, kicked in the head, and had their camera equipment destroyed.
James Kapteanoc, 54, a veteran member of the Hunt Saboteurs Association, says he and two others were subjected to an attack on March 16 as they tried to film activities by members of the Essex and Suffolk Hunt.
"I was punched and beaten by three people who knocked me to the ground, while our cameraman was hit with a heavy metal handled cane from behind," claimed Mr Kapteanoc.
"He was in so much pain that he had to pass over the equipment but they started jumping on that person's hand to force its release.
"The worst thing is that our camera is smashed, destroying all the evidence," added Mr Kapteanoc, who has been campaigning with the HSA for a decade.
The saboteurs claim that the initial attack occurred on a public footpath at Breton Heath, near Tiptree.
Mr Kapteanoc, a full-time carer, was left with bruises to his ribs and legs, he says.
The group also allege that just a short while later an attempt to intervene on a private estate as members dug out a badger sett, where a fox had sought refuge, led to further attacks.
"People tried to force the group off the land using spades and walking sticks as weapons," claimed Mr Kapteanoc.
"We're at the coal-face of those in opposition to the hunt by going out into the field. We're not afraid to intervene if an animal is in danger. But as a result of that we provoke a lot of hostility and that's the risk."
However, James Buckle, a senior master with the Essex and Suffolk Hunt, strongly denies that any of its members had anything to do with an assault.
"If this involved anybody associated with the hunt then I would be absolutely furious but I'm certain that is not the case," he told the Chronicle.
"I was told by the landowner on the day that things got quite heated and confrontational as the people filming refused to leave their land but this didn't involve people in our group.
"It is also completely out of the question that anyone was attempting to dig out a badger sett. If I was aware of that I would have reported it to the police myself," added Mr Buckle.
Police were called to the scene but as yet no action has been taken, although the HSA protesters say this is typical.
Lee Moon, a committee member of the HSA, said: "Faced with a clear breach of animal welfare law and numerous assaults to hunt saboteurs, Essex police responded by blaming the victims and ignoring crimes against wildlife. They seem to be acting in the time-honoured stance of turning a blind eye to hunt violence and animal cruelty."
A police spokesman said: "Police are investigating the circumstances around allegations of an assault at an organised hunt in Layer Breton.
"Officers had initially been called at 1.30pm on March 16 following reports that a man had been attacked.
"A 54-year-old man from Dalston in London was found to have suffered minor leg injuries after allegedly being assaulted by two men. Our investigations are continuing."