SUPPORT for hunting in Suffolk and Essex is at an all-time high, according to a local hunt master.

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Joint master of Essex & Suffolk Hunt Liz Reid, who led a group of around 50 riders who set off from Holbecks Park in Hadleigh yesterday morning on a traditional Boxing Day hunt, said in spite of the ban on hunting with dogs that was introduced in 2005, membership was burgeoning and the sport was becoming increasingly popular with young people.

Meanwhile, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson – a keen supporter of country sports – has hinted that he is unlikely to bring the issue to the Commons next year in an attempt to repeal the ban because of fears it would not get enough support from MPs.

But Ms Reid told the EADT: “We are getting a lot of support, particularly from younger people, which is very encouraging because they are the future of hunting.

“Membership is strong and support for hunting is stronger than ever so while we understand that it may not be immediate, we are still hopeful that we can get this ban repealed because we believe that it is a bad law that is totally unnecessary.”

A crowd of several hundred turned out to support the Hadleigh hunt and police had to put a traffic order in place around Holbecks Park to cope with the volume of vehicles attending.

Although the Act has outlawed hunting with dogs so most now follow a pre-set trail known as ‘drag’ hunting, it does allow the use of a bird of prey to flush out wild mammals. But the hunt is not allowed to pursue the prey after it has been flushed out, or let its dogs kill the prey.

Hunt campaigners say enforcing the restrictions wastes police time, but officers attending the Hadleigh event said they were present in a “neutral” capacity to ensure the rights of all parties were upheld.

Sergeant Jon Eaves said: “Essex & Suffolk Hunt uses a bird of prey which tends to be a bit more emotive than the idea of a straightforward drag hunt.

“But the Hadleigh event is a well-attended family and community event and we only very occasionally see hunt monitors or protesters. People have an equal right to protest and to carry out their sport so we are here to make sure the public have confidence that we are doing our best to uphold the law.”

Spectator Sue Attridge, from Kersey, said she supported the hunt because it was traditional, adding: “I don’t like the thought of foxes being killed but at least it is a quick death. This is a very agricultural community and you can see from the number of people who have turned out today that there is a lot of support for hunting in this county.”

The RSPCA, which recently brought a private prosecution against members of the Heythrop Hunt in Oxfordshire with legal costs of around £326,000, is working with wildlife groups to encourage politicians to ensure the Act remains in force.

Last night Joe Duckworth, chief executive of the League Against Cruel Sports, described the Hunting Act as “a successful and effective piece of wildlife legislation that works” and under which there have been more than 230 convictions.

Mr Duckworth said: “As recent prosecutions such as the Heythrop case make clear, many hunts in England and Wales show a total disregard for the law and for our wildlife. They want the Hunting Act repealed so they can to travel back to a time where hunting wild animals with dogs and ripping them apart was legal.

“The majority of British people – 76% – do not want the clocks turned back to an age of legal cruelty.”

11 comments

  • I left out some opinion in my first comment as this paper appears to be a strong supporter of hunting and used to censor anything anti-hunting; attitudes must be changing! It is my opinion that hunters are so well connected through their wealth (yes, the wealthy still rule the world .... especially the UK) that they have little to fear from the law. A small fine and a slap on the wrist is of little deterrence. It is about time we saw the ones at the top, the Hunt Masters, being made responsible for any criminal offences made by their hunts and seeing them sent to prison. There must be a few tough prisoners who perhaps like animals!

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    Johnthebap

    Friday, December 28, 2012

  • When the Hunting Bill was being proposed we were told that if hunters could not chase and kill animals then it would mean the end of hunting and the death of the dogs plus many workers made redundant. Now we have drag hunting, where no animals are killed ... and the result is? MORE SUPPORT according to the hunters themselves. So, the same or more hunting, the same or more jobs. Only difference is no killing. Sounds ideal to me. If the Tories want to commit electoral suicide then they should get a Bill in Parliament to return killing back on the agenda.

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    Johnthebap

    Thursday, December 27, 2012

  • I would have no objection to hunting if there was any evidence that it controls the number of foxes. We lived in the heart of hunting country (Northamtonshireleicestershire border) for several years and I have never seen so many foxes roaming free, perhaps proving the 'antis' claim that the hunts breed foxes to hunt. Drag hunting is a good alternative, the hounds get to follow the scent and the horses and riders enjoy a good cross country chase - isn't that what its all about? Surely there must be an effective and humane method of culling foxes?

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    caroline jacobs

    Thursday, December 27, 2012

  • The point is not whether a tiny part of the country wants to hunt, the point is that the democratic will of this country is that hunting be banned. If the hunters are so arrogant that they will carry on regardless, then it says everything we need to know about their character. Getting enjoyment from inflicting pain on an animal is barbaric. If infliciting pain was not the primary enjoyment, they would be happy to drag hunt. Any hunter who breaks the law is a criminal. Why do they think one law applies to them and not everyone else?

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    Tom

    Thursday, December 27, 2012

  • Hangers on and others go to watch because it is a spectacle, albeit an unpleasant one. Thank goodness the practice of tearing animals to pieces with dogs is now illegal.

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    JOHN BURLS

    Thursday, December 27, 2012

  • "SUPPORT for hunting ...is at an all-time high" Well they would say that, wouldn't they! Derr.

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    Sarky Sage

    Thursday, December 27, 2012

  • John Burls, I thought you were kind to animals .... now you say unkind things about the intelligence of dung beetles! But you hit the nail on the head.

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    Johnthebap

    Friday, December 28, 2012

  • Here here Johnthebap, couldn't agree more. This obscene practice of killing for pleasure gives the red coated a chance to show they are upper class and wealthy. Little do they realise that they are as dim as dung beetles, albeit wealthy ones!!

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    JOHN BURLS

    Friday, December 28, 2012

  • "...police had to put a traffic order in place around Holbecks Park to cope with the volume of vehicles attending." How fantastic! Shows how popular the events really are! Just imagine if traditional hunting was made legal again, it would surely be great to see hundreds of people from other communities descending on the village in lovely clean 4 wheel drive vehicles, damaging the verges, polluting the air and water, screwing up parking for locals and so on. Hurrah for this sort of thing! We need greater dependency on fossil fuels and these hunts are a good means of helping there. Well done sirs! Hats off to you! Tally Ho!

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    Joe Chapman

    Thursday, December 27, 2012

  • But then, they claim their barbaric "fun" isn't cruel, so I don't think we should give any credence to their claims about "strong support". Especially when there isn't even a majority amongst Tory MPs for repeal of the ban on their blood-lust.

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    beerlover

    Thursday, December 27, 2012

  • I think the headline is slightly misleading. Hunt support may be stronger ever (which I doubt) but most sensible people can't really see the "fun" of chasing a fox and tearing it apart with dogs. I suggest these people buy an xbox 360 and Modern Warfare games to satisfy their blood lust.

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    Red Robbo

    Thursday, December 27, 2012

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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