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Boxing Day hunt set to take place

PUBLISHED: 11:30 23 December 2019

A lead rider kicks off Hadleigh's annual Boxing Day hunt. Picture: GREGG BROWN

A lead rider kicks off Hadleigh's annual Boxing Day hunt. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Hundreds of people are preparing to take part in this year's Essex and Suffolk Boxing Day hunt in Hadleigh.

Riders head into Hadleigh before taking to the fields in the Boxing Day hunt. Picture: GREGG BROWNRiders head into Hadleigh before taking to the fields in the Boxing Day hunt. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Fox hunting was made illegal in England in 2004 but trail hunting, which involves people on foot or horseback following animal scent and is said to replicate a traditional hunt without foxes being chased or killed, is legal.

Hunts still take place across both Suffolk and Essex, with the traditional rides going out on Boxing Day and New Year's Day.

This year the Essex and Suffolk Hunt will meet in Holbecks Park in Hadleigh at 10.30am, before setting off for the hunt at 11am.

In previous years there have been 1,500 to 2,000 people on foot and around 50 to 60 people on horses.

Riders hurry through Hadleigh to begin the annual Boxing Day hunt. Picture: GREGG BROWNRiders hurry through Hadleigh to begin the annual Boxing Day hunt. Picture: GREGG BROWN

The hunt has previously been disrupted by saboteurs.

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In 2017, a group of around 20 placard-waving anti-fox hunting campaigners marched through the park chanting with a megaphone before the riders set off. However, the riders got off without any delay.

Chris Luffingham, director of campaigns at the League Against Cruel Sports - a charity which nationally campaigns against blood sports - 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.

A Boxing Day hunt is a traditional practice and social occasion for many rural residents in Suffolk Picture: VICTORIA PERTUSAA Boxing Day hunt is a traditional practice and social occasion for many rural residents in Suffolk Picture: VICTORIA PERTUSA

"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."

According to the group, the Essex and Suffolk Hunt is believed to have been started by Royal Navy Officer Sir William Rowley in 1791 with a pack of hounds purchased from the Duke of York.

The pack was kept in kennels at Tendring Park, Stoke by Nayland before being moved to Stratford St Mary in the mid 19th Century the kennels were.

It was not until after the War that it was decided that the Essex and Suffolk sides should join up and the country has been hunted as a whole ever since.

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