Pro and anti-hunting campaign groups have both condemned “sickening” threats against councillors involved in a debate at South Kesteven District Council over the annual Belvoir Hunt.
Members of the authority agreed to hold a secret vote on Councillor Virginia Moran’s call to withdraw support from the Boxing Day event after it was reported they had received a torrent of abuse, including threats to stab the council leader.
A spokesman for the League Against Cruel Sports said they were disappointed by the rejection of the motion and commended Councillor Moran “for her bravery”.
They added: “Our employees know first-hand about violence at the hands of this hunt, but we believe there should be no place for threats on either side of the hunting debate, either in the countryside or in the council chamber.
“This is one of the reasons why we are campaigning for the Hunting Act (2004) to be strengthened – to help prosecutors ensure the spirit of the law can be properly applied and to help landowners like South Kesteven Council ensure their land is not being used for illegal activities.”
The Countryside Alliance, however, said the secret vote was a bid to “protect councillors from intimidation by animal rights activists,” which they said was “sadly consistent with our own experiences”.
Polly Portwin, Head of Hunting at the Countryside Alliance said: “The sickening comments alluding to harm and threats of violence to those against the deeply divisive motion are consistent to what we see and hear about on an almost daily basis.
“Hunt Sabs have also been known to pose as pro-hunt supporters to put out aggressive messages too, in a bid to smear law abiding hunt followers.
“Disappointingly we are unable to prevent this.”
The CA said its members had been “rewarded for lobbying councillors effectively,” over what it said was a “pointless and divisive debate”.
They said the hunt had been acting within the law and continued to attract support saying it “brings in huge numbers from out of the town which in turn, helps local businesses that open to host and support the large crowd.”
SUBSCRIBE TO LOCAL DEMOCRACY WEEKLY, our exclusive email newsletter with highlights from coverage every week, as well as insights and analysis from our local democracy reporters.