Boxing day hunts: Huge crowds gathered in Lancashire for the traditional Holcombe Hunt in its new location in Pleasington near River Darwen
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The ‘faux hunt’ which involves tracking down an artificial scent, has previously happened at Rivington Barn on Boxing Day, but this year the parade was moved to a new trail along the River Darwen.
Helen Walsh, who is a member of Holcombe Harriers and is the PR representative of the British Hound Sports Association, said: “we had a good crowd of around 200 and they were really receptive. It was a demonstration to the public to show them what trail hunting is and so they can see the harriers in their new location."
The parade started at The Railway Hotel at 12 noon before heading down the River Darwen, where they gave a demonstration of trail laying.
This is where an animal-based scent trail (using fox urine) is laid down for the hounds to hunt. It’s designed to mimic traditional fox hunting, which was banned by the Hunting Act 2004.
The Holcombe Harriers want to dispel public myths around the sport. Helen added: “Hunts have not pursued foxes for nearly 20 years and we use only an artificial scent.
"Another misconception is that people in hunts are very well off, from privileged backgrounds, but in reality we come from all walks of life.
"It’s an exhilarating sport, to be able to ride with the hounds, and it brings people together.”
The Countryside Alliance (CA) said more than 200 packs of hounds – including foxhounds, beagles, harriers, basset hounds, draghounds and bloodhounds – are estimated to have been part of Boxing Day meets held outside pubs, in town centres and on other land suitable for large crowds of people.
Polly Portwin, the CA’s director of the campaign for hunting, said: “Boxing Day meets bring thousands of people together: be it families, friends, neighbours or those within our community who may otherwise be isolated over the festive period."
It comes after anti-hunt groups tried to prevent a number of prominent meets from going ahead this year around the UK.
Some groups are still opposed to the very idea of hunters and hounds continuing, although the parade only attracted one protester.
Helen said: "There was no trouble at all. We had one man with a banner, although it was generally very peaceful. I just thanked him for coming."
An animal welfare charity said that hundreds of “bloodthirsty and shameful” suspected illegal fox hunting incidents took place across the UK in just over a month.
The League Against Cruel Sports said new figures show there were 303 combined incidents of hunt havoc and illegal hunting in just five-and-a-half weeks between November 1 and December 7.
Hunt havoc refers to incidents including fox hunts marauding on roads and railways, worrying livestock and chasing people’s pets, intimidating people and causing the public mental distress.
Emma Judd, head of campaigns and communications at the League Against Cruel Sports, said: “People will see the hunts out today and not know that behind the finery is a so-called sport that sees public lives endangered on roads and railways, livestock worried by out-of-control hounds, and in some cases domestic pets killed.”