THE future of Ledbury's Boxing Day hunt meet has been called into question.

The issue was due to be discussed at the monthly meeting of the town council this evening  following requests from “several members of the public”. 

The meet has for many years drawn large crowds into the town, providing a welcome boost for hospitality businesses. 

On the agenda for this evening's meeting is a recommendation for councillors to “give consideration to the request to not facilitate [the meet] in any way”.

The council’s clerk said it had received “a number of” emails and Facebook messages calling for it to prevent the meet by asking the county council not to permit the necessary road closures.

A statement from the hunt said: “We are aware that a group of people opposed to the hunt meeting in the town has been strongly protesting to both Ledbury Town Council and Herefordshire County Council.

“However, we do not want the politics of hunting to cloud the issue of the meet, and neither should they. In our view this is about an application to close the road for one hour and should be looked at as such.”

The hunt confirmed that an application had already been made to the county council for Ledbury High Street to be closed from 10.15am to 11.15am.

Among those opposing the Boxing Day meet is John Rose, who runs the Ledbury Anti Fox Hunt Group.

Writing on Facebook, he said: “I have forwarded [Herefordshire Council leader David] Hitchiner evidence of illegal hunting by The Ledbury Hunt in the form of reports, videos and photographs.”

In response, Cllr Hitchiner said: “Provided our Highways team are correctly notified of any request for a road closure, and provided any proposed regulated activities are covered by a temporary event notice, then this local authority cannot object to these meetings, regardless of the individual views of the elected members.”

Foxhunting was outlawed in 2004, but trail hunts are still permitted. However, even this form of the sport remains controversial.

Last month, we reported how the Malvern Hills Trust had “expressed concerns over the number of infringements of its trail hunting policy and trust bye laws over the past four years” and voted to suspend licensing of all trail hunting on its land indefinitely.

The National Trust and Natural Resources Wales also announced last month that they would ban all trail hunting on their land.

All three organisations cited the recent prosecution of Mark Hankinson, former director of the Masters of the Fox Hounds Association, the governing body of trail hunting, for encouraging the use of legal trail hunting as a screen for unlawful animal hunting.

The Ledbury Hunt can trace its origins back to 1846 and has met in the town centre every Boxing Day since then. The only exceptions were during the war years and last year, due to pandemic restrictions.