Tally ho! Hunt supporters turn out in force

Tory plans for an open vote spur on Boxing Day hunters as Labour calls for renewed defence of foxes

Boxing Day is traditionally the biggest meet in the hunters' calendar, and so it proved yesterday as 300,000 braved icy conditions around the country to attend 300 hunts. Their aim? With an election imminent, to back Conservative plans to scupper the Hunting Act that they detest so much. The fox is back as an electoral issue.

In the market town of Corbridge, Northumberland, the joint master of the Tynedale Hunt, Frank Houghton-Brown, was fulminating as he set out yesterday. The target of his ire, the 2005 legislation, which outlawed hunting with hounds.

Mr Houghton-Brown explained: "The ban has not saved any foxes' lives and it has wasted 700 hours of Parliament time. It is simply not working, and is causing the police a massive headache. We now hunt an artificial trail but we still kill just as many foxes as we did before the ban, by legal means, because the farmers want them killing so they don't kill the lambs."

Labour is also determined to make fox hunting an issue all over again, a new front in its recent determination to portray David Cameron's front bench as a collection of out-of-touch public schoolboys. With the voters set to go to the polls within the next six months, class politics is back with a vengeance.

Mr Cameron, the Tory leader, who himself used to hunt, made the manifesto pledge to hold an open vote on hunting in Parliament after describing the ban as "unworkable". He said it "does not make sense".

Jill Grieve, spokeswoman for the Countryside Alliance, the countryside campaign group, said hunts are reporting an increase in subscriptions in line with the "momentum for repeal". She said it had record levels of support.

Explaining the appeal of the Christmas event, she said: "It's a family thing. A lot of meets would be out at a town square or a pub or a country house. It's a sociable thing and it's a nice spectacle to see the hunt come down the High Street."

She said that while she understood welfare concerns, the killing of the fox was just a means to an end, a reason for the farmer to give the hunt access to his land, and she accused Hilary Benn, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, who recently described the sport as "barbaric", as guilty of using "emotive language".

She added: "For most that follow the hunt on horseback, they don't see the kill. Really, the thrill is getting access to land you're not usually allowed on." The Hunting Act, she claimed, "was class warfare dressed up as an animal welfare measure – [Labour was] just hitting out at the toffs."

Under the law, foxes can be shot as a form of pest control, but those taking part in a hunt yesterday were not permitted to chase a fox. Instead, they created a false trail with a dead fox.

Mr Benn yesterday launched an online petition calling on the public to support the ban and prove to the Tories and pro-hunt groups that they are in the minority. The online campaign is supported by Star Trek actor Patrick Stewart – who has been tipped for a knighthood in the New Year's Honours list – along with television comedy favourite Tony Robinson.

The Countryside Alliance said research showed that 57 per cent of the public believe the Hunting Act is a failure. There have been nine prosecutions and three convictions since the ban was brought in.

Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
Colombia's James Rodriguez celebrates one of his goals during the FIFA World Cup 2014 round of 16 match between Colombia and Uruguay at the Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
News
news
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Antoine Griezmann has started two of France’s four games so far
sport
Life and Style
techYahoo Japan launches service to delete your files and email your relatives when you die
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary