Queen guitarist Brian May has told noisy protesters outside Parliament they had scored "a victory" in keeping the foxhunting ban after the Government postponed a vote on changes to the law.
The controversial vote, scheduled for Wednesday, would have brought the law south of the border in line with that in Scotland, where an unlimited number of dogs can be used to "flush out" a fox to be shot, compared with just two in England and Wales.
The news the Government had postponed the vote, after the Scottish National Party (SNP) decided to break with their normal practice of not voting on England-only matters and join Labour in opposing the proposed changes to the Hunting Act, came just before the planned protest.
People dressed as foxes and others wearing cardboard fox heads were among those had gathered for a "Team Fox" rally of animal welfare groups determined to keep the hunting ban intact.
"This is a very, very important day for our wild animals, and it's a very, very important day for our democracy. We have had an incredibly unexpected, incredibly good result today," May told the rally.
"The Government has backed down," he said, to loud cheers from crowd.
He said his first reaction to the news the vote was being postponed was disappointment.
The animal rights campaigner said he wanted to see the debate and see the opponents of changes to the laws on hunting - seen as a relaxation of the rules - win the vote, but the Government had withdrawn it because "they know they couldn't win it".
He criticised the Government for proceeding with a series of "underhand tricks", and said: "We only got to this vote because they knew they couldn't win the repeal (of the Hunting Act) vote, this was a dirty tactic in itself."
Asked if the SNP had saved English foxes, he said: "I believe probably we could have won this vote without the SNP because we have a large number of Tory MPs, very conscionable people, on our side, but the SNP came in and made it a walkover.
"This is a win. We have not yet won the war, there's no room for complacency, but this is a win. Today and tomorrow foxes will not be pushed back into persecution in the dark ages as they were before the Hunting Act," he said.
Angus Robertson, leader of the SNP in Westminster, joined May for the rally, where he told the crowd: "My message to David Cameron is, you're a coward.
"The reason you pulled the vote is that you knew you would lose. What you need to understand is that people throughout the length and breadth of the UK have come together as never before to campaign on an issue that really matters."
He told the cheering crowd that his colleagues in the Scottish Government were going to look at reforming legislation north of the border, and would work with others across the UK to back progressive causes.Reuse content