Do you oppose foxhunting and want to do something to stop the hunt from parading around in your town centre on Boxing Day or New Year’s Day? You’re not alone – many people want to do the same thing, but have no idea where to start. This page shows you how. While it can be frustrating and quite hard work, it is worth it. We have had a number of successes and – where we haven’t managed to kick the hunt out entirely – we have made it far more difficult for them.
Very few hunts organise the event properly. Up until recently, the hunts have always been treated differently from the rest of us and on Boxing Day and NYD, they just turn up in their usual place, and occupy the road with no permissions and no health and safety precautions whatsoever. They will continue to do this until someone like you challenges them.
Don’t wait until December. START NOW!!
Take it in short steps. We have created easy videos for you to watch. There is also a written explanation (below), with all the links and template emails you need.
PART ONE – do your research
YOU NEED TO KNOW WHERE THE HUNT MEETS AND WHO OWNS OR MANAGES THE LAND/ROADS ON WHICH THEY MEET.
Why do you need to know this?
Every bit of land in this country has an owner. Most of roads are managed by either the council or Highways. If the land is “owned” by a council (see below), it is likely to be PUBLIC LAND and anyone can be on that land, unless it has been closed for a reason. However, everyone using public land must follow the laws and local bylaws. If a hunt stops and gathers on public land, they are required to have the correct permissions from the owner of the land. However, many hunts have never sought permission and have just shown up anyway. It is entirely legitimate for us to challenge this and ask why the hunt is being treated differently from everyone else.
If the land is owned privately, then you have little influence over what happens there. But you might be able to challenge the hunts use of the roads they travel along to get to the meet.
YOU NEED TO KNOW THE COUNCIL SET UP IN YOUR AREA
Why do you need to know this?
Council responsibility varies. Some councils (often parish and town) have no control whatsoever over what happens at the Boxing Day or NYD meets as they are not actually responsible for any of the land. However, all councils usually accept that safety in their parish/town is their responsibility.
All councils can ASK the hunts not to gather in their town. This happened successfully in Keswick,Cumbria (insert link).
Road closures – and as a consequence – safety ARE the responsibility of the district or county council.
The four tiers of council are:
TOWN COUNCIL – Town Councils usually have a Town Clerk. This person deals with enquiries.
Not all counties follow this though, so you need to know how it works in yours.
We will deal with THE LAND separately from THE ROADS.
First, you need to work out what land and what roads are involved.
- What route the hunt takes to get to their meet
- Where the hunt gathers to make the speeches
Draw a map
Example from Castle Cary.
Then find out who owns or manages the land
Use this website:
It’ll cost £3 to find the name of the person or organisation who owns the land.
If you think the land is owned by a council – all councils could own land – then you can send the request directly to the council. Strictly speaking, public land is owned by all of us, and it is the council’s responsibility to maintain it. Alternatively, you could submit a Freedom of Information request via this website:
Why do you need to know this?
You need to aim your campaign at the people who can actually do something about it.
In Castle Cary (map above) the hunt arrives by public roads and gathers on public roads. In the past, the hunt has gathered on the Cobbles in front of the Market House. That piece of land is OWNED by the District Council, but leased on a 999 year lease to the Town Council. It is the TOWN COUNCIL who has responsibility for it.
In Blandford, where the hunt used to meet (stopped in 2021), the hunt arrived by public road, crossed over private land and met in a privately owned field. The hunt decided to meet elsewhere after police told them they must take responsibility for everyone’s health and safety in the street outside the meet, where there was a significant and “lively” protest.
PART TWO: ROADS
Hunts often block the road at their Boxing Day or New Year’s Day Meets BUT:
- It is illegal to wilfully block a road
Highways Act 1980
- It is not illegal for horses with riders to pass and re-pass.
This means that for a meet, the horses and riders must keep moving (within reason). But the minute they stop and gather, then they are in breach of the law – UNLESS
- They have applied for and received permission to close the road.
If a hunt has an official road closure (there are two sorts), then they will have had to apply to the council for it and show insurance and public safety documentation. If they don’t close the road officially, this means no one has seen their insurance and no public body is reviewing or checking their safety measures.
Road closures are dealt with by the District Council, or the County Council. If you don’t know whether they close the roads or not, you can ask the council to tell you what happened last year.
What to do
Ask the council by sending a GENERAL ENQUIRY.
If you are unsure about which council deals with road closures, ask all of them the same questions.
If you cannot identify which council is involved, it is a good idea to send the same request to all of them.
Ask these questions:
- What department is responsible for maintaining and managing XXX road?
- Please provide an email address and the name of the officer for contact.
- Is this department also responsible for closure applications for this road?
- If not, please provide the name and email address of the person who is.
You can put in a FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST (FOI) to find out. For an example of an FOI relating to a Boxing Day road closure, click here:
What to do next
Once you have identified who to contact at the council, email them and ask these questions – once again, you can use What Do They Know and present it as an FOI.
“With regard to the Boxing Day/New Year’s Day meet of xxx hunt in xxx location, please answer the following questions:
1) Has the event organiser completed an events application pack?
2) Has a competent person completed a risk assessment?
3) Has the event organiser obtained or applied for legal permission to close any roads?
4) If so, what type of road closure did the event organiser obtain or apply for?
5) Does the event organiser have a street collection licence?
6) Is the event organiser using council equipment to close the roads?
7) If so, do they have the correct permission and who is paying for the equipment hire?
8) Who is cleaning up after the event, and who is paying for the clean-up?”
Go on to Part Three – ROAD CLOSURES