Hunt rides again as season kicks off

THE familiar sight of red-coated riders and scores of horses filled the Suffolk skyline yesterday for the traditional start of the ancient winter hunt season.

THE familiar sight of red-coated riders and scores of horses filled the Suffolk skyline yesterday for the traditional start of the ancient winter hunt season.

Fresh from the shocking scenes when pro-hunt campaigners stormed the House of Commons, Suffolk supporters returned to the more typical grassroots of the sport for the long-standing Thurlow Hunt.

Dozens of foxhounds from the Thurlow Hunt kennels belonging to millionaire Edmund Vestey took part in the popular meeting - which will now become a regular fixture in the local area until March.

Mr Vestey, whose estate in Great Thurlow, near Haverhill, is home to the 300-year-old hunt, said the turnout showed how determined the rural community were in saving the future of the age-old sport.

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“At the moment everything is at sixes and sevens and no one knows what is going on,” he added.

“But if there was any justice in the world, we would be able to continue for years to come.

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“Our hunt is going from strength to strength and I think people won't give up as there is a great deal of determination at the moment.”

After yesterday's traditional November 1 start, the Thurlow Hunt's winter season will now run two days a week until the end of January when it will be stepped up to three times before ending in March.

Mr Vestey added: “The hunt went very well and we had about 80 people taking part who all seemed to enjoy themselves.

“If they didn't enjoy it, then I am sure we wouldn't get so many people. I hope we will be able to carry on for many years to come.

“It is something we have done for centuries and it is a worthwhile way of controlling the fox population.

“We are governed by pretty strict regulations and we have been for many years.”

The winter season was officially launched across Suffolk and Essex with many hunts held over the weekend and this week.

Liz Mort, eastern regional director of Countryside Alliance, said: “The fact that these hunts keep going shows there will certainly be some kind of future.

“But we want backbench MPs to use common sense and look at the facts. “Anyone on either side, if they look at the issues properly, would see that hunting could be controlled under supervision or registration.

“Although it is not yet clear how this would work, it would probably mean hunts would have to apply for a licence and fulfil certain criteria or they would have their license revoked.

“These people should be thinking about animal welfare and also the fact that hundreds of thousands of working people would be stopped doing what they love to do.”

Although The House of Lords last week voted in favour of introducing licensed hunts rather than a full ban, Commons ministers have threatened to force the new legislation into the statute books using powers under the Parliament Act.

The issue is due to be debated in the lower chamber later this month .

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