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Will Britain's fox-hunting ban last?

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Britain's Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron, hinted during this year's election campaign that he might repeal the ban on fox-hunting introduced by the previous Labour government. Six years on how is the ban viewed in the English countryside?

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Animal rights campaigners in Britain say that 60 per cent of hunts continue to kill foxes, in defiance of the ban. Huntsmen deny this.

The Countryside Alliance, a pro-hunting organisation, is hoping that the newly elected Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition will overturn the ban.

When it came into operation Britain was evenly divided between town and country. Rural communities felt affronted by a Labour government they saw as denying them the right to an ancient tradition while city-dwellers saw the hunt as a barbaric sport.

But, when a pair of one-year old twins were attacked by a fox in the London borough of Hackney earlier this year, foxes began losing popularity among in urban areas, too.

While campaigning to be elected, Cameron hinted that he would consider a repeal of the ban. But that may not be so easy now that he is part of a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats who support the ban.

The League Against Cruel Sports has long spearheaded opposition to fox hunting. Although they were victorious in getting the ban enacted, they continue their fight against renegade hunts they say flout the law by chasing foxes to the death.

“We are very clear that there are a significant number of hunts who are breaking the law,” according to the organisation's spokesperson Steve Taylor.

While hunts are forbidden to kill foxes, they are allowed to drag hunt - laying down the scent of a fox which their hounds then follow. This has allowed them to retain the same number of hounds as before the ban.

There had been concern that hounds would no longer be needed and shot en masse. There were also fears of job losses for people employed directly by hunts. But neither have happened. To the contrary, drag hunting is more popular than ever.

"Hunting is the new cool. All the publicity around the ban made people curious," according to Gerald Sumner, a huntsmen with the Vale of Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire and South Berkshire Hunt.

Despite this year's dip in the fox's popularity, the wily creature looks set to remain on the right side of the hunting law for several years to come.
 

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