Boxing Day meet numbers swell again

  • On 26 December hundreds of towns and villages up and down the country were flooded by record crowds out to support their local hunts at their traditional Boxing Day meets.

    More than 250 hunts met across England and Wales as the Countryside Alliance announced that there had been 10,000 days of legal hunting, and no prosecutions of huntsmen, since the ban came into force.

    Even the League Against Cruel Sports accepted that there appeared to be record support for hunting, insisting that they were delighted to see so many enjoying the freedom to participate in hunting activities.

    “Overall the impression we get is that turnout is high. What’s more difficult to judge is the reason for that,” said LACS spokesman Mike Hobday.

    However, the reason was easy to judge for those out supporting their local hunts. One attendee at the Worcestershire Hunt meet in Droitwich explained that she had thought that with the hunt ban in place, the Boxing Day meet would never happen again.

    “I’m not a follower, but I know that hunting is part of the countryside, and trying to just get rid of hunts was a cheap shot. I was so pleased to see the meet advertised, and I intend to support the hunt at this meet for many years to come,” she explained.

    There was little evidence of any anti-hunters on Boxing Day, but there are still allegations of illegal hunting being made against hunts. Not one hunt has been prosecuted under the new legislation, and this has brought accusations of a “soft approach” to the new law from many of those opposed to hunting, resulting in pressure on the police to take proactive steps.

    According to The Times, the Chief Constable responsible for country-wide policing of the Hunting Act, Nigel Yeo, has indicated to the Home Office that the police could benefit from greater access to private land. However, he also pointed out that it would be a very serious step and that “this country takes privacy very seriously.”

    Any suggestions of tightening up of the legislation have been taken lightly by hunters. Darren Hughes, of the Countryside Alliance, said: “Hunts around the country have excellent working relationships with their local police, and the police themselves acknowledge that it is much more important for them to maintain their relationships with the rural communities than to waste time policing the ambiguous Hunting Act.”

    He mirrored the view of hundreds of thousands of hunt supporters around the country in saying that “the record support for hunting shows the resolve and determination to continue in the face of bad law until the Hunting Act is either repealed or amended.”

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