Hundreds turn out to support the hunt

Norfolk's hunting set claim strong support has helped them outfox MPs and stay in the saddle despite efforts to ban bloodsports.Nearly four years since the Hunting Act was passed, an estimated 300 Boxing Day fixtures took place across England, Wales and Scotland.

Norfolk's hunting set claim strong support has helped them outfox MPs and stay in the saddle despite efforts to ban bloodsports.

Nearly four years since the Hunting Act was passed, an estimated 300 Boxing Day fixtures took place across England, Wales and Scotland.

One of the largest in East Anglia was the West Norfolk Foxhounds meet at Fakenham Racecourse, where hundreds of supporters gathered in the sunshine to see riders and hounds set off.

Joint master and huntsman Charles Carter said: "We're very pleased with the turnout but we still have huge support and we've got more riders here than usual. It's a regular occurrence and we're going to keep coming back year after year."


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Anti-hunt campaigners claim opposition to the killing of foxes hares and deer in organised chases is as fierce as ever.

But more than 7,700 people have backed a new petition calling for the repeal of the Hunting Act and the Countryside Alliance claims numbers are growing.

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Launched last week, it invites people to scrap the "confusing, unnecessary and divisive" Act, which came into force on February 18, 2005.

Most hunts use false trails - a scent of the quarry laid down artificially. An already dead fox is often the reward for hounds at a hunt's end. But a number will use the Act's exemptions.

Up to 50 hunts will use the "bird of prey" exemption, which allows the flushing out of a fox by hounds for a bird of prey. Many of the hunts now have their own eagle owl or golden eagle.

Hunt saboteurs are calling for the Hunting Act to be strengthened, claiming animals are still being killed by hunts.

But Countryside Alliance spokesman Tim Bonner said: "We believe that the evidence of the last four years is that the Hunting Act has just failed in every possible term.

"It does no good at all for animals' welfare, is a huge cost of police time and puts innocent people at risk of prison."

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