Leicester Mercury

Boxing Day hunts ‘will not assemble in towns’


- By STAFF REPORTER leicesterm­ercury.co.uk

BOXING Day hunts will take place this year, but not in the normal format, organisers say.

The Countrysid­e Alliance said hunts are planning – subject to any further or relevant government guidance at the time – to move their hunting activities out of the town squares and market places where they usually congregate.

The Atherstone Hunt traditiona­lly meets in Market Bosworth on Boxing Day, the Fernie in Great Bowden and the Belvoir in Melton.

The Countrysid­e Alliance said its “respectful and responsibl­e approach” has been “taken collective­ly by the hunting community to ensure trail hunting activities can be conducted safely while still complying with the strict protocols enforced by the hunting authoritie­s”.

Spokeswoma­n Polly Portwin said: “With more than 250,000 people supporting Boxing Day meets each year, it’s a great shame trail hunting is taking place behind closed doors rather than welcoming large crowds again this Christmas.

“We want to let all the people who usually turn out from towns and cities across the country to enjoy the spectacle know that hounds won’t be in the usual public places this year on Boxing Day but that we look forward to returning in 2021, when hopefully the country will have recovered from the terrible effects of this pandemic.”

The Hunting Office has issued strict protocols to every registered hunt. These include conducting risk assessment­s, completing an Event Delivery Plan, storing every participan­t’s details for track and trace purposes and complying with social distancing at all times.

Mark Hankinson, director of the Masters of Foxhounds Associatio­n, said: “Hunts are taking the responsibl­e step of moving their Boxing Day hunting activities away from public spaces this year to ensure they can be conducted in accordance with government guidelines and continue to adhere to the strict protocols that have been put in place by the Hunting Office – and followed – successful­ly throughout the season so far.”

Although trail hunting is exempt from the Rule of Six, which means that there can be an unlimited number of participan­ts, spectators are not permitted and therefore hunts do not want to encourage large crowds which may breach the legislatio­n.

“Subject to complying with the appropriat­e coronaviru­s restrictio­ns, hunting activities are specifical­ly exempt because they are considered to be a sports gathering, which is classed as ‘a gathering organised for the purposes for allowing persons who are not elite sportspers­ons to take part in any sport or other fitness-related activity’.”

 ?? TED CoTTRELL ?? READY TO GO: The Atherstone in Market Bosworth last year
TED CoTTRELL READY TO GO: The Atherstone in Market Bosworth last year

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