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Last Updated: Saturday, 3 November 2007, 14:12 GMT
Hunters mark start of the season
Hunts people claim there has been a surge of interest in the sport
One of the country's biggest hunts has been out in force on the first official day of the hunting season.

The Duke of Beaufort Hunt met on the Badminton estate, in Gloucestershire.

Members claimed that far from killing off the tradition, the Hunting Act has seen a surge in interest as hunts have exploited loopholes in the legislation.

Hunting foxes with hounds was outlawed in February 2005. But it is still legal to use dogs to flush out animals to be shot or killed by a bird of prey.

Hunts can also use techniques such as drag hunting, where dogs follow a trail laid in advance by a runner or rider dragging a lure.

Nearly 2,000 supporters gathered at Worcester Lodge, in Didmarton, to cheer off the hunt in the bright sunshine.

Many taking part claimed they were now winning the argument for repealing the act.

Hunting is a natural method. Foxes hunt and expected to be hunted themselves
Jo Aldridge, hunt spokeswoman

Jo Aldridge, spokeswoman for the hunt, said the ban meant foxes often experienced long and painful deaths.

"Without question the sport remains as popular as ever. It has really brought the whole community together, they really want to keep the tradition and structure of the hunt and to keep their hounds alive.

"The biggest loser in the ban has been the fox. Using a gun means there is a risk of wounding and it could take weeks for the fox to die.

"There's no longer a clean kill. Hunting is a natural method. Foxes hunt and expected to be hunted themselves."

Tory MP Anne Widdecombe said on Thursday that there was a "widespread ignoring" of the hunting ban and that monitors, who film hunts, should be licensed.

But the Countryside Alliance hit back insisting if anyone had evidence of illegal hunting they should pass it on to the police and claimed many complaints that were passed on proved to be unfounded.

The Beaufort Hunt is one of the biggest in Britain, and the Prince of Wales, his sons William and Harry and the Princess Royal have all ridden with the hounds in the past.


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