“We will not give up” was the clear message from hunt representatives who attended a series of regional meetings last weekend. Colossal fields have turned out at many meets since the ban was passed, and a particularly big turnout is urged for 19 February — the first Saturday of the ban on traditional forms of hunting.
Masters, hunt staff and secretaries from all areas in England and Wales (except from the north and Wessex, who are meeting this weekend) discussed ways of continuing within the law and of “testing” the new law at the briefings held by the Council of Hunting Associations (CHA).
Some are thinking in terms of a five-year plan — the length of time many consider we must wait for a Conservative government — while others are planning only 12 months ahead.
Alastair Jackson, director of the Masters of Foxhounds Association, told those at the south-east meeting: “Hunts need to provide legal activities for humans and hounds, to finance kennels, retain horses, hounds and hunt staff and keep communities together. We need to maintain as many hunts as we can as legal bodies.”
On the Saturday after the ban — 19 February — hunts plan to meet openly, with hounds and as many mounted and foot followers as possible, and set off across country with the field master. Some will have laid a quarry-based scent. Whether some packs break the law after moving off will be for police to determine.
The CHA stresses it is not promoting illegal action, and urges individuals to take responsibility for themselves, and masters for hunt staff.
“We recommend that Foxhound packs carry out legal activities, such as hunting a fox-based scent or exercising hounds. Packs whose quarry is hare can flush with two dogs or hunt artificial scent or rabbits. Hunts need to use their imagination so that supporters are engaged.”