At midnight tonight (17 February) the Hunting Act 2004 comes into force. While most hunts are meeting for a “last day” of real hunting today, they are also gearing up for a mass show of strength on Saturday, when hundreds of thousands of supporters are expected to turn out at meets across the country for the first day of hunting under Labour’s ban.
Virtually every Foxhound, Harrier, staghound, Beagle and Basset pack in England and Wales has arranged to meet, many in prominent or historic venues. Hound exercise, trailhunting and exempt hunting will follow — and run-ins with saboteurs seem likely.
The equestrian world is rallying in support: one Suffolk hunt is meeting at Tattersalls in Newmarket; several are meeting at eventing venues, such as Firle in East Sussex, while others have chosen to parade through towns.
Supporters will set out on Saturday to prove that people turning out in hunting gear with hounds doesn’t equal law-breaking.