HUNDREDS of people turned out for the annual Boxing Day hunt in Tiverton yesterday.
Supporters cheered and clapped as more than 50 horses and riders travelled through the town centre with their hounds.
Led by hunt master Kelvin Thomas, the Tiverton Foxhounds group gathered at the Pannier Market, outside the Half Moon pub at 11am.
They enjoyed a glass of port and a post-Christmas catch-up before Tiverton and Honiton MP Neil Parish gave a speech to the crowd, where he reminded people that they were hunting within the law and that he hopes to return next year with a new amendment passed.
He said: “I’ve been coming for the last 5 or 6 years and there are more and more people coming every year.
“I brokered a meeting between the RSPCA and the countryside alliance to talk about an amendment where we would have up to eight dogs to flush the fox. It wasn’t exactly a meeting of minds between the two organisations but I am determined to bring that amendment about in the House of Commons because that will bring us in line with the Scottish hunting act.”
Kelvin Thomas said: “It’s always a big day for us and it’s fantastic to bring the hounds in to the town. Tiverton Foxhounds records can be traced back to about 1841.
“We are working within the current legislation and operating within the law and we intend to come back every year.”
The group made their way to Fore Street where they galloped through the town and into the countryside, while spectators lined the high street and cheered them on.
Across the country about a quarter of a million people showed up at one of the 250 hunts taking place nationally and it is traditionally the biggest meeting in the hunting calendar.
It is now almost a decade since the Hunting Act was passed, which outlawed the hunting of wild animals with hounds.
The act means hunts must not set out to deliberately chase animals.
Prior to today’s event, Countryside Alliance executive chairman, Barney White-Spunner, said:
“We have less than 18 months left in this parliament but the government is still to make good many of its promises to the countryside – not least the pledge of support to hunting.
“Hunting is a totemic issue and even a small improvement to the current situation would go a long way to persuading rural people that the government is in step with them.”
VIDEO: Boxing Day hunt in Tiverton: