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Last Updated: Saturday, 4 November 2006, 15:45 GMT
Fox hunting ban 'boosts support'
Fox hounds (generic)
Fox hounds are allowed to follow an artificial scent
Fox hunters meeting in Kent at the start of the new season say the ban which came into force last year has made the sport more popular than ever.

Hunting foxes with dogs is banned, but East Kent Foxhounds are staying within the law by following a fox-scent trail.

Supporters using a quad bike laid the trail before the East Kent set off on Saturday from Brabourne.

"With all the attention the ban brought, more people heard we were around," said spokesman Nick Onslow.

"Until 10 years ago, there were people in my village who didn't know that hunting happened in Kent.

"This new support is coming to us, very clearly wanting to take part."

If hunts are not chasing animals, then I don't mind how many people turn up
Mike Hobday, League Against Cruel Sports

Between 200 and 300 were at Saturday's meet on foot and 70 on horseback, which Mr Onslow said was not a record but was one the hunt's bigger gatherings.

The hunt has seen a 20% increase in subscriptions to its newsletter since the ban.

"We believe that the Hunting Act will be repealed and we want our pack of hounds to be ready to re-engage with the business of hunting foxes when that once again becomes legal," said Mr Onslow.

He said people were not joining up because the hounds no longer chased live foxes.

"We make it very clear that if they sign up they are giving their support to the restoration of foxhunting," he said.

'Inundated with orders'

A Kent company which recently started making hunt coats and other related items says it has been inundated.

"We were told that several companies closed before the ban, thinking it would all come to an end," said Kate Rust of Showing Time.

"We are inundated with orders and our team of elderly machinists and pattern cutters are being kept busy.

"Our supplier of the traditional cloth has kept us waiting because they have also been inundated."

The League Against Cruel Sports has warned hunters they face prosecution if they breach the ban.

"The league always urged hunts to convert to drag hunting, to follow and artificial scent," said spokesman Mike Hobday.

"If hunts have done this and are not chasing animals, then I don't mind how many people turn up.

"But extremists who are chasing animals risk ending up in court."


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