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Huge crowds expected for Boxing Day hunts in Suffolk countryside

PUBLISHED: 08:00 26 December 2017 | UPDATED: 09:30 26 December 2017

Members of the Essex and Suffolk Hunt gather in Hadleigh on Boxing Day. Photo taken at 2016 event.   Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Members of the Essex and Suffolk Hunt gather in Hadleigh on Boxing Day. Photo taken at 2016 event. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Mark Bullimore Photography 2016

Hundreds of people are expected to turn out and watch Boxing Day hunts in the Suffolk countryside today.

Organisers of the Essex and Suffolk Hunt expect large crowds to gather in Hadleigh on Boxing Day. 

Picture: MARK BULLIMOREOrganisers of the Essex and Suffolk Hunt expect large crowds to gather in Hadleigh on Boxing Day. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Masters of pursuits in Hadleigh and Bury St Edmunds are preparing to kick off their hunts this morning – and are anticipating large crowds.

The events coincide with reports that Theresa May will reportedly desert her general election manifesto pledge to give MPs a free vote on whether to overturn the fox hunting ban in a move that could risk infuriating supporters in rural communities.

The Prime Minister will announce plans to abandon the vote, which would decide the future of the Hunting Act, in early 2018 according to the Sunday Times.

Downing Street sources were quick to quash the report as pure speculation but bosses said there is no vote that could change the current policy on fox hunting in this session of Parliament, which ends in 2019.

The Essex and Suffolk Hunt launches their Boxing Day 2016 pursuit with a speech made by a master. 

Picture: MARK BULLIMOREThe Essex and Suffolk Hunt launches their Boxing Day 2016 pursuit with a speech made by a master. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Last night, Suffolk Hunt secretary Gary Tate said members are looking forward to their event, being hosted near Bury St Edmunds from 11am.

He said: “It’s good to be part of a tradition I think and we’re expecting quite a lot of people to be there.

“On Boxing Day I think it’s a nice day out for people, it’s traditional in a beautiful part of the countryside.”

A ban on using dogs to hunt wild mammals in England and Wales came into force when the Hunting Act was passed in 2004 – but the law does not cover using the pack to flush them out.

Participants use a bird of prey to kill the foxes once they are flushed out, a method that is still within the law.

James Buckle, senior master for the Essex and Suffolk Hunt, said they are expecting to have a large crowd attending, of around 1,500 to 2,000 people.

He added: “We’re one of the biggest hunts in the region and we’ll have about 60 to 70 people on horses.”

More than a decade after the 2004 Hunting Act was passed, 250,000 people still regularly turn out to support it.

But new figures released by the League Against Cruel Sports suggest 81% of people in rural areas oppose fox hunting.

Director of campaigns Chris Luffingham said: “With the vast majority of people in the East of England saying they do not want fox hunting made legal again, there has never been a better time to strengthen the Hunting Act and bring an end to the illegal hunting still going on under the guise of ‘trail’ hunting.”

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