Voters take to streets over fox hunts

Some have framed this confrontation as a class war, arguing that fox-hunting is the exclusive domain of the rich and.

Some have framed this confrontation as a class war, arguing that fox-hunting is the exclusive domain of the rich and privileged, who saddle up in their traditional hunting coats, riding through the countryside with a pack of hounds seeking some fox blood for fun.

This British tradition dates back to the 16th century in England and is still entrenched in rural Britain, despite the ban. Scotland outlawed it in 2002, although it is still legal in Northern Ireland.

Last years Boxing Day hunts – a traditional annual affair – had at least 250,000 participants, said the Countryside Alliance, a lobby group with 100,000 members, which promotes and protects rural life.

Under the Hunting Act 2004, it is illegal to hunt wild mammals – including foxes, hares, deer and mink – with dogs. But drag hunts, where hounds follow an artificial trail with no quarry, are allowed.

But campaigners say traditional hunts still go on, and foxes continue to get killed. The Masters of Foxhounds Association lists 328 registered foxhound packs – a trained breed of fox-hunting dogs that number between 20 and 30 couples in a pack – in England and Wales.

Hunt advocates argue that the tradition is necessary for wildlife management and pest control. And using dogs to manage wild animals is more ethical than alternatives such as shooting and snaring.

But polls have consistently showed that the majority in the country are against hunting. A survey by pollster ORB done last week showed 64 per cent of the 2,095 people polled across Britain want the ban kept, and only 11 per cent were pro-hunting.

Retired teacher Sue Howe, 61, was at the protest march. Its medieval, cruel, barbaric. Tradition is no excuse for anything that causes suffering, so people have to speak out when animals cant speak on their own behalf.

Since the law was passed, fewer than 400 people have been convicted, based on statistics between 2005 and 2014 from the Ministry of Justice. Of these, only 24 were involved with registered drag hunts. The rest were prosecuted for poaching or other casual hunting activities.

Hunt saboteurs are gearing up for a bigger battle should the law be repealed. The Hunt Saboteurs Association has been clashing with hunters since 1963, after the group made it its mandate to disrupt hunts.

Activists, or Sabs as they are known, use tactics such as sounding horns to misdirect hounds, laying false trails and covering scents.

I think it will get a lot nastier and it will get a lot more dangerous for everybody, said engineer John Wright, 48, who goes around north Wales thwarting hunts.

Passions will get a lot higher if it becomes legal again.