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Last Updated: Monday, 27 December, 2004, 15:08 GMT
Turnout high at Christmas hunts
The post-Christmas hunt is a major event on the hunting calendar
Hunts are taking part across the North East and Cumbria in what could be the last post-Christmas hunt before a ban takes effect in 2005.

Turnout for the annual event in every region has been reported as high, with no significant protests.

Hunting with hounds is due to be banned in February, but challenges to the law could delay its introduction.

There are eight hunts taking place in Northumberland, two in County Durham and two in Cumbria.

Large turnout

The Countryside Alliance says more than 2,000 people were at the start of the Tynedale Hunt in Corbridge, Northumberland.

Spokesman Richard Dodd said: "There are normally about 1,000 to 1,500 on Boxing Day but this was remarkable.

"The mood was one of making sure this date is in our diary for next year. Whatever happens we will find a way of being here."

Mr Dodd said large numbers were reported at other hunts in the region including about 600 people at the South Durham Hunt, which meets in Prime Minister Tony Blair's Sedgefield constituency.

'Rigorously enforced'

The League Against Cruel Sports pointed to a new Mori poll they commissioned suggesting 72% of people believe hunt supporters "would be wrong to carry on hunting" when the ban became law.

The group's chief executive, Douglas Batchelor, said: "This poll clearly shows that the public would condemn those who break the law. The Hunting Act is a law like any other and will be rigorously enforced."

He urged the "self-declared law abiding hunt community" to respect the ban as agreed by Parliament.

Hunts are taking place in Northumberland at Otterburn, Wooler, Hexham, Morpeth, Stamfordham, Newton-on-the-Moor, Alnwick and Corbridge.

In County Durham, they are being held at Lanchester and Sedgefield, and in Cumbria at Carlisle and Welton.

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