Two hunts in the North West faced opposition from crowds of demonstrators, but were left with nothing to chase. One was thwarted by the legacy of foot and mouth and the other by the weather.
Around 100 people gathered at Lach Dennis, near Middlewich, to protest against the Cheshire Forest Hunt. However, the overnight freeze meant conditions underfoot were treacherous and the hunt had to be abandoned.
The famous old Holcombe Hunt was out at Rivington, near Bolton, but had to be content with parading on horseback. George Dickinson, joint master of the hunt, said: ''Because of foot and mouth earlier this year the hounds have not been exercised regularly. We were concerned some of them may have been a bit unruly, so we decided against a hunt today.''
Meanwhile, the League Against Cruel Sports has reported Cheshire Forest Hunt to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) for an alleged breach of foot and mouth regulations. It claims the breach took place at Alvanley in Cheshire last week. Hunt officials have strongly denied any wrongdoing. Alex Park, joint master of the hunt, said: ''We have complied entirely with regulations set down by DEFRA. We file a report after each hunt and they have had no problems with us. If there have been any breaches then it would have come from the saboteurs going on farmland without disinfecting themselves. We were able to hunt on Christmas Eve, but the conditions were too bad under foot on Boxing Day.''
Janet Smart, a member of the League Against Cruel Sports said: ''I was heartened by the turnout at Lach Dennis and we are now looking to Tony Blair to keep his promise and ban hunting. The idea that everyone in the countryside supports hunting is rubbish. I live in the countryside and I, along with many others, am totally opposed to it. I've seen a fox being ripped to pieces. It was like seeing a dog kicked to death outside your house and being unable to do something about it. I've had death threats and dead foxes dumped on my doorstep but we are determined to continue with the campaign.''
North West Hunt Saboteurs Association (07960 038 230, firstname.lastname@example.org)