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Traditional hunts in Leicestershire and Rutland attract support

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Large crowds turned out in chilly, bright sunshine to watch three of Leicestershire and Rutland's hunts in action at their traditional New Year's Day meets.

Hundreds of people in Melton, Uppingham and Woodhouse Eaves gave up the chance of a lie-in to see almost 200 riders at meets of the Belvoir, Cottesmore and Quorn hunts respectively.

The Fernie Hunt does not meet on New Year's Day.

A call to repeal the 2005 Hunting Act by Belvoir Hunt joint master Tom Kingston drew a cheer from many of the hundreds gathered at Melton's Play Close – a park maintained by Melton Town Estate, hosting its 31st New Year's Day meet.

Mr Kingston said: "Melton is a town steeped in fox hunting tradition, the people of Melton like to see us here and always give us such a warm welcome.

"There are always hundreds here. The Belvoir Hunt stays within the law. I hope the Government repeals the Hunting Act and concentrates on more important matters."

Last week, environment minister Owen Patterson said there was no chance of an imminent review of the law which outlaws the hunting of foxes by dogs.

Josephine Thorpe, 78, of Melton, said: "I come here every year. It's as traditional as pork pie and toast on Christmas morning."

Joyce Parr, in her 70s, of Ab Kettleby, who was there to watch granddaughter Hannah, 23, ride out with the hunt, said: "Hunting is in the family. It's a tradition which ought to be maintained."

Jayne Parlby, of Melton, was there with son Andrew and four-year-old granddaughter Brooke. She said: "Brooke likes to see the horses and the dogs and we like to support it. It gets bigger every year."

Shirley Harris, of Melton, said: "This is what England is all about. It's a family tradition and we come here every year."

More than 80 children, aged five to 14, and their parents took part in the Quorn Hunt's meet in Woodhouse Eaves.

Huntsman Peter Collins said: "This is a very important day to us in the hunting calendar.

"It's a big thing to have all these children out with us, as they are the next generation."

Joint master Kim Turner said: "We have been so blessed with the weather and the farmers have been really good to let us go, considering the terrible wet conditions we have had."

The Cottesmore Hunt's meet in Uppingham saw 45 riders and a crowd of about 300 in Market Place.

Hunt spokeswoman Claire Bell said: "The Market Place was packed, there must have been 300 people there. We went trail hunting in Stoke Wood, Stockerston and Wardley."

Hunts can use scented trails for the hounds to follow.

Hounds can also flush out foxes which birds of prey are let loose on.

A recent survey of almost 2,000 people carried out for animal welfare charities showed three in four people in Great Britain believed hunting foxes with dogs should not return.

RSPCA chief executive Gavin Grant said: "People do not want a return to animals being chased and torn apart for fun."

Traditional hunts in  Leicestershire and Rutland  attract support


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