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Boxing Day hunts can go ahead this year - but without spectators

PUBLISHED: 09:10 11 October 2020 | UPDATED: 09:27 11 October 2020

The controversial Boxing Day hunt meet in Wymondham town cross. PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood

The controversial Boxing Day hunt meet in Wymondham town cross. PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood

Jamie Honeywood Archant Norwich Norfolk

Spectators will be unable to attend any Boxing Day hunts this year as the controversial sport will go ahead under strict coronavirus protocols.

There was spontaneous applause as the Waveney Harriers arrived in Bungay town centre, as they paraded through the town before the meet for the Boxing Day Hunt 2017. Photo: George RyanThere was spontaneous applause as the Waveney Harriers arrived in Bungay town centre, as they paraded through the town before the meet for the Boxing Day Hunt 2017. Photo: George Ryan

Meets that occur in town squares and markets between spectators and hunters have been cancelled, with registered hunts instead moving to rural locations.

Hunts can go ahead as it is an activity exempt from the government’s rule of six.

In Norfolk, hunts take place each year in places such as Wymondham, Bungay, Raynham and Fakenham on December 26, attended by thousands of people.

The Countryside Alliance’s head of hunting, Polly Portwin, said: “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, which has had such a devastating impact.”

Members of the Waveney Harriers spoke to members of the public in the crowds. Bungay Boxing Day Hunt 2017. Photo: George RyanMembers of the Waveney Harriers spoke to members of the public in the crowds. Bungay Boxing Day Hunt 2017. Photo: George Ryan

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The head of hunting said around a quarter of a million people support Boxing Day meets each year.

She added: “It’s a great shame that trail hunting, like so many other outdoor activities also operating in accordance with the Covid legislation, is taking place behind closed doors rather than welcoming large crowds again this Christmas.”

The government was criticised for exempting grouse shooting and hunting with guns from laws which prohibited groups of more than six people.

Government guidelines published as the “rule of six” came into force in England which provide an exemption for shooting - including hunting and paintball that requires a shotgun or firearms certificate licence - as an organised sport that can be done with more than five others.

The Hunting Office has issued protocols to every registered hunt, which include the registration of every participant details and other social distancing safety measures.

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.”


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