Day of hunting well supported
THOUSANDS of hunt supporters were out in force at Boxing Day meets across the region - even though some were thwarted by snow and icy temperatures.Many supporters called for the Hunting Act to be scrapped, following Conservative leader David Cameron's pledge of a free vote on the issue should his party be elected.
THOUSANDS of hunt supporters were out in force at Boxing Day meets across the region - even though some were thwarted by snow and icy temperatures.
Many supporters called for the Hunting Act to be scrapped, following Conservative leader David Cameron's pledge of a free vote on the issue should his party be elected.
And in a sign of the anti-hunting lobby's concern about the future of the ban on hunting, environment secretary Hilary Benn launched a campaign to build support for the 2004 act.
In Bungay, an estimated record crowd of 3,500 people lined the streets for the start of the Waveney Harriers' Boxing Day hunt.
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Spectators gave the 65 huntsmen and women a rousing reception as they moved off at 11.30am following a trail into Mettingham.
Dominic Parravani, joint master of Waveney Harriers, said: 'It was absolutely fantastic, really humbling, to see so many people out on the streets showing their support for hunting.'
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In Fakenham, the West Norfolk Hunt were unable to hunt because of the icy conditions. But more than 200 people turned out to show their support and meet friends.
Terry Lawton, 62, from Reepham, said: 'I am here in defiance of what Hilary Benn has said about hunting today.'
But, he said: 'I like to think it will be the last Boxing Day meet with the present restrictions.'
Supporter Sue Hamilton from Stanhoe, said: 'I think the more people that come out the better. There is still a good following for hunting - it has been a tradition for years and years.
'I don't think the Labour Party campaign will get very far.'
At Sennowe Park in Guist more than 150 people turned up to support the North Norfolk Harriers.
Although too icy for horses, the harriers still followed a trail on foot.
Joint master of the North Norfolk Harriers, Roger Bradbury said: 'I think there were probably more than usual there. We were very well supported. I think it is because it is a very traditional thing. It gets people out of their houses.'
In Wymondham, hundreds lined the market place to see the Dunston Harriers on Saturday.
Fifteen horses and riders and a pack of hounds entered the Market Place at about 11am to a round of applause, but that was as far as they got after organisers decided not to go any further because of the icy and slippery conditions.
Stephen Vincent, chairman of the Dunston Harriers, said it was 'wonderful' to see so many people supporting the group.
'We have been coming to the Market Place in Wymondham for as long as I can remember and we are very pleased that the town council invite us to come every year.'
He said: 'We have had more people wanting to join since the so-called ban. There is a very strong feeling that it is a bad law. It is not really enforceable and it can cause problems, but we have been hunting within the law,' he said.
In support of the Hunting Act, Mr Benn said: 'Like the vast majority of people, I think that the barbaric act of letting dogs tear foxes to pieces shouldn't return to our countryside.'