VOTE: Are you in favour of the ban on hunting being repealed?

REPEAL of the 2004 Hunting Act which bans hunting with dogs is unlikely before the next general election, a master of the Chiddingfold, Leconfield and Cowdray Hunt has conceded.

Robin Muir, one of four joint masters of the Petworth-based hunt, made his controversial comment despite renewed calls from other hunts and the Countryside Alliance for an early lifting of the ban, after evidence of growing public support and a fresh commitment from a government minister. More than 300,000 people turned out to watch Boxing Day meets of hunts across the country. The Chiddingfold, Leconfield and Cowdray itself experienced a record crowd with 90 mounted followers and spectator numbers in Petworth Park estimated at between 1,500 and 2,000. The Christmas Eve meet attracted an unprecedented 110 riders.

After another well-supported meet at the Spread Eagle Hotel in Midhurst on Monday, Mr Muir said he believed it was ‘unrealistic’ to think the government was going to make time in the calendar of the current parliament to re-open the debate on hunting.

“One has to take one’s hunting cap off for a second and recognise there are more pressing things to be dealt with, such as the economy. It is unrealistic to think the government is going to spend a lot of time re-debating the hunting issue.

“I still very much believe the act should be repealed, but in practical terms I cannot see that happening possibly until after the next general election.”

His observations come in the wake of a renewed pledge made just before Christmas by junior environment minister, Jim Paice, during a visit to hunt kennels near Peterborough.

Mr Paice said: “The current law simply doesn’t work. I personally am in favour of hunting with dogs – and the coalition agreement clearly states that we will have a free vote on whether to repeal the act.”