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Hunt saboteurs disrupt meet at Hole Park, Rolvenden

By Rachael Woods

Police were called as masked hunt saboteurs approached two female riders leaving them frightened.

Ashford Valley Tickham Hunt claims two of its members, one an 11-year-old girl riding her pony, alongside a 22-year-old, were shouted at by the saboteurs who were dressed in black and wearing scarves to cover their faces.

Members of East Kent Hunt Saboteurs Association at Hole Park Rolvenden

Members of East Kent Hunt Saboteurs Association at Hole Park Rolvenden

The incident happened at Hole Park, Rolvenden, on Saturday and has been reported to police.

The two were riding home after leaving the main group and hunt spokesman Charlotte Baines said: "The saboteurs shouted abuse at the girls and followed them into the road.

"If masked people wearing military-style clothes approached anyone in the High Street then police would immediately descend."

But the East Kent Hunt Saboteurs Association strongly denies intimidating the riders and claims they were protecting them as they didn't have reflective clothing and they reported their concerns to police. The group's statement said: "We witnessed a lady and child on horseback riding away from the meet.

Hunt saboteurs wearing balaclavas

Hunt saboteurs wearing balaclavas

"As [they] got to the bottom of the hill and near a sharp bend, we could see cars were struggling to see [them]. At this time, it was nearly dark, and we thought this was very dangerous, so offered to "chaperone" them back to their vehicles by following behind at a safe distance, as we were concerned for the safety of both riders and horses.

"The rider we spoke to though was very rude to us, and refused our help."

The hunt, involving around 50 horses and 33 hounds, took place on land owned by Edward Barham who described the group as being "foul-mouthed and balaclava-clad" wearing black jackets and military-style fatigues.

He said:  "I'm not a hunting-man myself but this was a perfectly legal hunt that involved the laying of a scent trail. 

"I accept the right to protest but the whole presence of the group felt extremely threatening and they had the cameras rolling at people all the time."

Police were called to Hole Park Rolvenden

Police were called to Hole Park Rolvenden

One female spectator, who wished to remain anonymous said the presence of the group had been unsettling. "It ruined the day for us - they were a hindrance. The police ended up coming just to make sure there was no confrontation.

"They covered their faces with black scarves and were armed with cameras. It's a cowardly move to turn up in protest and not even be able to show who you are.
 
"They swore at several members of the hunt and there were children around as young as 11."
 
The East Kent Hunt Saboteurs Association say their members face abuse and intimidation from hunt members and have been on the receiving end of violence so are forced to conceal their identities.
 
Hunt supporters - file picture

Hunt supporters - file picture

 
They claimed that there was no evidence of trail-laying on the day and that hounds are still killing foxes "by accident” so they are there to ensure the foxes remain protected and will only ever use non-violent means to achieve their aims.
 
The law banning fox-hunting was enforced from February 2005.
 
A police spokesman said no arrests were made.

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