The popularity of festive meets shows no signs of waning, nearly 17 years after the Hunting Act came into force.
Most hunts in England went ahead with their plans, as the Government had introduced no Covid-related restrictions on outdoor events, easing fears the community had had over the impact cancellations would have on pubs, shops and businesses that benefit from the events.
Ralph Richardson, joint-master and huntsman of the Middleton, which hosted meets in Driffield and Malton, said: “Our meets have yet again been well attended by those for whom it is a traditional part of their annual festivities. As well as parading in the towns, we took the hounds to visit a local care home which brought smiles to the faces of the residents. We were happy that this year those attending our meets could support the local pubs and shops which, like so many other local businesses, have had a difficult year.”
Countryside Alliance director of hunting Polly Portwin said that although many meets had run on a smaller scale this year owing to the pandemic, they still provided the social and economic boost of trail-hunting.
“The popularity of this annual spectacle, an opportunity for hunts to welcome people who might only see a hunt on this one occasion each year, shows no signs of waning, despite more than 16 years operating under the confines of the Hunting Act,” she said.
Most Welsh hunts cancelled, as a maximum of 50 people were allowed at outdoor events, while crowds in Scotland were limited to 500.
Juliette Evans, joint-master of the Curre and Llangibby which had to cancel its annual meet in Monmouthshire, said: “Although we understand the need to restrict numbers, it was disappointing to have to cancel because it is usually a very social event which is an integral part of the festivities for local farmers and the wider rural community.”
Ms Portwin added: “We hope that next year, meets can return to their full glory which can mean crowds hit hundreds of thousands.”
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