Fox hunting supporters hope for law repeal as season starts
Pro-fox hunting campaigners are hopeful that this season will be the last before it makes a comeback, if the Tories get back into power.
This weekend marks the start of the traditional hunting season – with meets taking place up and down the county.
Quorn Hunt makes its way to the first meet of the new season at Kirby Bellars, near Melton, yesterday
Around 370 people – 120 on horseback – gathered yesterday at the opening meet of the Quorn Hunt.
The group met at 11am at Kirby Bellars, near Melton, with many supporters dressed in traditional hunting attire.
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Some believe this might be the last season their hounds are only allowed to follow scent trails – rather than live animals.
Elsewhere, the Belvoir Hunt began today and a meet in Cottesmore is planned for Tuesday.
Despite the hopes of hunters, the League Against Cruel Sports said supporters were "kidding themselves" if they think the ban will be repealed.
Tory leader David Cameron has promised MPs a free vote on fox hunting, which was banned in 2004, should his party win next year's election.
Belvoir Hunt supporter Bambi Hornbuckle, who will be at today's meet, said: "Having a Conservative government in power will be a real boost for the people that want fox hunting to return.
"Not all of their members are for it, but many of them do want to see it back.
"If they were elected, at least there would be a vote and some hope that there will be a repeal.
"The ban has made the meet very different. We are always having to watch our backs and make sure the hounds don't go off chasing random foxes.
"It's so unjust. Foxes are vermin and hunting is the kindest way of getting rid of them.
"It's not just about that. It is a way of life for some people."
Rad Thomas, of the Quorn Hunt, said: "I'm excited over the prospect of the Conservatives coming in. Wildlife has suffered, the fox has suffered and we have suffered since the ban."
But Steve Taylor, head of campaigns and communication for the League Against Cruel Sports, said hunting had lost the support of the public. He said: "If they think fox hunting will return if the Tories come in then they are underestimating the effect of public opinion.
"The public is strongly in favour of a ban and David Cameron will not want to upset them after just being elected.
"There are still a few Tories who actually support the ban. It's bonkers for them to think it will happen just because the Conservatives might get elected. There are much more important things for pro-hunt supporters to concern themselves with, like the economy."
Edward Garnier, Tory Harborough MP and chairman of the Repeal Committee, said: "Bringing in the ban was very authoritarian of the Labour party and the law was not a good one. But it's not the first thing in our manifesto."