Hunts enjoyed huge Boxing Day support sharpened, perhaps, by the prospect of repeal of the Hunting Act becoming an election issue.
Five thousand people braved the weather for the Heythrop meet in Chipping Norton and 3,500 joined the Waveney Harriers in Bungay.
But one of the largest crowds was at the Avon Vale, at Lacock near Chippenham.
Master Jonathon Seed said: “There were at least 6,000 people at the meet, a great show of support for us going into a year when the Hunting Act could well be repealed.”
And the Old Surrey Burstow and West Kent welcomed 2,000 to Chiddingstone Castle — its new Boxing Day venue after becoming too popular for the village of Penshurst.
The Labour Party also chose Boxing Day to relaunch its Back the Ban campaign to rally support for the Hunting Act, with the backing of actors Tony Robinson, newly-knighted Sir Patrick Stewart and Jenny Seagrove.
Conservative Party leader David Cameron has vowed to allow MPs a free vote on whether the much-maligned act should stand if his party comes to power in this year’s general election.
Environment Secretary Hilary Benn wrote in The Independent: “If you think the Tories have changed, their view on fox-hunting with dogs makes it absolutely clear their priorities haven’t.”
Countryside Alliance spokesman Tim Bonner told H&H: “This is nothing new and is just an attempt by Labour to grab the attention of their fringe voters and try to get them to vote for them.
“Mr Benn does not even try to defend the Hunting Act as a good piece of legislation.”
H&H Editor Lucy Higginson commented: “I feel Labour may score an own goal with this offensive.
“How better to stir hunting supporters into action through Vote-OK and other initiatives come the general election than by reminding us of what vitriolic, anti-hunting twaddle we have suffered under the current government?”
This article was first published in Horse & Hound (7 January, ’10)