Hunts resaddle on Boxing Day
FOUR out of five of Britains hunts will be back in the saddle in time for the traditional Boxing Day meet, claim pro-hunting campaigners.
Hunting resumed in most areas on Mon (Dec 17) after a 10-month ban to help prevent the spread of foot-and-mouth disease. But a ban remains in "at-risk" areas, including Cumbria, North Yorkshire and Northumberland.
The Countryside Alliance said more than 250 out of 312 hunts would have licences to resume hunting in time for the Boxing Day meets which usually attract up to 300,000 spectators. Simon Hart, director of the alliances Campaign for Hunting said: "Things are getting back to normal following foot-and-mouth."
An FWand Horse&Hound petition attracted 10,500 signatures from supporters earlier this year asking Tony Blair to "keep his hands off hunting". About 12,000 people descended on Edinburgh last Sunday (Dec 16) for a Scottish Countryside Alliance march protesting against plans to ban the pastime.
FW arable Farmer Focus contributor and former Scotland rugby hero, John Jeffrey, addressed the crowd, pleased to see so many prepared to support what he called "a common cause". Despite a large police presence, the march passed peacefully with no arrests. Some placards likened the governments rural policies to the ethnic cleansing of the countryside.
Harry Harvey, a supporter of the Cheshire Farmers Drag Hunt, said: "Who knows what the protest achieved, but I am glad to be supporting the countryside. I also fox hunt, because I believe it is an old country sport." *
But animal campaigner Lucy Wiltshire said marchers should be campaigning for more useful services in the countryside including better jobs for rural people, transportation and housing. "I dont want to see anybody unemployed, but everybody loses jobs. After all foxhunting will not save rural incomes."
The League Against Cruel Sports said hunt supporters were guilty of "wishful thinking" in their predictions for the Boxing Day meets. Far from mustering 300,000 supporters, hunts would be lucky to draw 10,000 people "to see dogs being set on British wildlife" said a spokeswoman.