Masked protesters swinging baseball bats attacked a crowd gathered for a fox hunt Saturday, injuring six people.
Police arrested 31 protesters in the attack, launched as the Hursley and Hambledon Hunt was about to set off across fields near this village, 65 miles southwest of London.
It was the worst disturbance since a Nov. 28 vote in the House of Commons to ban fox hunting.
Britain’s Labor Party government, although largely opposed to a sport enjoyed primarily by royalty, the rich and rural people, has said it may not find parliamentary time to pass the ban, which is through only a preliminary stage in the Commons.
The protesters spilled from vans, shouting and pounding cars, as hunters, horses, hounds and spectators milled around at the start of the hunt in the quiet, rural district.
“They were using clubs, staves and iron bars and they attacked anybody who offered any resistance or who tried to defend themselves or their vehicle,” Jeffrey Mansfield said.
All of the injuries were among the hunters and spectators, three of whom required hospital treatment.
In London, the Hunt Saboteurs Association condemned the attack.
“It sounds utterly out of character from our usual type of actions and I can only assume that the violence was carried out by some people who have come in from outside,” association spokesman Paul Gammon said.
Gammon said there was a clash in 1994 between protesters and members of the same hunt. Then, 11 protesters were injured, but no hunters were arrested, he said.