Hunt ban can’t last – claim

RICHARD PARR Traditional Boxing Day hunts attracted record numbers in East Anglia yesterday as more claims were made that the law is an ass.


Traditional Boxing Day hunts attracted record numbers in East Anglia yesterday as more claims were made that the law is an ass.

At Fakenham, hundreds of supporters on foot heard a rallying call from Charles Carter, 23, one of the youngest masters in the country, to support a change in the current legislation.

Before riders of the West Norfolk Foxhounds set off from the racecourse, he said the law banning hunting with hounds was unenforceable and unworkable and would one day be repealed.

He urged everyone to support efforts to bring about a change on the law.

At Sennowe Park, Guist, Roger Bradbury, joint master of the North Norfolk Harriers, reckoned that there were more followers on foot than ever, including a tremendous number of young people. And he said: "This current Hunting Act needs repealing because it is a silly, unworkable law."

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Across the Norfolk-Suffolk boundary at Bungay, hundreds of spectators packed town centre streets to see off the Waveney Harriers.

Pete Harrison, from Bungay, echoed the sentiments of many spectators in voicing his support for the hunt.

"There are so many people here who believe that the law has made a farce out of this fantastic event and it needs changing," he said, as about 40 horses trotted by, along with the hounds.

"It's great that it still happens, but it feels like it's just a couple of steps away from being a bit farcical, and I'm here to support the tradition until it can return to the way it should be."

Across the country, more than 300,000 people are believed to have taken part in more than 300 hunts on what is traditionally the busiest day in the hunting calendar.

Lobby group the Countryside Alliance said the record turnout proved that the two-year-old ban was irrelevant, with hunting now more popular than ever before.

Spokeswoman Charlotte Fiander said "We think we've had a record turnout this year. Everyone is still going out to show their support. This ban just isn't working."

She added: "We are seeing people who have never hunted before going out, and that is certainly boosting the numbers. It just shows that the law needs to be changed."

In Gloucestershire, more than 2,000 people turned out for a meet of the Beaufort Hunt.

Spokesman Jo Aldridge said "There were more than 2,000 attending the hunt today, with around 150 of those on horseback."

She said foxes were being killed by the gun probably

in greater numbers than in the days when they would

be killed via the hunt.

The Vale of Aylesbury with Garth and South Berks Hunt had 3,000 people at its meet near Berkhamsted.

Huntsman Gerald Summner said: "Support like this so close to London shows that hunting isn't some sort of weird rural traditional that is dying out."

Countryside Alliance chief executive Simon Hart joined a crowd of 700 at the meet of the South Pemrokeshire Hunt.

He said: "This is the second Boxing Day since the Hunting Act came into force .

"Hunting has shown that it will not be broken by the ban. We have been able to keep hunts going because the eventual repeal of the Hunting Act is becoming inevitable.

"The Act creates problems for everyone from huntsmen to the police, and the sooner such a bad law is scrapped, the better."

The League Against Cruel Sports said it did not object to the Boxing Day hunts if they stayed within the law by either drag or trail-hunting.

The league revealed that

it had created its own prosecution unit to help step up attempts to crack down on illegal hunting.

The unit would use the civil and criminal law to control the behaviour of hunters who "believe they are a law unto themselves," it said.

The 2004 Act made hunting with dogs a criminal offence, although exercising hounds, chasing a scent trail and flushing out foxes to be shot are all still legal.

Loopholes in the law are continually being exploited, such as an exemption that allows the hunting of dogs with a bird of prey.