Pro and anti-foxhunting campaigners squared off last night (January 26) on whether a Herefordshire town should continue to host a Boxing Day hunt meet, and if so, how.

Ledbury Hunt joint master David Redvers told the parish meeting in the town: “There are people in this room who loathe what we do. We want to continue to meet as we have done for 170 years, and have adapted by laying trails, which we video every time.

“We are doing everything we can to keep the hunt within the law, just as there are people doing everything they can to wipe this spectacle off Herefordshire and the rest of the country.”

Since hunting live quarry with dogs was banned in 2005, hunts have continued by laying trails of fox urine for hounds to follow.

Mr Revers added that if campaigners have evidence of lawbreaking by the hunt, “we urge them to take it to the police”.

But local resident John Rose claimed the Ledbury “does not even pretend to lay trails”, and that evidence of its lawbreaking had been given to the police but not acted on.

“If they hunt legally, why have they been banned from Malvern Hills Trust land?” he added.

Anti-hunt campaigner Lynn Sawyer said that her group Three Counties Hunt Saboteurs “have hundreds of hours of footage” including of badger setts blocked to prevent foxes from going to ground.

The meeting was called following a campaign to prevent the Ledbury Hunt’s Boxing Day meet in the town, which was unsuccessful despite gathering over 100,000 signatures on an online petition.

The town’s mayor Phillip Howells, chairing, said: “We got hundreds of emails saying, ‘can’t you stop it?’ but the town council really has no say on whether the hunt can meet in the town.”

For the town council to even debate it could be ruled ultra vires – that is, illegal, he said.

“It’s not a question of whether we personally approve, we have to be impartial. Even Herefordshire Council, which grants the permission, has limited capacity to prevent it.”


The parish meeting, which drew about 30 people, was intended to determine “what hasn’t been done, that could be”, he added.

One anti-hunt campaigner suggested that the hunt “could meet somewhere else in town, such as the Rugby Club, or [auctioneers] Pugh’s”.

Coun Howells said this “is the sort of constructive suggestion I am looking for” – to which the campaigner replied a mediator between the two sides would be needed to agree any compromise.

Responding to another complaint that the hunt’s hounds “are allowed to crap all the way up the High Street” during the Boxing Day meet, Mr Redvers said: “We have a team who come round afterwards with buckets to clean everything up.”

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And to another suggestion that the dogs could be kept on multiple leashes rather than allowed “loose”, he said: “They aren’t use to being on leads. But we do take precautions, exercising them first to make sure they are ‘empty’. Part of the enjoyment of the public is being among the hounds.”

Coun Howells confirmed that failing to pick up dog mess would be a fineable offence, and that not having the hounds present “would be one option”, adding: “The dogs are an issue for many people that might be addressed.”

He concluded by saying that the meeting “has come up with some possible compromises that the hunt might consider, which might alleviate some of the concerns”.

“The two sides will never totally satisfy each other, but I like to think we have made some progress,” he said.

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