A series of brawls have reportedly broken out at the annual Boxing Day Hunt in Lacock village in Wiltshire, images shared on social media have revealed.
Video footage appears to show hunters and protesters throwing punches at each other during a gathering outside The Red Lion pub for the annual Avon Vale Boxing Day hunt.
The Hunt Saboteurs Association (HSA) has accused hunters of violence, but it is unclear how the scenes started and who was involved.
In a video, anti-hunt activists appear to shout “shame on you” at a group of riders and in another video, a woman holding a sign is knocked to the ground.
Footage also showed a person wearing a balaclava punching activists, whilst one man could be seen throwing a beer on another’s head.
This year, the event took place on 27 December because this year’s Boxing Day fell on a Sunday, which is a day of rest for hunters.
A spokesperson for Wiltshire Police said: “We were aware of a planned local hunt in Lacock today (27 December) and officers attended at around 11am when concerns were raised about tensions between those involved in the hunt and protestors.
“Officers remained on the scene to manage the two groups and they had dispersed by around 12.30pm.
“At this stage no arrests have been made but our enquiries are continuing.”
Meanwhile, a statement from the Avon Vale Hunt said: “The hunt has been made aware of an incident that occurred just after the hounds had left the meet in Lacock today.
“We do not know the circumstances but we do not condone violence even in the case of extreme provocation by anti-hunting protesters.
“We would like to thank the many hundreds of people who peacefully attended today in support of our hounds.”
Despite the Covid pandemic worsening again over the festive period and repeated calls to ban Boxing Day hunts on public land, many events were still held this week.
Fox hunting ban has ‘loopholes’, critics say
The annual event is often filled with fights between members of the hunt and animal rights activists.
Although fox hunting has been banned in England and Wales for the past 16 years, it continues as “trail hunting”, a practice which sees hounds tracking an artificial animal smell with hunters riding horses by their sides.
But activists say this leads to foxes being frequently getting severely injured or killed.
Meanwhile, the Scottish Greens called for this year’s Boxing Day hunts to be the last.
Scottish Greens environment spokesperson Mark Ruskell MSP said: “While the killing of foxes for sport using hunting dogs was meant to have been banned in 2002, the reality is that loopholes in the law mean that little has changed. Hunts still go out, pursuing and killing foxes, with hundreds of foxes still thought to be killed by hunting dogs.
“The fox is an iconic native species. It’s time we brought an end to the cruel practice of hunting by removing all the loopholes that were built into the current legislation, giving Scotland the outright ban on fox hunting that the public wants.”
Related: Boxing Day hunts go ahead despite Covid and calls for ban