HUNDREDS of people turned out to see traditional Boxing Day hunts today (Wednesday, December 26), as a Cabinet minister said there is no imminent prospect of a parliamentary vote on repealing the hunting ban.
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson appeared to rule out bringing the issue before the Commons next year in an interview with a national newspaper.
Mr Paterson, a keen supporter of country sports including hunting, said: “There’s only a point in having a vote if you’re going to win.
“At the moment, it would not be my proposal to bring forward a vote we were going to lose.
“It is our clear intention to have a free vote but we need to choose an appropriate moment.”
In Northallerton, North Yorkshire, hundreds of supporters lined the High Street to see the Hurworth Hunt.
Master of Foxhounds Ken Fox said: “It is disappointing for the hunting community that there will not be a repeal but we must keep within the law of the land.
“It is always great to see the support and welcome we get in Northallerton.”
Jacqueline Chappell and Jillian Robinson were dressed in traditional hunt costume and riding side-saddle in memory of Hurworth hunt veteran Anne Furness, who died last week.
An estimated 300 Boxing Day hunts gathered up and down the country for the busiest day of the season - despite the ban on hunting with dogs that was passed under Labour in 2005.
Campaigners say enforcing the restrictions wastes police time, and suggest some officers turn a blind eye to breaches of the law.
But shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh said there was no public support for ending the hunting ban.
“Most people back Labour’s ban on hunting wild animals with dogs and accept there is no place for animal cruelty in a civilised society,” she said.
The executive chairman of the Countryside Alliance, Sir Barney White-Spunner, said he believed the ban would eventually be lifted, although he accepted it was not an immediate priority for the Government.
He said: “We know when the act came in that it took a huge amount of parliamentary time, and we know that if you are going to go for repeal it would probably take another huge amount of time when the Government has other priorities.”