THOUSANDS of people turned out in Ledbury this morning for the annual Boxing Day Hunt. 

The high street was heaving with people of all ages welcoming the horses and hounds to the market town - the 178th that Ledbury Hunt has held. 

However, there were some anti-hunt protesters waving banners, believing that the tradition should now be banned.

Their appearance was referenced during Ledbury Hunt Master's speech.


"We've been going a great deal longer in these parts than any other sport and we are proud to continue the tradition here today," he said.

"Bearing in mind there are three of four thousand members of the public who witness colourful celebrations of a wonderful tradition.

"In the spirit of Christmas, I would also like to pass on our best wishes to those who came out today with a banner, who think what we do is cruel.

"Quite how hunting trails in this day and age is cruel is a mystery to us."

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When they were referenced too, the protesters tried to drown out the master when he was speaking. Some also booed as the huntsmen, flanked by horses and hounds, made their way up and down the high street.

However, the majority of people who packed the high street were in support and were clapping when the hunt went past. At the end of was a young child on horseback, who received the greatest cheer.  

As well as Ledbury, anti-hunt protesters were also due to be in Bromyard for the Clifton & Herefordshire Hunt meet.

The controversy surrounds whether foxes and other animals are still attacked. 

The Hunting Act 2004 bans the hunting of most wild mammals with dogs in England and Wales, subject to some strictly limited exemptions.

Trail-hunting is therefore used where a scent is placed for the hounds to hunt. 

However, anti-hunt organisations allege it is 'just a smokescreen' which enables hunts to still take place legally.

Hereford Times: The horses and hounds make their way into LedburyThe horses and hounds make their way into Ledbury (Image: Paul Rogers/Hereford Times)

A spokesperson for Herefordshire Hunt Sabs point to the December 2022 conviction of John Oliver Finnegan, of the Leicestershire-based Quorn Hunt.

The huntsman was tried on charges hunting live quarry with dogs while out with the Ledbury Hunt near Hartpury, Gloucestershire.

Ledbury Hunt said it was 'unaware' of the conviction.

"Large crowds may turn out on Boxing Day, but they have nothing to do with hunting during the rest of the year," said a spokesperson for Herefordshire Hunt Sabs.

"Nationally hunting is in terminal decline with one hunt folding or amalgamating on average every six weeks. Hunts are losing followers, country and are struggling financially.

"Intervening to save the hunted animal is always the primary aim of hunt saboteurs, but the Hunt Saboteurs Association also exposes the grim reality behind what the public sees of hunting on Boxing Day."

Other hunts that took place today were in Ross-on-Wye and Kington.