Hampshire campaigners have stepped up their bid to get the hunting ban scrapped, on the biggest day of the bloodsport season.

Organisers of the New Forest Hounds meet spoke out against the law yesterday, after dozens of keen hunters and hundreds more spectators joined the traditional Boxing Day event.

Their call came after hunting minister Jim Paice also called for the ban to be lifted.

Dr Graham Ferris, honorary secretary of the group, said attendance at this year’s event was “as I big as I can remember”. He added: “The numbers are going up, not just in the New Forest, but across the country. When there’s time available, the Government will hold a vote and I’m confident that we will win that vote.”

An estimated 250,000 people attended traditional Boxing Day meets across the UK yesterday – the seventh since hunting with dogs was outlawed by the previous Labour Government.

But the League Against Cruel Sports spoke out in favour of the ban, saying that public support for it has been “overwhelmingly high.”

In a poll commissioned by the charity, 69 per cent agreed the ban on hunting wild animals with dogs should remain.

Joe Duckworth, chief executive, said: “It comes as no surprise that the public has shown there is no appetite to waste parliamentary time on voting to repeal the Hunting Act.”