A HUNTER has admitted putting the head of a fox on a spike and posting the picture on Facebook – but denied he killed the animal.
Hartlepool man Mark Lowery claims he found the dead animal by the side of the road near Hart Village – but carried out the act and his sick boast to taunt anti-hunt campaigners.
The 44-year-old, who is a regular hunter, has spoken to police, and officers have taken away his firearms as part of their procedures.
Mr Lowery said he decapitated the creature, put its head on a stick above an abusive note to animal cruelty protesters, and then photographed it before uploading it to Facebook.
The picture of the fox caused fury among anti-hunt campaigners, who Mark claims had been “harassing” him for weeks and getting him banned from Facebook due to other pictures he had shared.
He told the Mail he wanted to “antagonise them and carry out a social experiment which worked, as it has shown the anti-hunt campaigners to be the nasty, horrible people that they are”.
He claims he has since received death threats to himself, his family and his own pets.
Mark, who owns four rescue dogs, chickens, ducks and ferrets, admits that the snap was “grotesque” but does not believe the act to be cruel as the fox was already dead.
And he says his only regrets are not taking a picture proving that the fox was road-kill, and also not locking his Facebook account to prevent people he did not know accessing his page.
Mark, who has registered firearms and regularly carries out pest control work for local farmers to stop pigeons and crows destroying crops, or problem foxes from killing livestock, said: “These hunt saboteurs are extremely nasty and evil people.
“I have put different posts up and they have been hassling me and getting my account closed. They seem to think that their opinion is the only opinion.
“The fox was road kill. It was dead and had been dead for at least 24 hours because I could tell by the feel of its body. I’ve handled dead animals since I was about 11 years old, and from doing work in an abattoir, in commercial butchery.
“I severed the head with a butcher’s cleaver and put it on a stick.
“I put the warning sign on the bottom and posted it onto my account, and onto a Facebook page where there are debates on hunts.”
He added: “It was grotesque, I admit that, but it was to antagonise and bait them. It was a social experiment and it has ended up going all over the world.”
When asked whether Mark could understand why some people might find the image cruel, disrespectful, and distressing, he said: “Yes it was a living thing but would there have been such an uproar if it had been a rat’s head on a pencil?
“I was sick of them harassing me so I thought I would see what would happen, and it’s gone viral.
“I’ve had credible threats of violence and death threats and I phoned the police about it on Tuesday afternoon. They have taken my guns for my own safe-keeping until the situation calms down.
Police and RSPCA officers are looking into the Facebook row, which also saw Mark write to campaigners: “Any more bans and another fox dies.”
A Cleveland Police spokeswoman confirmed Mark had contacted them about the issue.
She also said: “Inquiries are continuing. Officers have seized a number of legally-held firearms from a 44-year-old male and we are looking into his suitability to continue as a firearms licence holder.
“No arrests have been made.”