WITH pressure mounting on the Government to repeal the seven-year-old hunting ban, record numbers of riders took to the countryside on Monday to take part in traditional Boxing Day hunts.
More than 300 hunts took place around the country, with scores of people in Somerset riding out through Wiveliscombe, Castle Cary, Crewkerne and Ilminster, with many claiming taking part in hunt events is still proving very popular despite the ban.
Master of the Chipstable Hunt, William Roffe-Sylvester, said he was delighted to see so many in the Square in Wiveliscombe for their hunt.
He added: “We had more riders and it was the most people I’ve seen since the ban started. We hunt within the law and the support is greater than ever – people seem to like it more now. There is no damage to the wildlife and the day is very family orientated.”
Chipstable Hunt secretary Kate Harris said the ride had 37 mounted horses, adding: “Hundreds were out watching so we had a really good time and it was a really good turnout for what we stand for. The number of mounted horses was slightly down on last year but any space was taken up by more people watching.
“We try our best not to affect the traffic or annoy people during the hunt so we lay the trail carefully.”
Former chairman of the Quantock Staghounds, Anthony Trollop-Bellew, said he believed there is still a groundswell of public support for hunting.
He said: “I believe it was very good and for that many people to turn up across the county has got to be good news.
“It is good to see that a lot of people still support the hunts.”
Despite the claims of an increased turnout at hunt meets, Louise Robertson, of the League Against Cruel Sports, said the campaign group was sceptical about the popularity of hunting.
She said: “Boxing Day is all about a big spotlight for people hunting and the figures should be taken with a pinch of salt.
“I think people want to be more involved now but only because the sport doesn’t involve chasing a wild animal to exhaustion and people revelling in watching it being ripped open by hounds.
“We didn’t have any reported problems and we didn’t expect people to be breaking the law as it was all about putting a positive spin on the day in what is a sport with dwindling numbers.
"Now that the ban is in place we are focusing our attentions on enforcing the law rather than protesting."
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