MORE than 70 riders took to the countryside as the people of Chard gathered to see off the Boxing Day hunt.

The hunt, which lasted until around 3.30pm, saw members of the Cotley Harriers hunting club taking part in the traditional festive event.

Fred Eames, master huntsman of the Cotley Harriers, said: “It is always special to meet in Chard, our local town and where many Cotley supporters live, work, shop and go to school.

“We had a lovely reception. Thank you to all those people who came out to see the hounds and horses.

“It means a lot to receive the cheers and applause that we did when we left.

“We are grateful for the welcome that we are given on Boxing Day. Thank you Chard.”

A spokesperson for the Cotley club estimated that more than 2,000 people turned out to see the Harriers and cheer them as they set off.

However, not everyone in the town supported the hunt.

Former councillor and anti-hunt protestor, Graham Forsyth, said: “This is one of the few days in the hunting calendar that you will see the hunt, riders and hounds all out on parade.

“Many of the riders will be adorned with Christmas tinsel and their horses will be superbly groomed.

“But what you are witnessing is the public face of a cruel and barbaric activity vested in our brutal feudal past.”

Around a quarter of a million people are predicted to have lined the streets and market places of the UK for the Boxing Day meets of the 300 plus registered hunts.

A survey of hunting clubs this year showed that 83% of hunts have the same number or more subscribers since the Hunting Act came into force in 2004.

Mr Forsyth added: “I think it is very sad that during the Christmas period or indeed over the dark cold winter months shooters will be out picking off duck and geese on costal estuaries and the fox hunters will be out on masse with an array of all-terrain vehicles, mobile communication and a blood thirsty starved pack of hounds ready to kill anything.

“On some occasions while out in the countryside you will hear the bang, bang, bang of shotguns and the hounds on cry and the countryside run red with blood.

“All this money and effort to wage a war against defenceless and unarmed wildlife by the cowardly English Taliban. This is not the way to treat the British countryside and its inhabitants.”