Postponed Boxing Day hunts affected by freezing weather

The hounds and members of the Albrighton Woodland Hunt gather before the start of their Boxing Day at Hagley Hall, near Bromsgrove The hounds were exercised and paraded near Hagley Hall, near Bromsgrove

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Hunt supporters across the country have taken part in what is traditionally the biggest date in the hunting diary.

The Boxing Day hunt was postponed as hunting does not take place on Sundays. The freezing weather saw some hunts cancelled or a parade held instead.

Hounds chased an artificial scent as fox hunting was outlawed in 2005.

The Countryside Alliance want the law repealed, saying it is unclear. However, the League Against Cruel Sports say many MPs want to keep it.

The coalition government said it would hold a free vote on the repeal of the act - but that is not expected to happen before 2012.

People gather to see hounds in Gloucestershire People gathered to see the hounds in Gloucestershire after the hunt was cancelled due to the weather

Around 300 hunts around the country went out with some of the biggest including the Beaufort Hunt and the Quorn Hunt.

Frank Houghton-Brown, joint master of the Tynedale Hunt, said the winter conditions had been a hindrance but supporters had nonetheless braved the weather.

"It's very treacherous underfoot; it's been snowing and we're expecting quite a bit more too but we'll ride down into the village and meet like we have done for a couple of hundred years," he said.

"There should be a lot of people watching who have all come down to see us, so that will be great, and depending on how much snow we get we'll try to go trail hunting afterwards but it may not be fit to do that.

"People turn out and love it so we keep going."

Hunting law 'hoo-ha'

Tracy Castle at the Heythrop Hunt in Chipping Norton said: "It's a really important day for us and we see the local community really showing their support.

Riders at the Haythrop Hunt Hunt supporters say people come from far afield to watch hunts take place

"We've got people from all walks of life here and they come from far afield to see the hunt meet and I think that's very typical."

Jill Grieve, from the Countryside Alliance, said the decision to continue the ban, despite Prime Minister David Cameron's personal commitment to ending it, was understandable because of other matters facing the country owing to the deficit.

Ms Grieve added that ministers needed to at least make clear what was legal and what was not under the existing act.

She added: "The hunting act is so bad that they thought it had been banned but it is so unclear.

"The people going out on horseback and the people who are involved, who think they are acting within the law, are under fear of finding themselves locked up in a police cell and are under threat of prosecution every time they go to work."

The League Against Cruel Sports said the law was a good one - it just needed hunts to follow it correctly.

Louise Robertson from the group said: "If hunts are thriving so well under the act, and they're getting so many supporters and are hunting legally within the confines of the law, then why is there such a big hoo-ha about repealing this act?"

Ms Robertson added that she did not know how many hunts had been affected by the weather, but the snow and freezing temperatures were "on the side of the fox".

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