It may be months until Boxing day – but already the UK’s Boxing Day hunt meets are under threat from animal rights activists. Antis are lobbying local councils, trying to persuade them that large numbers of hounds and horses alongside crowds of supporters poses a health and safety risk. The Countryside Alliance is fighting back. Click on the link on the screen to send a letter to your local council leader, expressing your support for Boxing Day meets continuing in the heart of your community. Your letter will help support those councils that allow hunt meets.
Click here to write your letter: Bit.ly/support-hunting
The 2018 Boxing Day meets saw market towns across the UK throng with hunt supporters. A few groups of violent antis turned up to try to stop the fun – but the overwhelming support for hunting pushed them out. There were no antis visible at the Tiverton Foxhounds meet in the centre of Tiverton, where hundreds of wellwishers voiced their support for their local pack.
Anti-hunters tried to get Boxing Day meets in market towns banned by sympathetic town councils on ‘health & safety’ grounds. However, they failed to convince even anti-hunting councillors that horses, ponies and hounds have become more significantly dangerous in the past 12 months. Out of hundreds of meets across the country, only Tetbury in Gloucestershire and Grantham in Lincolnshire moved their huntss traditional meets. They went to other sites in the town. Both the hunts affected – the Belvoir and the Beaufort – found new venues. The Beaufort Hunt went to the Tythe Barn in the centre of Tetbury, which is closer to Tetbury Hospital than its traditional meet. The Beaufort presented the hospital with money raised by its supporters.
Antis are trying to portray Boxing Day 2018 as a day of violence. They have bombarded the media with claims of attacks on them by hunt supporters, which has drowned out the real story of the hundreds of thousands of people who turned out to cheer their hunts in market towns around the UK. The antis have hit pubs and hotels which allow meets with death threats and bad reviews on TripAdvisor. Some, including the Crown Hotel in Bawtry, have hit back. Others, such as the Harvey’s Brewery chain, have sided with the antis. Harveys slapped the wrist of one of its landlords after he posted this notice at his pub in Lewes.
A master of the Torrington Farmers Hunt told a small group of protestors that they are ‘unwashed and unemployed’ – though that is apparently not illegal in Devon.
The South Wales Argus tried to convince its readers that a frisky horse at the Tredegar Farmers’ Boxing Day is an example of ‘hundreds of protestors’ clashing with hunt supporters. However, its photographer was only able to take a picture of around a dozen protestors standing quietly
The Countryside Alliance says ‘hundreds of thousands of people’ – following on foot, mounted on horseback or lining the streets and market places of the UK – were out in force on Wednesday 26th December supporting the Boxing Day meets of more than 250 registered hunts.
Countryside Alliance’s Head of Hunting, Polly Portwin, says: “This annual spectacle is an opportunity for hunts to thank all those who support them, from the farmers and landowners over whose land they ride, to their subscribers and the public, and to the different venues that hosts meets, whose enthusiasm for hunting shows no signs of waning, despite more than a decade of the Hunting Act.”
One of the largest turnouts was at the meet of the Avon Vale Hunt which enjoyed support from the crowds of well-wishers. Joint-master Stuart Radbourne says: “It was fantastic to see such a large show of support for the Hunt in the village once again.”
Another large meet was that of the Bicester with Whaddon Chase Hunt at Winslow Show Field, Winslow. Ivan Lawrence MFH says: “We were pleased to see so many people come out and show their support for the hounds, with people from all walks of life coming out to enjoy this very traditional day.”
David Elliott MFH from the York and Ainsty South Hunt says: “The hundreds of people who joined us today shows that hunting is still thriving. We are particularly pleased to see so many people enjoying our activities with such enthusiasm. It’s great that so many well-wishers make such a huge effort to get here to show their support.”
Polly Portwin says: “People put this date in the diary as part of their annual festivities, demonstrating the importance of hunting activities to the rural community. The huge crowds showing their support again today prove that the future of hunting is secure.”
Labour is promising to toughen up the ban on hunting with dogs in England and Wales, saying it will consult on jailing those caught breaking the law. Ahead of the Boxing Day hunts, shadow environment secretary Sue Hayman said jail terms would put penalties on a par with those for other wildlife crimes. However, she does not address the problem the courts have in proving that a hunter has broken Tony Blair’s law. The Countryside Alliance says the Hunting Act is unworkable and should be repealed.
Here are examples of positive coverage in the press
- Record turnout for festive Vale of Lune hunt meets, Westmorland Gazette
- Hundreds turn out for New Forest Boxing Day hunt, Daily Echo
- Thousands turn out to watch Belvoir Hunt ride out for New Year’s Day meet in Melton, Leicester Mercury
- Hundreds turn out to see traditional Boxing Day hunt in Gargrave, Craven Herald
- Visitors from far and wide turn out for Suffolk Hunt’s annual Boxing Day meet, Bury Free Press
- Thousands of people line streets to watch the Boxing Day Hunt, Cotswold Journal
- Hundreds turn out for start of traditional Boxing Day Hunt in Oakham, Rutland & Stamford Mercury