Boxing Day hunt violence erupts as protesters clash with cheering crowds

Traditional Boxing Day hunts across the country descended into violence as supporters clashed with protesters.

Thousands across the country have turned out to watch riders set off on around 250 so-called legal ‘trail hunts’.

But protesters lined the streets to demonstrate against hunting with dogs, which was banned under the Hunting Act 2004.

There were reports of confrontations between hunts in Sussex, Leicestershire and Newport.

Footage from Newport shows an aggressive tussle between anti-hunt activists carrying placards and supporters who lined the streets to cheer on the hunt.

The two groups can be seen shoving and shouting at each other before it descends into kicking and slapping.

Police are seen intervening in one brawl between two people.

The horses appear spooked by the commotion and one briefly seems out of control as it jumps around while passing the protesters.

Placards held by the demonstrators included the slogans “stop the killing of animals by hunts”, “countrycide” and “don’t be a c***”.

Boxing Day is one of the biggest days in the hunting calendar.

Huntmasters say they now engage in ‘trail hunting’ where a pack of dogs follows a pre-laid scent.

But protesters claim this is used as a cover for real hunting, which has been illegal since the Hunting Act was introduced 14 years ago.

Nigel Farage was pictured chugging beer as the Old Surrey Burstow and West Kent Hunt met.

He recently bragged: “I’ve been going to Boxing Day hunts since 1968. I don’t hunt myself but I love the occasion and the thought I wouldn’t be there is too much.”

The Countryside Alliance says around 250 hunts will meet today across the country.

But the League Against Cruel Sports says the hunting season is a “violation of the Christmas spirit turns the season of giving into a season of carnage.

“As each hunting season arrives, our wildlife struggle to find a moments peace. Under the guise of ‘trail hunting’, hunts continue chase down and kill foxes, deer and hares in the name of sport and claim it was an accident.”

The Grove and Rufford Hunt returned to Bawtry, near Doncaster, today after it was refused permission to meet in the centre of the town following the convictions of three people for hunting offences.

Bawtry Town Council allowed the hunt to return to its traditional meet point after the trio had their convictions quashed.

Hunt chairman Nick Alexander said: “There’s a great atmosphere, there’s thousands of people here today.

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“There are clearly people who don’t want us to do what we’re doing and, given that we’re hunting within the law, there can only be one conclusion – that is that this isn’t an issue of hunting for them, this is what they perceive us to be.

“As you can see, you see many of the people on horseback and around, these are just ordinary people who just happen to like riding.”

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