Huge turnout for Boxing Day meets
Over 300,000 people are estimated to have supported 314 hunts, which met on the third Boxing Day since the Hunting Act came into force. Fine weather across the country saw record crowds at many meets.
Simon Hart, Chief Executive of the Countryside Alliance, was with the South Pembrokeshire Hunt and 1000 supporters at the Cresselly Arms, Creswell Quay. He said: "It’s strange to say, but the mood is as optimistic as at any time in the last ten years. Hunting has taken the worst that could be thrown at it and survived. It is hard work at the moment, and the law puts innocent people at risk of prosecution, but there is an absolute determination in the hunting community to see the Hunting Act repealed. With an opposition commitment for a Bill to repeal the ban and growing support from MPs and candidates of all parties there is every reason to believe that the Act is on borrowed time."
Di Pyper, Master of the Puckeridge Hunt, which was supported by 600 people at Brent Pelham in Hertfordshire said: "A lot of people who are here today would not have even have thought about hunting a few years ago. Boxing Day has become an opportunity to show support for us. The Hunting Act has failed and the campaign against hunting has backfired."
Jonathan Seed, Master of the Avon Vale Hunt, which met at Lacock, near Chippenham said: "We meet here every Boxing Day and the crowd today is as big as I have ever known it. There must be nearly 6,000 people. If you want to know about this Government’s attitude towards the countryside you don’t have to go far from here. They spent 700 hours trying to ban us and just before Christmas we heard that Lacock Post Office is being closed down. What does that say about the Labour’s priorities?"
Polly Portwin, Master of the Bicester Hunt which met at Winslow in Buckinghamshire, where 2300 people and 170 riders gathered, said: "It’s great to see such a lot of support from the countryside, but also from the towns. I think most people have a live and let live attitude and they don’t like pointless and prejudiced laws like the Hunting Act. "
Sam Butler, Master of the Warwickshire Hunt, which met at Upton House near Banbury said: "We have got a good crowd of over a thousand people here and there is a real feeling of optimism. This Government is never going to admit that the Hunting Act has failed, but everyone knows it has. I am sure that it can’t last for much longer."
The Exmoor Foxhounds met at Kentisbury in Devon where 400 people on foot and 50 riders joined Huntsman Tony Wright, who had his conviction under the Hunting Act overturned earlier this month. He said: "Our best Christmas present came early this year when the courts threw out my conviction and accepted that we had been hunting legally. We are looking forward now and hopefully it won’t be too long before all the confusion and stupidity of the Hunting Act is removed."
Stephen Lambert, Chairman of the Masters of Foxhounds Association, was with the Heythrop Hunt in Chipping Norton. "We had a great crowd this morning", he said, "At least 5000 people packed the town and cheered the Master when he suggested that Gordon Brown should be here to see the level of support for hunting. The last few years have been full of uncertainty, but I think we can start to look forward with real confidence thanks to the hard work of hunts and their supporters."