Controversial Boxing Day hunt returns to East Sussex town: protestors make feelings clear

The controversial Boxing Day hunt parade has returned to an East Sussex town centre – with police at the site to control the protests.

The Southdown & Eridge Hunt group confirmed earlier this month that ‘there will be a parade of our hounds through Lewes again on Boxing Day’.

The Boxing Day spectacle sees riders and hounds parade through the town for the trail-hunting event.

A hunt spokesperson said: “We are looking forward to greeting large crowds as usual but want to highlight there is a change of time this year, with the parade taking place at the earlier time of 10am. We know that seeing the spectacle on Boxing Day is an important part of so many families’ festivities so we wanted to let people know the time change so that they can plan accordingly.”

Protestors have made their feelings clear at the parade, with police officers on site to keep control of the situation.

Action Against Foxhunting issued a statement on social media this morning.

The Facebook post read: “Boxing Day, when the hunts emerge from their lairs and parade about in public, thinking we’re all SO HAPPY to see them.

"AAF (famous for our Boxing Day meet challenges) will be spending the next year ousting them from towns all over the country.

"Starting NOW and going on ALL YEAR. Don’t wait till next December – start today. We get one shot at collecting evidence. Don’t waste it.”

This comes after the cancellation of the Lewes Boxing Day Wheelbarrow Run.

The organisers wrote on social media: “It is with great sadness and anguish that we have to announce that we are cancelling The Lewes Boxing Day Wheelbarrow Run in aid of Foodbank

“We have been made aware of online threats from SDE hunting community stating that they intend to disrupt the event, this has been reported to Sussex Police.

"We have sent an open letter to SDE hunt asking them to please hold their event elsewhere and then a second open letter asking them to assure us they won't disrupt our event. To date we had no response.

“Because we cannot guarantee the safety of the public the runners the organisers or the mayor we have had no choice.

"Please still donate your items to Lewes Foodbank. We will make sure Lewes Foodbank don't miss out.”

This year’s parade had been in doubt after Southdown & Eridge Hunt’s request for a Boxing Day road closure in Lewes was refused in November. The group had applied for a closure on High Street Lewes (A2029 and A277) from the junction with Fisher Street to the junction with Nevill Road via St Anne’s Terrace, Western Road and Spital Road from 10.45am to 11.45am. But Lewes District Council had issued permission for a road closure for Action Against Foxhunting’s Community Foodbank Fundraiser and wheelbarrow race on Lewes High Street from 11am to 12pm on Boxing Day.

A council spokesperson said: “A second application from the organisers of the fundraiser for an earlier start for their event was declined. The Southdown and Eridge Hunt withdrew an application they had submitted for a 10 to 10.30am road closure.”

Polly Portwin, director of the Countryside Alliance’s Campaign for Hunting, said Boxing Day meets bring ‘thousands of people together from all walks of life’.

She said: “They are the highlight event for many living in often isolated communities. At a time when many high streets are struggling, meets inject energy and life and offer many local businesses, including pubs, cafes and shops, a much-needed economic boost at a crucial time of year. They are symbolic of the Great British countryside and an event that must be cherished and protected.”

The hunt was formed in 1981 by the amalgamation of the Southdown Hunt and the Eridge Hunt.

Southdown & Eridge Hunt said on its website that, since February 18, 2005, the group has ‘adapted to operate within the law and restrictions of the Hunting Act 2004’.

A spokesperson added: “[We have been] maintaining the tradition of a mounted and foot followers meet with hounds then hunting pre-laid artificial trails or lines, allowing followers to watch the hounds working. The hunt is also permitted to hunt rabbits, providing a valuable service to their landowners.

"During the course of each hunting day we combine activities to provide a varied and unpredictable day for our followers. The police are aware of our activities.”

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