Hunt supporters buoyant as season begins

SCORES of pro-hunting supporters turned out for the first meetings of the season in Suffolk this weekend.

Naomi Gornall

SCORES of pro-hunting supporters turned out for the first meetings of the season in Suffolk this weekend.

The crowds were upbeat as they gathered for the meetings of the Suffolk Hunt near Bury St Edmunds and the Essex and Suffolk hunt at Wattisham, as they believe it could be the final season before the hunting act is repealed.

If a Conservative government is elected next year, they have promised to hold a free vote to give Parliament the opportunity to repeal the act, which was introduced in 2005 and banned hunting with dogs.

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Alice Barnard, regional director for the Countryside Alliance's Eastern region, said: “There was an excellent turnout, particularly because it was an exciting beginning to the season.

“Everyone knows the legislation is not working. I think once the act is repealed, hunting will continue to grow in population. The future of hunting is bright.

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“I think hunting unites the rural community. It is part of the fabric of the countryside and without it, it would be a poorer place.”

However members of the animal welfare charity, The League Against Cruel Sports, are determined to continue fighting against hunting and predict a rise in prosecutions this season.

Douglas Batchelor, chief executive of the charity, said: “The hunters are telling us on the one hand that hunting is more popular than ever, and yet on the other are calling for the hunting act to be repealed.

“If hunting is now so popular, why on earth would you bring back the cruelty? Their hypocrisy is desperate.”

The League Against Cruel Sports employs a former police officer to train and advise hunt observers who attend hunts and film their activities openly and undercover.

Mr Batchelor added: “We are absolutely determined that we will see a dramatic increase in prosecutions this season, and hunters should be very aware that we will stop at nothing to bring them to justice.”

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