Huge support for hunting groups

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HUNTING groups in the area received overwhelming support on Boxing Day this year.

The Cottesmore Hunt met in Cutts Close, Oakham, and the Fitzwilliam Hunt met in Peterborough, where members were greeted by hundreds of supporters.

The Fitzwilliam was visited by Minister for Agriculture and Food Jim Paice before Christmas to show his support.

The Hunting Act, banning hunting with dogs, came into force in 2005. Since then hunts, the Countryside Alliance and the Conservative Party have been calling for its abolition.

Mr Paice said: “The current law simply doesn’t work.

“I personally am in favour of hunting with dogs – and the Coalition Agreement clearly states that we will have a free vote on whether to repeal the act when there is time in the Parliamentary calendar to do so.”

The Fitzwilliam attracted 600 people who watched 40 dogs and 60 horses.

There were 80 riders on horses in Cutts Close, more than previous Boxing Day meets because the weather over the last couple of years had been icy.

Cottesmore Hunt secretary Clare Bell said: “There were huge crowds of people. We were delighted.

“The support for the Cottesmore in Rutland is incredible and we are very lucky to live in an area where hunting is still so well supported.

“There are still people who do not like hunting but in general the support for the Cottesmore is amazing.”

Since the ban police have not arrested anyone for breaking the law in the Rutland area.

Mrs Bell thinks a repeal of the law is inevitable.

She said: “The Conservatives promised that they would hold a vote but I am sure that in this economic climate they will not want to waste too much Parliamentary time on it.

“It is something that needs to be done, but only time will tell.”

The Countyside Alliance estimated 250,000 people would support more than 300 hunts across the country on Boxing Day, which is the biggest day in the hunting calendar.

Chief executive of the Countryside Alliance Alice Barnard said: “It is a point of pride for rural communities across Britain that, despite the prejudice and ignorance of some, hunting remains as strong as ever.”

The Cottesmore will meet again in Market Place, Uppingham, and The Fitzwilliam Hunt will meet at The Haycock Hotel in Wansford on Monday.