by Countryside Alliance

Every year hunts are welcomed by around a quarter of a million supporters who gather in town squares, outside pubs and in fields surrounding stately homes to welcome hounds on Boxing Day, with this year likely to be no exception. At some meets next Thursday, every possible viewing point will be taken with people spilling off pavements into the street with their cameras at the ready, waiting to capture the spectacle that is an integral part of their annual Christmas festivities.

Iconic images of hounds and children on ponies sporting tinsel in their manes and bridles, all supported by huge crowds including friends, family and members of the public, will be shared around the world. Hunting scenes will grace the pages of local and national newspaper, as well as footage appearing on regional news channels. 

The General Election may be behind us, perhaps allowing those who follow hounds to breathe a brief sign of relief that Labour's plans to "strengthen the Hunting Act" are not an immediate reality, however we must not become complacent. The next five years will be critical for the future of hunting. 

We need to grasp this opportunity, be proactive and put rural interests on the front foot, ensuring a proper understanding of our issues by parliamentarians and at all levels of government. Those opposed to hunting have already stated that they will be lobbying the government, not only to ensure the Act is not overturned, but to insist that it is scrutinised with a view to strengthening it. 

Boxing Day meets offer hunts the perfect opportunity to showcase their legal hunting activities to the public. We need to give the world the chance to understand what makes us all so passionate about following hounds. Now is the time for the hunting community to work together to ensure we tell our story and let the general public, politicians and hunting's opponents know why our way of life should be free from attack.

Not everyone will have the confidence to arrange a meeting with their new MP or get into a debate about hunting, however, anyone with a social media account can play their part over the festive season by posting positive images from meets they attend and supporting those hunts that are using these platforms to spread the word about the great work they do.

All of us attending a meet next Thursday can play our part by welcoming the many thousands who turn out to support their local packs and showing the rest of the world that our activities still have a place in modern society. 

Find your nearest meet on our map here.

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