This is the shocking moment balaclava-wearing protesters used iron bars to beat a huntsmaster unconscious during a meet. Mike Lane, Joint Master of the Tedworth Hunt in Wiltshire, had been attempting to calm saboteurs when he was punched, kicked, spat on and left needing hospital treatment. The attack happened after a fractious day of confrontations during a drag hunt on Saturday, when the masked group followed the hunt from the kennels in the morning. The 39-year-old explained that he had become upset after they were spraying the dogs with citronella spray - a harmless solution used to train nuisance dogs.
He said: 'We were packing up just after 4pm and it got quite violent. Five or six of them came across to where we were all parked and started to make a nuisance of themselves. 'I went over to try to calm it all down and one of them spat in my face. I was then punched by another and a scuffle broke out. "I slipped over and on the ground one of them kicked me in the head twice and knocked me out.' He added that after that, he has no recollection of what happened, but recalls 'iron bars being swung on lengths of rope'.
'Luckily there were still enough people around who came to my aid and they ran back to their vehicles and drove off at speed. Mr Lane said the group had been 'harassing' them throughout the drag hunt and were 'spraying the hounds with citronella spray' and he had remonstrated with them when the scuffle broke out. He was taken to the Great Western Hospital in Swindon and treated for concussion and several broken teeth. 'Lots of people videoed what happened, and it is quite disconcerting to see yourself being knocked out on film.'
Police have now launched a major investigating into the incident, which happened near the village of Everleigh in Wiltshire as the meet closed, and are trying to identify those responsible. Mr Lane was taken to the Great Western Hospital in Swindon where he was treated for concussion and several broken teeth. A spokeswoman for Wiltshire Police said: 'The Tedworth Hunt had been out on a drag hunt and according to the hunt, a group of up to a dozen people - both men and women - wearing balaclavas had been harassing the hunt throughout the day. 'The protesters had left the scene by the time police arrived. 'We can confirm that a 39-year-old man from the Marlborough area who is involved with the hunt was assaulted and needed treatment at Great Western Hospital.
'The man was knocked to the ground and received injuries to the head and back and was briefly unconscious. Police officers gave him first aid until an ambulance arrived. 'We are gathering evidence from witnesses, including video and still images recorded by Tedworth Hunt supporters.' Police said they are treating the case as a serious incident of ABH and potential public disorder. Inspector Paul Longden, of Wiltshire Police, said: 'Whilst we have no issue with people lawfully protesting, this was a totally unacceptable assault involving a group of men and women wearing balaclavas.
'We are making every effort to find and bring to justice the people who inflicted these injuries.' The incident is the latest in a long line of violent confrontations between hunt saboteurs and hunts, with both sides claiming the other to be the more violent. Tim Bonner, campaign director for the Countryside Alliance, said the incident showed that saboteurs needed to 'unmask'. 'This was a particularly nasty and cowardly attack by people who hoped by wearing face coverings they would avoid prosecution,' he said.
'The number of people involved in saboteur activities is far fewer than in the past, however we are concerned that the extremists who remain are increasingly resorting to violence. 'There have been a number of incidents over the past few years involving assaults on hunt staff and supporters by people who have masked their identities. 'We are particularly worried about the increasing tendency to violence by those wearing balaclavas and face coverings in a bid to escape the law. 'We call upon the police to use their powers, wherever possible, to unmask people who wear face coverings to hunt meets before there is violence.' Mr Lane has been advised to rest for at least a week following the attack.