THE START of the hunting season will be marked by a series of throughout England and Wales, but not by hunt saboteurs by pro-hunt supporters and hunters themselves. The event will be turned into a major recruitment drive for volunteers willing to break an outright ban on the sport.
The first Saturday in November is usually marked by numerous foxhound packs meeting individually. But thousands of hunt followers are preparing to break with tradition by gathering at a dozen mass meets around the country on Nov 1.
Supporters will be given the opportunity to sign the Hunting Declaration, committing them to flouting any hunting ban in order to overwhelm the justice system and undermine the legislation. Pro-hunters are confident that mass flouting of any hunt ban will leave rural police forces too overstretched to contain the problem and many will simply not bother to enforce the ban due to lack of manpower and resources. Although some hunting will take place afterwards it is expected to be on a smaller scale than normal.
The rural rallies on Nov 1 - billed as Declaration Day - are being organised by the Countryside Alliance and are expected to attract hunters as well as non-hunters who feel that a hunting ban would infringe civil liberties.
"This event is an opportunity for people who hunt or support hunting to say where they are prepared to draw the line," said Simon Hart, the alliance's chief executive designate.
"It's a powerful message being sent when law-abiding people say that on this occasion they feel they would have no option but to flout this law.