A NATIONWIDE campaign to count the numbers of people prepared to become “criminals” if hunting with dogs is banned, was due to be launched in the Lake District today Friday, writes Countryside Reporter Ellis Butcher.

Thousands were expected at Rydal Showground near Ambleside for the start of Declaration Day, organised by the Countryside Alliance and the Council for Hunting Associations.

It will signal the start of 11 other demonstrations across England and Wales on what is historically the first day of the hunting season.

Visitors will be encouraged to sign a declaration which will commit them to civil disobedience if a hunting ban is enforced, which is likely to include continuing to fox hunt regardless of any ban.

Guests expected included Penrith and the Border MP David Maclean, Eskdale-based Edmund Porter of the Central Fell Packs Committee along with Sam Butler and Michael Markham of the Council for Hunting Associations, who were among those to draft the declaration.

The mass meet coincides with the beginning of the hunting season and is designed to be a defiant show of strength against the Hunting Bill, currently being debated in the House of Lords.

Tom Fell, the regional director of the Countryside Alliance in Cumbria, said: “Each and every mounted and fell pack of Cumbria - as well as representatives from all field sports in the county – will be visibly and vocally expressing their disgust at the politicians trying to force through prejudiced legislation.” Although many Lords are supportive of fox hunting continuing, but with regulations, it is expected that if they return an amended bill to the elected chamber, the Government would use the Parliament Act to force through one which bans hunting with dogs.

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