HUNDREDS turned out today to watch two Hampshire hunts stage their traditional Boxing Day meets.
The New Forest Hounds gathered outside the Balmer Lawn Hotel in Brockenhurst - one of the villages badly hit by the recent flooding - despite fears that the ground would be waterlogged.
It comes on the day that a Cabinet minister signalled that there was no imminent prospect of a repeal on the hunting ban.
Hunting with dogs was outlawed seven years ago, which means hunts across the UK now have to chase an artificial scent laid in advance.
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson appeared to rule out bringing the issue before the Commons next year.
“There's only a point having a vote if you're going to win.
“At the moment, it would not be my proposal to bring forward a vote we were going to lose,” he said.
A spokesman for the New Forest Hounds agreed that it would not be worthwhile bringing any repeal in front of Parliament at this time.
“I think that the government should wait to bring forward that sort of legislation until a number of other serious problems have been solved. To bring it forward at the present time would clearly not be a very sensible thing to do,” said Dr Graham Ferris.
Hampshire hunts operate within the law but others - including one in Oxfordshire last week - have been prosecuted for flouting the regulations.
A League Against Cruel Sports spokesman said: “Many hunts in England and Wales show a total disregard for the law and for wildlife.
“They want the Hunting Act repealed so they can travel back to a time when hunting wild animals with dogs and ripping them apart was legal.”
But hunt supporters say hunting with dogs was a vital pest control service. They also claim that alternative methods such as shooting foxes can result in a slow, agonising death unless the animal is killed outright.