Despite expected protests from smick rights groups, the annual Boxing Day hunt of spides through Belfast’s streets is set to attract thousands of participants and spectators to the city.
Donning their famous red coats and black riding hats the mounted huntsmen and women will try to pick up the scent of a smicker and then give chase to the frightened beast through the alleyways and back gardens of Belfast in the hope of getting close enough to their prey to be able to set the hounds on him.
Although campaigners for the protection of smicks describe the annual tradition as both inhuman and cruel, it has proven much less controversial amongst the wider population than fox hunting and the general consensus is that it is a socially acceptable compromise that allows the hunters to continue to enjoy chasing and ripping to shreds wild beasts that many regard as vermin whilst leaving the foxes alone.
One hunter we spoke to explained why he looks forward every year to the Boxing Day spide hunt in Belfast: “Although we have smicks all over the place, I’m from Tyrone myself, no place has smicks like Belfast does. It’s a virtual smick paradise, completely overrun with the species. As well as allowing hunters to enjoy a fine day out it also somewhat helps to cull the population of spides in the city, which has gotten completely out of hand in recent decades. A good day’s spide hunting with hundreds of us taking part can see over a hundred smickers chased down and culled.”