The first mounted hunt in Central London for 60 years was due to take place this Sunday but organisers have been forced to postpone the event. A field of 25 riders was to follow hounds through Hyde Park, chasing an artificial scent but the Connaught Square Squirrel Hunt (CSSH) called off the meet after the threat of anti-hunt protesters proved too great. ‘We have been told by police that it will be impossible to guarantee the safety of participants of the general public,’ joint master Duncan Macpherson told hunt supporters.
The CSSH was established after parliament’s implementation of the Hunting Act 2005, in a bid to demonstrate the lunacy of the legislation and has over 500 members. Sunday’s mounted meet aimed to embarrass the prime minister who owns a town house in Connaught Sqaure as well as raise awareness of the pro-hunting cause.
‘In principle the police and the park authorities have no objection to the event so we hope to run it next year – it is postponed not cancelled,’ said Mr Macpherson. A spokesperson for Royal Parks agreed, ‘We like a bit of notice to ensure public safety but the proposal will be given its due consideration.’
But according to Mr Macpherson, the proposed meet has served a purpose, even though it has been stopped: ‘We have taken calls not only from almost every national newspaper but also French and Spanish television,’ he said, ‘to some extent our point is now made.’
The meet was scheduled to take place on Horseman’s Sunday (17 September), a celebration of recreational riding in the capital. A service at St John’s Church, Hyde Park Crescent which includes a blessing for horses attracts an annual crowd of about 500 plus 100 horses. The CSSH mounted meet was to take place afterwards with riders following a sock around the park. ‘There can’t have been any concern about animal welfare,’ said Mr Macpherson.
But Jason Dudley-Mallick, press officer for Royal Parks was keen to point out that the authorities were not given enough notice to ensure public safety.
Unperturbed, the CSSH will be meeting at the Duke of Kendal Pub on Connaught Street at 1pm on Sunday before drag hunting a sock through Hyde Park.