Two sides hopes for hunting's big day
THE biggest day of hunting in East Anglia's history is being planned for todaywith thousands of people expected to turn out at the meetings.But campaigners opposed the sport warned that it would be the last season of hunting after the government pledged to resolve the issue next year.
THE biggest day of hunting in East Anglia's history is being planned for todaywith thousands of people expected to turn out at the meetings.
But campaigners opposed the sport warned that it would be the last season of hunting after the government pledged to resolve the issue next year.
Lawrie Payne, from the League Against Cruel Sports, said: "They may claim it is going to be their biggest hunt. Our claim is it will be their last."
Liz Mort, from the Countryside Alliance, said more than 350,000 people turned up to Boxing Day hunts across the country last year which was as traditional as turkey and presents at Christmas.
She added: "The hunts in East Anglia are proud of their way of life and the good they do for our countryside, wildlife, communities and the rural economy.
David Nunn, who is joint master of the Easton Harriers, which is holding a hunt at Saxtead Green, near Framlingham, said: "We, as countryside people, are going to show them we are not going to give up.
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"Five or six people on my yard are going to come and stand their ground on their horses in their hunting gear to say 'yes I support it'. People need to come out and be counted.
"It will be a big day and every hunt is looking to get as many people out as they can."
He added: "Last year there were about 500 people on foot going to the hunt and there was only one person there against hunting.
"I was hunting the Suffolk hunt recently and we had a lot of problems with hunting protesters. That happens when the weather is not too bad but they would rather be at home on Boxing Day eating and drinking and I think that shows their commitment."
James Buckle, master of the Essex and Suffolk foxhounds, said that the hunt had to be moved to Holbecks Park in Hadleigh this year as so many people wanted to participate.
"There were more than 600 people last year but to be honest we could do without anymore. I have no concerns whatsoever that hunting will be banned.
Thurlow Foxhounds are holding a meet at Great Thurlow Hall today and master of the hunt, Edmund Vestey, said he expected there to be more than 80 people on horseback and several hundred on foot.
James Aldous, master of the Suffolk hunt, which is holing its meet at Hawkstead Place Farm, near Bury St Edmunds, said he expected there would be about 350 people at the event with 75 on horses.
"The timetable in Parliament is such that we will have hunting next year. They have been trying to stop it but they haven't succeeded yet."
Essex Foxhounds will also hold a meet at Matching Green Village and De Burgh and North Essex Hare Hounds will be setting off from the Cock Inn at Henham.
The meeting of Waveney Harriers will start from Bungay Market Place and the nearby King's Head pub today but a website run by the League Against Cruel Sports has highlighted the meet and encouraged people to turn up and show their disapproval of the sport.
It is the only meet in Suffolk where opponents of hunting have been urged to gather by the League Against Cruel Sports.
Mr Payne, a spokesman for the organisation, said: "We have won the battle and it is just the final knocking down of the wall to go. We do not need to be there to demonstrate anymore as our voices have been heard loud and clear in the places where it matters."
"We have got the government on trust here and we are holding them on promises they have made to us.
Only 2% of people believe that foxhunting should be a Government priority, according to a poll released today.
An NOP poll commissioned by pro-hunting group the Countryside Alliance found that the NHS was considered the most important issue for the Government to tackle (46%).
The NHS was followed by asylum seekers (20%), international terrorism (20%) and universities (9%) in the poll of 1,000 people.
Countryside Alliance chief executive Simon Hart said: "It hardly needs emphasising but this poll shows what everyone, other than Labour backbenchers, knows - hunting is near the bottom of the public's list of priorities."
Protesters believe the Government is preparing to force legislation banning foxhunting on to the statute book, even though the issue was not mentioned in the Queen's Speech.
The hunting Bill was lost in the Lords in the last parliamentary session, leaving the way open for MPs to invoke the Parliament Acts to get it through.