THE laws may have changed but thousands of people are still expected to attend the first post-ban Boxing Day hunt in Lacock.

Supporters have vowed the traditional Avon Vale Hunt will take place strictly in accordance with new regulations.

Hunt saboteurs say they will be out in force to ensure it does.

New legislation came into effect in February and many believed it would signal the end of the popular hunt.

Hunting foxes with dogs was made illegal under the Hunting Act, but hounds can be used to follow a scent and to flush out a fox. The fox can then be killed by a bird of prey or shot.

Jonathon Seed, of the Avon Vale Hunt said: The people who come along will not notice any difference.

"The crowds normally numbered in the thousands and we have been conducting hunt activity since September.

"We have got more people coming out and more money coming in.

"This is because people do not like being told what they can and can't do by Government on issues that do not concern that Government.

"They are determined to do everything they can to see the hunt survive.

"Until this Government passes a law that says people cannot enjoy themselves in the countryside, I have no worries about our future."

Dawn Preston, a spokesman for the Hunt Saboteurs Association, said: "Despite the fact the Countryside Alliance will swear blind all hunts are still out hunting as normal, we know for a fact it is only a small minority of hunts that are attempting to break the law.

"The truth is many hunts are hunting legally, that is just following a trail or exercising hounds and as such we have no problem with such activity. Those that persist in breaking the law are being monitored by hunt saboteurs, and rest assured that we will catch their sordid activities on camera and pass the evidence to the police for prosecution."

North Wilts MP James Gray who usually rides in the hunt will not be taking part after an accident in August.

The Conservative MP ruptured tendons in his leg after he slipped on a footpath while walking at Tregardock, near Tintagel.

He said: "My tendons haven't quite recovered.

"I'm taking riding lessons but they are not strong enough to take part in the hunt on Monday.

"It will be different this year as they are taking part in hunting activity, within the law. I take the view that we must obey the law, however foolish it may be. My support for the hunt is strictly on that basis."

The hunt will meet in Lacock at 11am.