Boxing Day hunts met with protests, with at least one erupting into violence

Boxing Day hunts were met with protests yesterday, with at least one erupting into violence and another bringing in external security.

Violence broke out between the dozens of anti-hunt protesters and supporters who attended the Avon Vale hunt in Lacock.

Footage from the event shows punches being thrown by apparent hunt supporters on foot and protesters carrying placards as the event began.

A member of the local hunt saboteur group who asked to be named as Dave, said the police presence at the event was “appalling”, with only two officers there to maintain peace between the two sides.

Huntsmen and Huntswomen from the Middleton Hunt meet in Malton Town Centre on December 27

Credit: Charlotte Graham/Charlotte Graham

A local photographer told the Swindon Advertiser that the event had turned into a “nasty scene”.

“There must have been around 50 protesters and twice that number of hunt supporters and it all turned sour.”

A spokesperson for the Avon Vale Hunt said: “The hunt has been made aware of an incident that occurred just after the hounds had left the meet in Lacock today.

“We do not know the circumstances but we do not condone violence even in the case of extreme provocation by anti-hunting protestors whose sole purpose is to antagonise those supporting a lawful activity.

“We do not know if any hunt supporters were involved but we would like to thank the many hundreds of people who peacefully attended today in support of our hounds.”

Punches thrown as violence erupts at annual Boxing Day Hunt in rural Wiltshire

In Buckinghamshire, the Kimblewick Hunt was met with cries of "Shame on you! Shame on you!" as it set off from the village of Cholesbury.

And in Hereford, security guards were brought in to protect Ledbury Hunt as it set off in Herefordshire.

The majority of Boxing Day hunts in England went ahead on Monday because Sunday is traditionally not a hunting day.

Hunt attendees were this year encouraged to take lateral flow tests, staying at home if positive, and wearing masks when in enclosed spaces.

Most hunts in Wales were cancelled because of restrictions limiting gatherings to 50, while meets in Scotland were restricted to no more than 500 participants and attendees.

It has been illegal to hunt foxes with a pack of dogs since 2004 but the practice has been replaced with trail hunting, in which hounds follow a scent to replicate the traditional hunt without killing a fox.

But critics say it is a “smokescreen” for illegal hunting and calls have grown for it to be banned on public land, which were joined this week by Labour.

Hunt participants in Malton Town Centre on December 27

The National Trust, which owns most of Lacock and Natural Resources Wales, both announced an end to trail hunting on their land earlier this year.

But groups that back the traditional hunt, including the Countryside Alliance, argue that it plays an irreplaceable role in British rural life.

Polly Portwin, director of the Campaign for Hunting at the Countryside Alliance said: “Festive meets are hugely popular and well attended by both hunt followers and local communities, for whom the event has become a cherished family tradition.

“While many meets have been smaller scale this year due to the restrictions, they have still provided a big boost both socially and economically across the countryside, as does trail hunting throughout the season.”

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