Violence has broken out at traditional Boxing Day hunts around country between supporters and placard-wielding protesters.
Riders in hunting pink and packs of hounds – following scent trails laid in advance to comply with the 2004 Hunting Act forbidding the hunting of foxes with hounds – set out under cloudy skies to maintain a tradition going back hundreds of years.
But hunts in Sussex, Leicestershire and Wales were marred by bad-tempered scuffles, with police stepping in to separate the two sides.
In Wales violence flared near Newport as some 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.’
MailOnline has approached the Tredegar Farmers Hunt for comment.
In Sussex scuffles broke out between anti-hunt protesters and hunt supporters as the Southdown and Eridge Foxhounds parade through Lewes on Boxing Day morning.
Trouble started when hunt supporters tried to grab the anti-hunt protester’s banners.
One eye-witness told MailOnline around two thousand hunt supporters lined the high street in Lewes, with a group of around ten protesters making their opposition clear.
At Bolton’s Bench in Lyndhurst, Hampshire, crowds of supporters on foot could be seen following riders on horseback at the annual New Forest Boxing Day hunt.
In Peterborough, hopes were higher than ever that the day would pass without incident after several bad-tempered clashes between hunters and saboteurs in recent years.
The Fitzwilliam (Milton) Hunt which has been running since the 18th Century, was granted a temporary injunction by a High Court judge last month and seven named protesters have agreed not to trespass.
Operators of the hunt complained about trespass and made allegations of intimidation and harassment.
If any saboteurs do breach the injunction in Peterborough today they could be held in contempt of court and be at risk of imprisonment or a fine.
The protesters have signed legal documents stating they will only go on public rights of way running through the Milton Hall estate in Cambridgeshire, owned by joint Master Sir Philip Naylor-Leyland.
Polly Portwin, the Countryside Alliance’s Head of Hunting, told The Telegraph: ‘The Fitzwilliam Hunt have been forced to take action through the courts after years of being followed around by a group of obsessive animal rights activists that persistently trespass on private land in their attempt to disrupt the hunt carrying out their lawful hunting activities.
‘The Hunting Act became law nearly 14 years ago yet animal rights activists remain obsessed with hunts and are angry that packs have maintained their infrastructure, their kennels, and their hounds.
‘Meanwhile the support in the rural community still thrives with a quarter of a million people expected to turn out to support hunts again on Boxing Day.’
All but one protester named in the temporary injunction signed the legal agreement, after it was agreed costs would not be pursued against them.
Granting the temporary injunction, Mr Justice Freedman said that he had ‘come to the view that the evidence as a whole does lead to a concern that without protection against trespass to land there is reason to be concerned about public order disturbances’ and ‘of the possibility of injury to people as well as injury or damage to or caused by animals becoming out of control’.
The judge outlined his decision in a ruling following a High Court hearing in London in which protesters had contested the complaints of trespass.
Mr Justice Freedman said claims and counter-claims could be fully analysed at a trial and added the injunctions might be lifted following any trial.
It is thought that the injunction is the first granted since the Hunting Act came into force in early 2005. The Crawley and Horsham Hunt in Sussex attempted similar action a decade ago but the case was abandoned.
In February, North Cambridgeshire Hunt Saboteurs Association were monitoring the Fitzwilliam Hunt when they were set upon by a handful of men in tweed flat caps in a narrow country lane.
Footage published by MailOnline shows the hunt saboteurs’ car surrounded by the high-powered vehicles, with one skidding in front of them to block them in, before four people jump out. One then approaches the saboteur’s car with what appears to be a torch and smashes in several of their windows.
The decision to grant an injunction on against comes as saboteurs across the country have tried to force Boxing Day hunts onto private land by lobbying councils – arguing hunts breaches health and safety rules.
But the Countryside Alliance hit back by launching a campaign to protect Boxing Day meets.
It made the move after councils received detailed requests about preparations for their staging on council land.
Broadway Parish Council which hosts the North Cotswold Hunt and Dalston Parish Council, organiser of Cumberland Farmers Foxhounds – have received the requests for health and safety information,
However, pro-hunt campaigners say the health and safety tactic is a ‘cynical way of trying to stop rural people gathering and enjoying themselves at Christmas’.
Last month Grantham Labour Party told Lincolnshire Police it opposing the Boxing Day meet of the Belvoir Hunt and the mayor has now pulled out of the event.
Tetbury Town Council earlier this month declared that the Beaufort Hunt could no longer use its land after residents complained they were being forced to walk aside on narrow footpaths used by horses.
Tim Bonner, Chief Executive of the Countryside Alliance said the anti-hunt movement is ‘driven by hatred of people’, as opposed to ‘any real interest in animal welfare’.
He added hunts have been ‘hunting artificial trails on Boxing Day since the law changed in 2005’ , but activists are still obsessed with attacking them.
The Hunting Act came into force on February 18, 2005, and banned the hunting of mammals with dogs in England and Wales.
Around 250 hunts were expected to meet around the UK for traditional Boxing Day hunts today, with up to 250,000 people taking part or watching.
Since fox hunting was outlawed in 2004, pursuit of live animals has been replaced by trail hunting, which sees hounds and riders follow a pre-laid scent such as fox urine.
Activists have claimed these events can effectively allow banned practices to continue, if trails are laid near where foxes are likely to be.