Police officers were accused of mixing with members of a hunt after they were filmed at a gathering that apparently breached the legal limit of six people.
One officer, from Sussex Police, was seen standing at what appeared to be a party in a farmyard. Another was seen at the edge of the group of about 15 other people.
The new law banning social gatherings of more than six came into effect last Monday, and police were given the power to disperse groups breaking the rule.
Fines of £100 have been introduced, which may be doubled for repeat offences, up to a maximum of £3,200.
The legal cap on numbers applies both indoors and out.
Animal lovers condemned the police involvement on social media, branding it “disgraceful”, and “shocking”, and praised West Kent Hunt Saboteurs for filming the party.
The group wrote on Facebook: “The hunt are enjoying food and drink together in a gathering far larger than six, and Sussex Police, far from upholding the law, join in!
“To the untrained eye this looks like a party…
“Across the country families have been kept separate, birthday celebrations cancelled and significant family events put on hold, whereas fox hunts are illegally gathering with the support of the police.
“One law for the hunts and another for everyone else as always!”
When the cap of six was introduced, National Police Chiefs’ Council chairman Martin Hewitt said: “Preventing the spread of coronavirus is a shared effort, and police are playing our part alongside government, businesses, hospitality owners, local authorities and others.
“Officers are in their communities following our approach to engage, explain and encourage people to follow the rules. We will issue fines when people refuse to comply.”
A spokesman for Sussex Police said: “Officers on patrol approached members of a hunt group to give words of advice about the change in law on social distancing and ‘rule of six’ which came into force on Monday.
“The group accepted the words of advice and then dispersed. This is in line with the national policing approach which is one of first explaining, educating and encouraging to seek compliance with the regulations, with enforcement being a last resort.
“Officers made clear to the group a further breach would not be tolerated. The full interaction is not reflected in the short video clip which has been shared online.
“Our officers regularly liaise with both sides of the hunting debate and we always aim to balance the rights, needs and wishes of all parties involved.”
The Independent has approached the hunt for comment. A spokesperson told Sussex Live: “Basically we had been on a trail hunt in the morning and came back.
"When we came back the landowner had provided tea for everyone to have in the yard.
Hunting wild mammals with dogs was banned by the 2004 Hunting Act, which took effect in 2005. Hunts insist they stay within the law by following artificially laid scent trails.
"We all said that we shouldn't be doing it but the landowner had said ‘oh well I've done it now’ and we thought if we were all socially distancing in the fresh air surely it would be OK.
"We were all reluctant but said OK purely because the landowner had said he had made it for us.
"When the police showed up we showed them all the paperwork we had and that we were doing the track and trace on everyone.
"We told them we know we shouldn't be doing it and we were nowhere near each other, they weren't really bothered and had a cup of tea.
"They were more interested in the antics going on by the antis (the sab) who were causing such a hassle to the landowner and were videoing everyone, they were looking in cars which is not what you're supposed to do.
"The police were apologetic and we've sent emails out to everyone concerned saying 'we're sorry, we'd love to accept your hospitality but we just can't’. It's hard because people want to be welcoming but they just can't."