Dozens of Boxing Day Hunts Ride Out As Campaigners Call For Tougher Laws

More than 80 meets are believed to be taking place across the course of the day

Whether its sitting back with leftovers and a good book, or braving the queues to bag a bargain, Boxing Day looks a little different to each of us.

For thousands of people – mostly across the UK’s more rural areas – the bank holiday means joining one of the dozens of hunts taking place across the country.

But as more than 80 hunt meets gathered on Thursday, according to the Countryside Alliance, campaigners called for tougher laws to keep foxes safe.

A huntsman drinks a shot of whisky outside the Crown Hotel in Bawtry, ahead of the Grove and Rufford Hunt.
A huntsman drinks a shot of whisky outside the Crown Hotel in Bawtry, ahead of the Grove and Rufford Hunt.
Danny Lawson - PA Images via Getty Images

Fox hunting was banned in England and Wales following the introduction of the Hunting Act 2004 – which came into force a year later.

However drag hunting, in which hounds are trained to track an artificial scent, is still permitted under the legislation.

Meanwhile, animal welfare charity the League Against Cruel Sports said it will continue to lobby MPs to strengthen the Hunting Act and “remove loopholes” which it claims allow hunts to still get away with killing foxes for fun.

The charity’s director of campaigns, Chris Luffingham, said: “There has been a sea change in the way the fox hunting debate is being framed and with the ban now secure, our emphasis has shifted towards the strengthening of the Hunting Act.

“To end fox hunting for good, the Hunting Act needs to be strengthened by removing the loopholes and exemptions being exploited by the fox hunts to cover up their brutal activities.

“The introduction of prison sentences for those convicted of fox hunting would help ensure there is a strong deterrent to prevent the deliberate and widespread chasing and killing of foxes.”

Members of the Grove and Rufford Hunt, formed in 1952.
Members of the Grove and Rufford Hunt, formed in 1952.
Danny Lawson - PA Images via Getty Images

The charity said it had received 184 reports of suspected illegal fox hunting since the season began in late October.

Luke Pollard, shadow environment, food and rural affairs minister, said: “Fox hunting is cruel, unnecessary and unpopular. It should be consigned to the history books.

“The prime minister must ensure his majority is not used to allow the return of fox hunting.

“Labour will use every opportunity to enhance and strengthen the Hunting Act, reviewing penalties to make sure there is an effective deterrent for illegal hunting, and introducing a ‘recklessness’ clause to stop trail hunts being used to kill foxes.”

Thousands of people have shown their opposition to the tradition on social media, with the hashtag #KeepTheBan trending on Twitter.

Queen star and prolific animal rights campaigner Brian May said earlier that he would be supporting a human bloodhound hunt to highlight the cruelty-free side of recreational hunting.

The guitarist joined the Three Counties Bloodhounds, a “friendly family run pack”, for its annual event in Swansea alongside Byron John, the master of the “clean boot” hunt.

The event will see riders on horseback and their team of hounds chasing a human runner instead of a fox.


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