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Biggest ever turnout for Boxing Day hunts

HUNTING ENTHUSIASTS took to fields and forests on the year's biggest hunting day on Boxing Day in a show of determination to maintain the tradition despite the ban on the age-old custom of killing foxes with packs of dogs.

Organisers laid trails with the smell of foxes to avoid falling foul of the ban imposed nearly two years ago on hunts in England and Wales.

The Countryside Alliance said that last Tuesday's hunt was the biggest ever on Boxing Day, with some 320,000 people attending the hunts in mostly mild, dry weather.

‘Hunting has shown that it will not be broken by the ban,’ said the Alliance's chief executive, Simon Hart, who joined a crowd of 700 at the South Pembrokeshire hunt in Wales.

However, protesters also took to the countryside, saying the police should be doing more to enforce the legislation. ‘We don't have a problem with hunts meeting to either drag or trail hunt, as long as they do not violate the Hunting Act,’ a spokeswoman for the League Against Cruel Sports said.

The Countryside Alliance said two hunts had re-formed while other meets had been joined by former supporters.

Across the UK, hunt organisers said their meetings had been well attended. The Vale of Aylesbury with Garth and South Berks hunt had 3,000 at its meeting in Buckinghamshire. ‘Support like this so close to London shows that hunting isn't some sort of weird rural tradition that is dying out,’
said huntsman Gerald Sumner.Essex Police arrested a 23-year-old man on suspicion of carrying an offensive weapon at the Essex Farmers and Union Hunt; the man was later released without charge. It was not confirmed whether the man was a hunt follower or a saboteur.