The Fernie Hunt say they need security guards for protection in the Harborough area - but campaigners say the hunters are going too far
A South Leicestershire hunt is being forced to hire security guards for the first time in their long history, claiming they need protection from saboteurs.
The Fernie Hunt, based at Great Bowden, near Market Harborough, has revealed they’ve had to draft in “safety personnel” since just before Christmas.
Philip Cowen, one of the historic hunt’s Joint Masters, said they had taken the dramatic step after being faced with the “aggression, intimidation and violence” of “vigilantes”.
But the campaigners said they have not been aggressive and have obeyed the law, while making sure that the hunters in turn also obey the law.
They also made allegations that some of the security personnel are from the army - a claim the hunt has denied.
The Fernie Hunt stalwart told the Harborough Mail: “It’s a very sad reality that we have had to bring in security personnel to assist us for the last two to three months.
“We are coming up to our 150th anniversary and we have never had to draft in protection from outside before.
“It’s very sad and very regrettable but that’s the way it is and we have to face reality.”
“We are being confronted by a huge amount of aggression, intimidation and violence.
Mr Cowen, who’s ridden with the nationally-famous hunt for over 40 years, said they hire about four security guards for their regular meetings during the winter.
“We have an arrangement with an industry-recognised security firm,” he said.
“I don’t want to name them because this is a commercially-sensitive arrangement.
“But I have no knowledge of the backgrounds of the individuals they use and we have nothing to do with their recruitment.
Foxhunting was banned in 2004 and replaced by trail hunting with enthusiasts following a pre-laid scent with hounds or beagles.
But James, a spokesman for Peterborough Hunt Sabs, claims the Fernie Hunt has already killed two foxes this month, one each on January 11 and January 18.
James told the Mail: “We have proof they have killed two foxes this month and that’s totally unacceptable.
“We have never been aggressive or violent towards members of the Fernie Hunt.
“We have always protested peacefully and lawfully and it is our right to do so and make our voices heard.”
Asked if the Fernie Hunt had killed two foxes in January, Mr Cowen insisted: “We haven’t killed any foxes.
“We are genuinely respectable people who simply enjoy going out trail hunting."