Thousands of rural people participated in legal hunts across the country over the weekend in the first display of defiance against the ban since it came into force on Friday.

Over 270 hunts were out in force on Saturday morning, from the Tynedale to the Spooners and West Dartmoor, many accompanied by hundreds of followers.

While there was a strong police presence at many of the hunts, and some saboteurs also out to ‘monitor’ the hunts’ movements, there were few scuffles and no arrests for illegal hunting activities.

According to the Countryside Alliance, 91 foxes were killed on Saturday, all within the law, although some, the Alliance admitted, were unintentionally caught by hounds.

Attendance at the events was impressive. The Alliance reported record crowds, with 500,000 people turned out to either ride with or support hunts throughout England and Wales.

An estimated 3-4,000 people turned out at the meet of the Warwickshire Hunt which was held at Upton House, near Banbury. Some two hundred were mounted. The crowds gathered to listen to speeches made by local business men and women whose livelihoods will be directly affected by the ban and defiant words from the masters who were adamant that the law would be repealed.

Speaking from the Beaufort Hunt in Badminton, which was also attended by Labour MP Kate Hoey, Simon Hart, Chief Executive of the Countryside Alliance, said: ‘Today this defiant and determined response of hundreds of thousands of people has started the process of dismantling the Hunting Act.’

He added: ‘Legislation which is rejected by every single person it is meant to affect, and which can never properly be policed, simply cannot stand the test of time. This law cannot, and will not, work.’