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Riders and hounds head out across county for Boxing Day hunts

PUBLISHED: 16:44 26 December 2015 | UPDATED: 16:59 26 December 2015

The West Norfolk Foxhounds Boxing Day hunt at Raynham Hall led by master of the hunt Charles Carter. Picture: Ian Burt

The West Norfolk Foxhounds Boxing Day hunt at Raynham Hall led by master of the hunt Charles Carter. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant

Thousands joined riders, horses and their hounds on a warm Boxing Day morning as they headed out across the countryside for the traditional hunts.

Ministerial criticism

The sports minister has suggested parliament has “better things to be concerned with” than fulfilling the government’s pledge to hold a vote on repealing the Hunting Act.

Tracey Crouch branded fox hunting a “pursuit from the past” that should be “consigned to history”.

The activity was banned in England and Wales by the Labour government in 2004.

The Conservative Party’s 2015 general election manifesto promised to “give Parliament the opportunity to repeal the Hunting Act on a free vote, with a government bill in government time”.

An attempt to relax the law was abandoned earlier this year after the SNP signalled they would join Labour and Tory opponents in the division lobbies, rather than abstaining because the change would not affect Scotland.

Ms Crouch is a patron of the Conservatives Against Fox Hunting group, known as Blue Fox, and in a statement issued through it she 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.”

With their tails wagging and the sound of the hunting horn ringing in their ears the dogs set off to follow trails over fields and through woods.

With the Conservatives’ promise to have a free vote on the Hunting Act, which banned the hunting of foxes, the sport has been in the public eye.

A large crowd watched the West Norfolk Fox Hounds get under way at Raynham Hall, West Raynham, near Fakenham, with many bringing their own dogs to enjoy a festive stroll.

Charles Carter, master of the hunt, was leading the Boxing Day hunt for the final time in Norfolk ahead of a move to Yorkshire.

He said: “I think when you consider that there are 258 registered packs of hounds out across the country today with more than 250,000 members of the public, huntsmen and huntswomen gathering to mark occasions like this it shows the rural community, not only here in East Anglia but also nationally, supports the tradition which is going to be here for many years to come.”

He added that he hoped the Hunting Act would be repealed in the future.

Well over 1,000 spectators packed into Bungay town centre to watch as the Waveney Harriers made their way down Earsham Street before their Boxing Day meet.

Stewards walked among the crowds shaking collection buckets with proceeds going to the East Coast Hospice in Gorleston.

Around 30 riders took part in the procession through the town, accompanied by hounds, and they made two loops around the block before stopping to let spectators inspect the horses.

Tizzy Craggs, joint hunt secretary at Waveney Harriers, said: “We restrict who takes part in the procession to people who know their horses well to keep things safe.

“The crowds are amazing. I think every year they get bigger. There were people right up St Mary’s Street and Trinity Street.

“There are more people coming year on year because the majority of sensible thinking people realise the hunting ban brought in by the Labour government was nothing to do with animal welfare and actually to do with class warfare.

She added: “It is really cheering for us to feel this support from people.”

A group of around ten “antis” stood with banners which had statements opposing hunting on them.

The Dunston Harriers, which has its kennels at Wacton, near Long Stratton, had around 20 riders turnout for the ride with 500 of all ages at Wymondham Market Place to see them off.

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