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Carol service for hunting group cancelled over ‘personal safety’ concerns

16 December 2022

It was later rescheduled and held in the village hall


St George’s, Clun, in Shropshire

St George’s, Clun, in Shropshire

A CHURCH in south-west Shropshire was advised by police to cancel a carol service that was due to be held on Sunday for a local hunting group, after concerns were raised over the “personal safety” of clergy and those attending.

The service for the United Pack had been due to take place at St George’s, Clun, on Sunday. The Church Times understands that it was cancelled after hunt saboteurs posted details of the service on social media, urging its supporters to contact the Vicar of Clun Valley, the Revd Caroline Harrison, to complain.

Her personal contact details and home address were included in the posts, which were shared by animal-rights groups in the UK and abroad. It was presumed that she would be leading the service, which was not the case.

A statement from the diocese was posted on the church web page on A Church Near You. It read: “Based on police advice, we have taken the decision that the service for the United Pack which was to be held at St George’s Church, Clun on Sunday 11 December will not be going ahead.

“There have been a number of untruths spread online about a member of our clergy who it was assumed would be leading this service. The decision has been made in the interests of her personal safety and that of anyone expected to attend. Our churches remain open to everyone and offer anyone a welcome, whatever their belief or worldview.”

A spokesperson for United Pack told The Daily Telegraph last week that it had “taken the decision to make other arrangements in the interest of the welfare and safety for all involved after learning from social media that anti-hunt activists had organised a targeted hate-filled campaign against local clergy, which clearly caused considerable anxiety for the victims.

“We would like to extend our thoughts to anyone on the receiving end of violent threats from a small minority of extremists.”

The director of the Countryside Alliance’s Campaign for Hunting, Polly Portwin, said: “Anti-hunt activists, while small in number, are routinely threatening and violent towards anyone who may not share their obsessive viewpoint, and social media is a convenient place to share details of the victims they wish to harass.

“It is horrific to think that such a clearly liked and respected pillar within the local community has been the target of their hate.”

Carol service held: The Church Times later learned that the carol service was held the following weekend in the village hall by a “clergy person”. The turnout was reportedly greater than in previous years, despite the previous security concerns and cold weather.

A spokesperson for the United Pack said: “We would never bow down to threats from online bullies but do understand just how unpleasant it can be for anyone targeted. This was without doubt the best supported service the United Pack has ever had. Attendance was higher than usual, with more newcomers than in previous years.”

Ms Portwin said: “The United Pack are incredibly well regarded in the local community and appreciate just how important their carol service is to so many people. While small in numbers, anti-hunt activists are routinely aggressive and often violent towards many within the rural community. It cannot be right that these bullies are able to carry out their campaigns of terrorising rural people.”

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