FOX hunters saddling up for the start of the hunting season across the region are not confident the Conservative Government will lift the hunting ban.

Riders and followers are to set off on the first meets of the season this weekend six years after the Labour Government banned fox hunting.

Huntsmen and supporters though are not confident that the new Westminster set-up will rush to lift the Hunting Act 2004.

The Hurworth Hunt covers an area of North Yorkshire around Thirsk and Northallerton and its first meet is today. (oct 30) Ken Fox, joint master of the Hurworth Hunt, said the hounds would be following a scent trail as the hunt stays within the law.

He said: "I think repealing the Hunting Act is fairly low down on the Government’s priorities as it’s not a Conservative Government but a coalition one.

"I’m not sure when the matter will even be considered by the government and at present people are more concerned about these grave financial difficulties.

"Hunting is an English tradition and its close to the hearts of the country people and the Hurworth Hunt has thrived since the Hunting Act came in."

Hunts across the region are to set off today from the Durham South, near Durham, down to the North York and Ainsty Hunt, near to York.

Alice Barnard, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, said the scrapping of the hunting ban was still a hot topic.

She said: "We all know that the law doesn’t work.

"Repeal of the Hunting Act is still on the agenda, not least because hunt staff continue to live under the shadow of prosecution from this muddled and vindictive piece of legislation.

"The Government has pledged to bring forward a motion on a free vote enabling the House of Commons to express its view on the repeal of the Hunting Act.

"Until that time we will all play our role in securing hunting’s future, whether through lobbying Parliamentarians, putting the case for repeal to doubters, welcoming newcomers or paying subscriptions to hunts.

The most vital thing of all, however, which the hunting community hardly needs telling at this time of year: never forget that hunting is worth the fight."