Hunt supporters vow to overturn ban

HUNT supporters turned out in force yesterday to urge the Government to overturn the controversial ban on hunting.The traditional Boxing Day hunts attracted thousands of supporters in Suffolk and Essex, with many waving placards stating 'Keep Hunting.

By Richard Smith

HUNT supporters turned out in force yesterday to urge the Government to overturn the controversial ban on hunting.

The traditional Boxing Day hunts attracted thousands of supporters in Suffolk and Essex, with many waving placards stating 'Keep Hunting. Scrap the Act.'

Nationally, an estimated 320,000 people took part in 314 hunts. The Countryside Alliance said the “record” UK turnout showed the two-year-old ban on the blood sport was irrelevant and called for its repeal.


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Liz Mort, eastern Regional Director of the Countryside Alliance, said: “When the ban came into force our first priority was to maintain the infrastructure of hunting until the law is changed.

“The case for repeal is unanswerable, and will be made consistently over the coming year.

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“Hunting will outlast the Government that tried to ban it, and it is inevitable that a future parliament will seek a resolution to the hunting issue based on principle, not prejudice.”

Locally, the crowds have grown in recent years and at Hadleigh more than 1,000 people gathered to watch the Essex and Suffolk Foxhounds.

This was an increase of several hundred spectators compared with the period before the Hunt Act came into force in February 2005.

Police officers were also on duty across the region, although the day largely passed without incident - apart from an arrest at the Essex Farmers and Union Hunt near Chelmsford.

James Buckle, joint master of the Essex and Suffolk Foxhounds, told supporters at Holbeck's Field: “None of us are happy with the current state of affairs.

“It is embarrassing for us, any saboteurs and for the police and it has got to be repealed.

“The House of Lords has given us leave for an appeal under the Human Rights Act which will happen in the spring.

“The best option is to get rid of this Government. Thank you all for coming - we will carry on hunting as long as you carry on supporting us.”

Essex Farmers and Union Hunt held its annual meeting at Galleywood Common in front of hundreds of people.

The event saw a “hunt saboteur” arrested for allegedly carrying an offensive weapon.

Ms Mort said: “There was some anti-hunt activity at the Essex Farmers and Union Hunt, but this seems to be the only place in the region affected.

“One woman - a saboteur or hunt monitor as I think they are now called - got arrested.”

Police confirmed that a person had been arrested at the meet.

Nursery nurse Vicky West was riding her horse, Baby, for the fourth year running.

The 20-year-old, from Steeple Bumpstead, said she was opposed to the hunting ban and added: “It should not be up to the people in parliament to decide whether a country sport which is hundreds of years old can happen or not.

“They do not know anything about it and should not be telling people what's right and what's not.”

Elsewhere, thousands of people lined the streets of Bungay to see the Waveney Harriers gather outside their traditional Boxing Day meeting point at the King's Head Hotel.

Lavinia Wells, joint master of the Waveney Harriers, said: “Everyone is working very hard to get the ban overturned and we will keep hunting within the law until then.

“There's so much support and it's wonderful seeing so many people, including more children than previous years, here.”

In West Suffolk, the Thurlow Hunt met at Thurlow Hall, near Haverhill.

Miranda Collins, 21, from Kirtling, said: “I have been hunting ever since I was four years old and I think everyone needs to keep supporting it.

''But there is also a new young generation who are supporting and enjoying it. The hunts are now more widely advertised since the ban and people realise how important it is to keep up this wonderful tradition.”

Sally Cross, 74, of Ixworth, added: “I think the Thurlow Hunt is so special because of all the tradition.

“People don't want to see their countryside changing, they want it kept like it had always been. There is no way this would ever change or die out - in fact there are more people here than ever.”

Only one huntsman has been convicted of an offence since the Act was passed. More than 300 hunts have been staged using exemptions within the Hunting Act, including shooting, using birds of prey and laying artificial trails.

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