Police fear escalating violence at hunts

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Police across Britain will be on standby for trouble at the traditional Boxing Day huntsamid fears of escalating violence between hunt supporters and saboteurs, writes Michael Ricks.

Officers from Scotland Yard's Animal Rights Intelligence Unit are worried hunt followers may take direct action following violent incidents at hunts in Hampshire and Dorset.

Forty-eight people were arrested last weekend and three people were hurt in the latest in a series of increasingly bitter clashes. One officer said: "The violence is getting worse and there is a serious risk the hunt followers could become as militant as the saboteurs."

Janet George of the pro-hunting Countryside Alliance said: "It's an absolute miracle that no one's been killed so far. I fear it's only be a matter of time."

And one hunt saboteur said, whereas a Saturday's sabbing would usually end at the police station waiting for the sabs who had been arrested, this season "we've been waiting at the casualty unit at the local hospital for someone who has been beaten up by the hunt followers".