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Defiant hunters

"Record numbers of hunt supporters gathered at Boxing Day events across the country in defiance of Labour's ban on hunting foxes with hounds," reports the Daily Mail. The Countryside Alliance estimated a total of 314 UK hunts out in the UK on Boxing Day, and suggested that 300,000 riders and supporters combined love of the sport with a keen contempt for the government's ban, passed in 2004, enacted in 2005, which was expected to kill hunting.

The 2005 law allows drag hunts – riders and hounds pursuing a scented rag – and trail hunts – following a scent trail. If the dogs happen upon a fox and kill it, that also is permissible under law. Foxes may be driven out of hiding by dogs and shot - as long as no more than two hounds are involved. These exceptions allow for some creativity in the field, but the rank oppression of the law remains.

There is enormous support for hunting in the countryside from those who ride to hounds and those who follow the hunts on foot. They are thrilled to be out in the open air chasing an animal often more elusive than the Holy Grail while enjoying country, horses and camaraderie. There is also the small matter that untold thousands – horse breeders, trainers, farriers, vets, riding teachers, tack shop owners, and farmers – depend on the sport for their livelihood.

Members of Parliament hotly debated the question of the hounds’ cruelty to the fox before passing the bill outlawing hunting with hounds. Their negligent approach to the English language allowed loopholes. The police, who may be presumed to have more pressing matters on their hands, have found it difficult to follow the action in so many fields, despite being armed with video cameras. To date, the ban has not succeeded.

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