‘Aggression on both sides’ - Controversial Boxing Day hunt given the go-ahead despite ‘saboteurs’ fear

Dunston Harriers stage the traditional Wymondham Boxing Day hunt in 2013, leaving from the Market Pl

Dunston Harriers stage the traditional Wymondham Boxing Day hunt in 2013, leaving from the Market Place. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY - Credit: Archant Norfolk

A hunt has been given the go-ahead to hold its controversial Boxing Day meet despite fears there was a 'serious risk of hunt saboteurs'.

At their monthly meeting on Tuesday, November 6, Wymondham Town Council voted in favour of allowing the Dunston Harriers to host their annual festive meet at the Town Cross.

Three councillors voted against, losing to a majority of 10 in favour.

Georgina Mann, joint master of the Dunston Harriers, said she was delighted the council chose to allow the meet.

She was keen to reassure residents the hunt would comply with hunting laws introduced in 2004, and would use an artificial scent trail rather than tracking live hares.

However, a number of residents and councillors raised concerns about the wider practice of hunting and questioned whether it was a tradition that should be celebrated.

Councillor Julian Halls, representing Cromwells ward, voted against and said he believed the meet posed a safety risk.

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He said: 'Although there is no evidence they don't do artificial trail hunting, that is not mirrored by hunts elsewhere.

'There are numerous, well-documented accidents from other groups where dogs have come across a real trail and chased it because that's what the dogs trained for.

'There is aggression and a lot of feeling on both sides and I think there is a serious risk of hunt saboteurs causing a problem on the day.'

The Harriers have completed a risk assessment for the event which the council have approved and barriers will be in place to keep the public and horses separate.

Councillor Penny Stern, a supporter of the event, said she felt the meet had strong connections with the town's heritage.

She said: 'Hunts have rules, if they're law abiding that's fine.

'It brings people into Wymondham, it gets them out of the supermarket and into the town.

'Stopping it would deny the town's people and people that come in to meet them a lovely happy day.'

Mrs Mann added: 'We firmly believe that we should not be made to withdraw from the town so look forward to welcoming as many people as possible again this Boxing Day.'

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