UK

Boxing Day Fox Hunt 2015: Hunts Gather For Annual Outing Amid Growing Opposition To Repeal Act

26/12/2015 10:44 GMT | Updated 26/12/2015 10:59 GMT

Fox hunting groups are currently gathering for the annual Boxing Day meet, amid growing parliamentary opposition from Conservative MPs to repeal the ban on hunting foxes with packs of hounds.

Expected to attract around 250,000 riders and supporters, the outings are usually portrayed by the Countryside Alliance as a symbol of mass protest against the Hunting Act which came into force in 2005.

Meanwhile Parliament has said it has "better things to be concerned with" than the government's pledge to hold a vote on repealing the controversial Act.

Sports Minister Tracey Crouch said fox hunting was a "pursuit from the past" and should be "consigned to history".

fox hunting

Animal rights campaigners protesting against government plans to bring back fox hunting, ahead of the vote in the House of Commons on July 14, 2015 outside House of Parliament in London, England

Crouch, a patron of the Conservatives Against Fox Hunting group, known as Blue Fox, said: "Fox hunting is a pursuit from the past and like the overwhelming majority of the population I believe that is where it should stay, consigned to history.

"I believe that the legislation as it stands today requires better enforcement, and Parliament has better things to be concerned with than bringing back hunting foxes with hounds."

Whilst on social media users have taken to the hashtag #KeepTheBan to protest against repealing the act, with some people describing the sport as "barbaric":

The support for the remainder of the ban on Twitter was echoed by a A League Against Cruel Sports survey, conducted by Ipsos MORI.

It found 83% of its 2,036 respondents thought the ban should remain in place - 84% in rural areas and 82% in urban areas.

Director of campaigns Tom Quinn said opposition to legalising fox hunting with dogs was "higher than it has ever been".

"We believe this reflects that as a nation the vast majority of us are repulsed at the thought of killing animals for sport," he said.

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But Tim Bonner, of the Countryside Alliance, said the Hunting Act was "in tatters".

In its Boxing Day message, the alliance said as many as 83% of hunts have the same number of members, or more, since the act came into force.

“It’s clear that the Hunting Act is in tatters. It was never about foxes or animal welfare but rather an attempt to eradicate hunts and the communities that surround them. Support for hunts is as strong as ever and the Hunting Act is mostly being used to prosecute poaching offences.

The last case to be brought under the Hunting Act collapsed earlier this month. Those opposed to hunting are getting more and more desperate and resorting to ever more drastic measures to try to secure a conviction,” Bonner said.