Hunt saboteurs and members of the public have criticised a Cornish hunt for meeting on Boxing Day as Cornwall entered Tier 2.
The Western Hunt met at Madron for a traditional December 26 hunt but was slammed by West Cornwall Hunt Saboteurs and a number of residents in the area who contacted Cornwall Live.
However, a spokesman for the historic hunt – which was founded in 1820 – stressed that the meet was held within Covid regulations.
One resident said: “We all can’t see our families, but if you [the hunt] have to satisfy your blood lust, it’s ok to break the rules and the law.”
Another added: “Absolutely disgusting, we are now in Tier 2, spectators huddling together, disgraceful, was reported by many.”
There were also concerns about the hunt’s hounds running free on the roads until night fell.
Posting online during the meet, a local wrote: “There are hounds loose on the north road between Pendeen and Penzance. Take care if you’re driving! We nearly hit one. They ran off when approached – are still roaming around.”
“They’ve been seen all over the place. They were still trying to find them in the dark. We tried to grab a couple but no chance too fast,” added another.
West Cornwall Hunt Saboteurs said: “As Cornwall moves to Tier 2 restrictions you are separated from your families and loved ones yet this gathering of criminal animal abusers is not a problem?
“We had lots of messages from motorists nearly hitting the dogs too. They lost the pack and we have reason to believe some were seen as far away as Pendeen, the meet was at Madron, they were still trying to find them as it was going dark.”
A spokesperson for the saboteurs added: “They had been stopped from meeting at Madron church so moved the location to the junction near Madron Well and must have informed their followers for them to gather there. They rode out through the village to encourage spectators too. It was not as large a crowd as usual but a crowd nonetheless who freely mixed together for at least half an hour. Some were verbally abusive to our monitors.
“They then proceeded to hunt common land areas and county wildlife sites some belonging to Bolitho Estates who regularly facilitate them.
“They are outside society and see themselves as a rural ‘subculture’ where the same rules and laws the rest of us follow don’t apply to them, this is why they still continue to attack wildlife with their dogs 15 years after the hunting act came into force. A pandemic is not going to spoil their fun either and they have shown no concern for keeping everyone else safe.”
However, a spokesman for the Western Hunt denied they had done anything to breach Covid rules and regulations. He stressed that all of the hounds were safely back in their kennels before dark.
He also said that the hunt had not been asked to move the meet from Madron church, but had done so voluntarily.
Ralph Mankee, Western Hunt’s kennels man, said: “The meet was held under Covid regulations with a Track and Trace system in place. Everyone who attended had to give their details.
“The mounted groups were of six or less. It was all done as it should have been.”
He added: “You cannot account for everyone – Camborne and Redruth played rugby on the same day. Did everyone stay in groups of six?”
Mr Mankee stressed that the hounds were off the roads before dark despite claims made by witnesses.
“People saying this are spreading bad lies,” he declared.
“We moved voluntarily from Madron church – it was a traditional meet so a lot of people could have attended, so it was the right thing to do.”
Mr Mankee added: “Five members of West Cornwall Hunt Saboteurs were seen in one car and they weren’t in the same social bubble. It works both ways.”
However, the spokesperson for the saboteurs denied this.
“Not at all, we had two cars out with one person in one and two in the other who are in a support bubble. There are usually five of us out but the others weren’t able to come because we do abide by the rules for the sake of everyone else.”