A GOVERNMENT minister today marked the biggest day in the hunting season by calling for the ban on the bloodsport to be scrapped.

Hunting minister Jim Paice spoke out as an estimated 250,000 people prepared to attend meets staged by hunts across the UK, including the New Forest Hounds.

Today is the seventh Boxing Day since hunting with dogs was outlawed by the previous Labour government in 2005.

Hunting in Hampshire has continued, with groups training their dogs to follow a scent laid down by hand.

But Mr Paice, Minister of State for Agriculture and Food with responsibility for hunting, is calling for the ban to be lifted.

The Tory MP for South East Cambridgeshire said: “The current law simply doesn’t work.

“I’m favour of hunting with dogs and the Coalition Agreement clearly states that we’ll have a free vote on whether to repeal the Act.”

The Countryside Alliance said Mr Paice recently visited kennels in Peterborough to highlight what it described as the Government’s support for hunting.

Alice Barnard, the Alliance’s chief executive said: “It’s a point of pride for rural communities across Britain that despite the prejudice and ignorance of some, hunting remains as strong as ever.”

Two months ago it was revealed that no-one was prosecuted in Hampshire last year under the anti-foxhunting legislation.

Campaigners branded the Bill “a massive waste of police time” after it emerged that just 33 fines and 11 cautions were handed out across the UK in 2010.

But the RSPCA today said the ban was working well, with 73 per cent of prosecutions ending in convictions.

An RSPCA spokesman said a recent YouGov poll showed that nearly 80 per cent of the public believed hunting with dogs was outdated.

She added: “Despite dire predictions before it was introduced, many hunts have successfully adjusted to the Act, keeping their hounds and preserving rural jobs.

“Many will today be enjoying the traditional Boxing Day hunt in a legal, humane way without the barbaric chasing and killing of wild animals for sport.”

The New Forest Hounds are meeting at the Balmer Lawn Hotel in Brockenhurst at 10.30am today.