Violence flares at Boxing Day fox hunt as horses collide with protester

Violence broke out at traditional Boxing Day fox hunting meets today as supporters and anti-hunt protesters clashed.

Hunts in Sussex, Leicestershire and Wales were marred by scuffles, with police stepping in to separate the two sides.

In Wales violence flared near Newport as some hunt supporters, lining the street to cheer on the start of a hunt, pushed back an forth with protesters until the altercation escalated to fierce kicking and shoving between the two sides.

The fight scared horses making their way between the crowds and at one point onlookers were nearly trampled under the skittish animals.

One protester, Steve Deneen, told the South Wales Argus: 'I find the whole thing absolutely sickening. It should not be allowed to happen in the 21st century. I am here with my wife, son and dog to show our opposition.'

Shay Holland, from Newport, added: 'I am totally against the hunt. I know this is a traditional hunt but everything it stands for is opposed by the majority of people in this country. It should not be allowed.'

And teacher Ruth Griffiths, who lives in Bassaleg where the hunt took place, said: 'I have been coming here every year to show I am against the traditional hunt.

'It was shocking to see one of the huntsman lose control of a dog - it ended up going into a crowd of people - which was quite scary.'

The Labour party has called for stronger legislation on the hunting ban - with possible prison sentences for offenders who break the law.

Ahead of the annual Boxing Day hunts, shadow environment secretary Sue Hayman said an incoming Labour government would review penalties under the Hunting Act 2004 to ensure it is an effective deterrent.

It would include a consultation on the introduction of custodial sentences, bringing it in line with the penalties for other wildlife crimes.

Ms Hayman said they would also consider measures to prevent the exploitation of "loopholes" in the legislation, which covers England and Wales.

It could include the introduction of a new "recklessness" clause to prevent trail or drag hunts being used as cover for the illegal hunting of wild mammals.

Ms Hayman said they would also look at removing an exemption for the use of dogs underground to protect game birds as it risks fights between hounds and wild animals.

"Labour's 2004 Hunting Act was a key milestone in banning this cruel blood sport, but since then new practices have developed to exploit loopholes in the legislation," she said.