Camilla Swift Camilla Swift

Are hunt saboteurs simply out to harass people?

Boxing Day is the one day of the year when people really come out en masse to support their local hunts. Over a quarter of a million people are expected to show their support wherever the meet may be – in town centres, country pubs or the local stately home. It won’t just be hunt supporters going out, though. Twelve years after the Hunting Act, hunt saboteurs will be out in force as well. This is despite the fact that in the past two years, no registered hunts have been prosecuted under the Act.

Surely, many people would argue, this means that hunts are sticking to the law, making hunt saboteurs redundant? But this doesn’t seem to be the case. Most people who have ever followed a hunt will have seen hunt saboteurs in action; dressed all in black, and with their faces covered by balaclavas. Given how few successful prosecutions there have been in recent years, though, this begs the question of what these people actually want to gain from their days following the hunt. Are they really worried about animal welfare, or simply out to harass people who are hunting hounds perfectly legally, just because they don’t like it?

Even so, if these hunt monitors were just observing hunts, there wouldn’t be much of an issue. But that’s not the case. Last year, a hunt master was hit around the head with iron bars by masked saboteurs – with their face coverings making it more difficult for the police to identify and charge any of the offenders. He’s far from the only one – there have been plenty of similar cases, including gamekeepers smashed over the head with bats – again by people wearing face coverings.

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