Thousands sign petition against Berkeley Hunt meet in Thornbury
A petition calling for an end to the Berkeley Hunt’s Boxing Day meet in Thornbury has been signed by more than 3,500 people.
The petition has been initiated by the Severn Vale Hunt Saboteurs, who claim most local people are against the pastime and believe the traditional meeting in the centre of the town should be stopped.
It calls on Thornbury Town Council and South Gloucestershire Council to ban the hunt from meeting in public places, including the town centre.
A spokesperson for the group said: “We are aware that hunt meets attract a large crowd but we must remember that a recent Ipsos Mori poll revealed that 85% of the public are against fox hunting. We believe it is morally wrong for a hunt to advertise themselves publicly in our towns and villages.”
But Joint Master of the Berkeley Hunt Haydn Jones said the meet was attended by people from "all walks of life" and claimed that the petition was part of a national campaign against public hunt meets.
He said: “During the Boxing Day meet Thornbury High Street is packed from end to end, there are people everywhere. There are people from all walks of life and all ages, from the rich to the not so rich and every social background in between. If you talk to most people, they enjoy being there.”
The saboteurs say they have been "encouraged" by a decision made by St Ives Town Council, in Cornwall, which voted not to invite the Western Hunt to Feast Day, a major annual event, despite it having had a presence for decades. The decision came after a petition was circulated by Action Against Foxhunting Cornwall.
In their petition, published here on the Change.org website, the saboteurs make claims of unlawful activity connected to the hunt. Hunting wild mammals with dogs was outlawed in 2005 but the law contains some exemptions.
Mr Jones said: “We are aware of the legislation and we go out and determinedly aim to obey the law.”
He added: “People are entitled to petition and protest in any way they like – we hope that councillors will appreciate that the majority don’t start petitions. We appreciate the hospitality that Thornbury and Thornbury Town Council have given us, and we want to keep coming.”
The two councils targeted by the petition have both said they do not have powers over the staging of the meet.
A spokesperson for the town council said: “Thornbury Town Council does not hold any legislative powers to either permit or prevent these events.”
A South Gloucestershire Council spokesperson said they don’t facilitate the annual hunt meet.
They said: “If a nuisance was caused to the public then it would be down to the Police to consider if they use their powers to stop the gathering or move people on.”