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Last Updated: Friday, 26 December, 2003, 14:06 GMT
Hunt groups' Boxing Day meet
Hunt in town street
If a hunting ban is passed it could be law in two years
Pro- and anti-hunt groups from across the South West have been gathering on the highest profile day of the year for the sport.

The last attempt to ban fox hunting was rejected by the House of Lords in the last parliamentary session and there was no mention of new legislation in the Queen's Speech in November.

However, both sides said on Boxing Day that they are convinced the government will vote in their favour.

Ministers have said the issue will be "resolved" soon.

The government hasn't got the taste for the fight
Guy Morlock,
Spooners and West Dartmoor Hunt,
Ivor Annetts, of the League Against Cruel Sports in the South West, said: "All of the Labour backbench MPs that we speak to have had private assurances from the government that this bill is going to be brought back and forced through into law by the Parliament Act.

"We're just lacking one thing: a public proclamation by the prime minister that he's actually going to do it."

However, Guy Morlock, master of the Spooners and West Dartmoor Hunt, which is based in Tavistock, said: "I think it's absolutely safe.

"The government hasn't got the taste for the fight they will have if they try and ban it, and I think they've realised that.

"If they wanted to ban it, they could have pushed that last bill through.

"I think they've realised it's totally unjustifiable, illiberal and they're not going to do it."

The government's last attempt to introduce legislation on hunting would have allowed it under a strict licensing system.

Ministers hoped it was enough of a compromise to attract the backing of the largely pro-hunting Lords and the mainly anti-hunting Commons.

But in the summer, the Commons voted to turn the bill into a wholesale ban.

That was rejected by the Lords, and the government ran out of parliamentary time.

The BBC's Sarah Mukherjee
"Hundreds of people turned up to see the huntsmen off"

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