The Blencathra Foxhounds, also known as The John Peel Hunt, are no longer allowed in the town of Keswick on Boxing Day or any other day after a council vote was held.

Rob Pownall, founder of Keep The Ban, commended the decision made by Keswick Town Council stating "This is a much welcomed move which Keep The Ban fully supports. No hunts should be given access to town centres on Boxing Day and allowed to present a facade that they are conducting anything but the chasing and killing of wildlife. We hope other councils will soon follow suit and wake up to the lie that is "trail hunting" and ban the hunts from their local area".

Yesterday ten members of Keswick Town Council voted by 8-1 to instruct the local hunt that they are not invited to parade their hounds through Market Square on Boxing Day as they have done in recent years. Only one council member objected to the decision with one member making an abstention. It is important to remember however that the local council does not have legal authority to ban the hunt but it is very unlikely that they will decide to go ahead with their usual activities.

Ten members of Keswick Town Council voted eight in favour with one objection and one abstention to write to the Threlkeld-based hunt to disinvite them from making their annual festive visit to Market Square.

The decision comes after webinars were leaked of senior hunting officials discussing how they would circumnavigate the ban on fox hunting. The former director of the Masters of Foxhounds Association, Mark Hankinson, was heard on camera describing how "trail hunting" could be used as a "smokescreen" and he was ultimately found guilty for encouraging/assisting others to break the 2004 Hunting Act.

Last night’s decision follows the conviction in October of Mark Hankinson, a director of the Masters of Foxhounds Association. In a bombshell conviction, he was found guilty of encouraging illegal hunting by telling hunting groups in an online seminar how to use trail laying as a “smokescreen” for the activity, which was outlawed in 2004.

As reported by The Keswick Reminder, "Cllr Tony Lywood described the Boxing Day gathering – where foxhounds and a red-coated master congregate and toasts carried out before a visit to Keswick cottage hospital – as presenting the “furry cuddly facade” for the “killing and ripping apart” of wild animals.

“Until they can prove that they are doing what they say they are doing, I don’t think we should welcome them, and we should write this letter,” said Cllr Lywood, a Labour county councillor.

Cllr Peter Terry was the sole objector and told the meeting the council was taking a “very one-sided” view and stepping beyond its role. Cllr Terry pointed out that many hunt saboteurs had been convicted of criminal offences and that trail laying was a “perfectly legal activity.”

“If things have been done that are illegal then that is totally wrong and I would support anything against that,” said Cllr Terry, “but I haven’t heard of anything. Nobody has brought it up that the Blencathra have actually done anything illegal.”

But Cllr Alan Dunn, mayor of Keswick and chairman of the meeting, said: “For the past few years, this council has resisted writing the said letter for various reasons. My own reason being it was another lost tradition but things have changed dramatically since we last voted as has been rightly pointed out, with the conviction of Mark Hankinson and the subsequent suspension of licences to trail hunt – in inverted commas.

“The council will now write asking the Foxhounds not to attend on Boxing Day “or at any other time”.

Its stance will remain in place as long as the bans and suspensions on licensing remain in place by major Lake District landowners including the National Trust, United Utilities, the Forestry Commission, and the Lake District National Park Authority.

Rob Pownall

Founder of Keep The Ban

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