Battle for Boxing Day hunting

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Attempts by the anti-hunting lobby to pressure local councils into prohibiting the traditional Boxing Day meets appear to have failed.

Earlier this month it was confirmed that Battle Town Council had voted to grant permission to the East Sussex and Romney Marsh Hunt (ESRM) to meet on Abbey Green, as it has done for many years. The debate between councillors had been triggered after they received emails from members of the public requesting the controversial event be stopped.

The council is licensed to manage Battle abbey for English Heritage, an organisation that does not allow hunting over its land. When asked by Rye News if it was overriding their own policy, overwhelming public opinion, and the Hunting Act by allowing this meet,  a spokesperson for English Heritage said; “The ESRM has traditionally congregated in Battle town centre for its Boxing Day meet on a paved area known as Abbey Green.

“Permission for this is sought from both the town council and English Heritage who care for the abbey and battlefield site behind Abbey Green. English Heritage does not permit hunting on the land in its care, and at no time does the hunt enter the battlefield site. To ensure that traffic and pedestrians can move safely in this small high street without the road being blocked by horses, and under stewardship of the local police, managers at the abbey have advised that the local council may permit the use of Abbey Green in 2021.”

The hunting of mammals with hounds was made illegal with the passing of the 2004 Hunting Act but the anti-hunt lobby maintains the practice is continued on a regular basis by many hunts behind a smokescreen of “trail hunting”.

A spokesperson for the South Coast Anti-Hunt lobby said; “We are asking Battle council and English Heritage not to allow the ESRM to parade through Battle town centre and to congregate in front of Battle abbey. The smokescreen of trail hunting has been laid bare by leaked webinars and the Hankinson conviction (a reference to the conviction in October of Mark Hankinson, director of the Master of Foxhounds Association who gave an online lecture offering advice on how to operate illegal hunts under the smokescreen of trail hunting).

“Hunts can no longer use the excuse of trail hunting to go about their illegal and abusive activities. What we are dealing with here are organised criminal gangs committing crimes against wildlife. By allowing the ESRM to parade on Boxing Day the council are basically saying it is OK to blatantly break the law and abuse wildlife.”

It is unclear how many people had written to the town council to raise objections.

The Countryside Alliance, the campaigning organisation for field sports, and local hunt supporters contacted the town council to outline their support for the meet. In a letter to the town clerk, Tim Bonner, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance said, “The ESRM Boxing Day parade is a highlight in the festive social calendar for a huge number of people. It is enjoyed by people from all walks of life and by both those that regularly follow the hunt and by those simply interested in the spectacle itself. Visitors attending the meet also generate important revenue for local shops and businesses.”

All Boxing Day hunt meets are to be held on Monday, December 27, this year.

Image Credits: Chris Lawson .

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