Hadleigh Boxing Day hunt draws hundreds despite wet weather
- Credit: Archant
Despite blustery winds and driving rain hundreds of people turned up for the annual Essex and Suffolk Boxing Day hunt today in Hadleigh.
Fox hunting has been illegal in England since 2004, so instead an artificial trail is laid for the hounds and horses to follow where no foxes are killed - allowing the hunt to carry on legally.
The horses and hounds gathered in Holbecks Park at 10.30am before setting off at around 11am after a speech from the Master of the Hunt, James Buckle.
This was the 240th year of the traditional Boxing Day event and has previously drawn crowds of 2,000, as well as the occasional protester.
However, for the second year running there was no opposition to the hunt present.
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Approximately 650 people showed up today with around 30 horses taking part in the hunt, an impressive number given the conditions, which Mr Buckle noted during his welcoming speech.
"The amount of you here today is absolutely incredible," he said.
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"When I looked at the weather forecast I was thinking I wasn't sure if I would come if I didn't have to.
"Hunting, I think, is hopefully becoming a bit of a non-issue.
"We haven't seen any hunt saboteurs or antis, whatever you want to call them, for nearly two years, long may that continue."
Last year a 60-year-old woman was injured when a horse spooked and knocked over bystanders and stood on her but this year passed without any incidents, with Mr Buckle mentioning how they risk assessed the event "very very" carefully.
He added how pleased he was to have the continued support of local people and said the hunt intend to carry on doing it for a long time from now and hoped to retain that support for many years to come.
Chris Luffingham, director of campaigns at the League Against Cruel Sports - a charity which nationally campaigns against blood sports - has previously spoken about the need to strengthen the Hunting Act.
"To end fox hunting for good we need to remove the loopholes and exemptions being exploited by the fox hunts to cover up their brutal activities," he said.
"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."