CAMPAIGNERS claim they were whipped by hunters after attempts to sabotage a hunt were met with violence.

Essex and Suffolk Hunt hosted its first hunt of 2022 on New Year’s Day in Semer, Suffolk, but was met by saboteurs looking to derail the activity.

The campaigners say they were whipped by hunters and rammed by car doors during alleged flare ups between the groups.

However, James Buckle, master of Essex and Suffolk Hunt, said he believed all had a “fantastic day”, despite what he described as the “quite bizarre” attendance of hunt saboteurs.

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The Essex and Suffolk foxhounds says it hunts within the law as defined by the Hunting Act of 2004, which bans chasing wild mammals with dogs.

The event saw people from across the east of England turn up to both spectate and take part in the hunt.

But it also drew the attention of the Suffolk and Essex Hunt Saboteurs, which used a horn to distract the dogs and throw them off the scent.

This was allegedly met with aggression from both the hunters and spectators.

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A spokesperson for the saboteurs said: “Some extra people on quad bikes gave us an instant welcome after we held up hounds.

“Riders then hit sabs with their whips and used horses to block our way.

“Getting back into our vehicle, one rammed the doors into sabs as we tried entering. Some bumps and bruises [sic] and door damage, but it could have been so much worse.

“Supporters of the hunt took afront to our efforts and tried to assault sabs, but quickly retracted.

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“Riders and followers of the hunt abused locals and damaged their vehicles and residents told us of this hunt’s bullying attitude to anyone who does not support them.”

The claims were disputed by Mr Buckle when approached by the Gazette, however.

He said: “We did have some anti-hunt guys out…quite bizarre as we had one of the best days of the season.

“I believe all had a fantastic day.

“Antis turned up on the last trail of the day but even failed to disrupt that.”

When questioned about the allegations made by the saboteurs, Mr Buckle did not respond.