Hunting is ‘more diverse and younger than ever’ according to a poll released by rural campaigning group the Countryside Alliance.

According to the survey of registered hunts conducted by the organisation, 70 per cent of hunts say they have more women hunting and 54 per cent have more young people than they did ten years ago, while over 94 per cent of hunts had members in every age category.

But a simultanious survey from the League Against Cruel Sports also stated that opposition to hunting in the wider public remains high, with 85 per cent of those polled saying they were against it, the figure falling to 81 per cent in rural areas.

As the debate over hunting with dogs rumbles on, over 250 meets took place on Boxing Day including the Tanatside Hunt in Welshpool and the United Pack at Bishops Castle, with large turnouts across the country on what is traditionally the biggest day of the year in the hunting calendar.

The issue has remained controversial since the 2005 introduction of the Hunting Act, which outlawed the hunting of animals including foxes and deer with dogs, but Prime Minister Theresa May returned hunting to the headlines when she promised a free vote on the repealing of the ban as part of her general election manifesto in 2017, a commitment which now seems likely to be dropped after Mrs May failed to win a parlimentary majority.

The Countryside Alliance’s Chief Executive Tim Bonner commented: “It is clear that there has been a revival in hunt participation the last 10 years and that the make-up of hunt supporters has changed.

“The stereotype of the posh male hunter was never representative, but now it is actually misleading as the number of female subscribers and Masters running hunts is growing all the time.”

Chris Luffingham from the League Against Cruel Sports, said: “With 85 per cent of the public saying they do not want fox hunting made legal again, there has never been a better time to strengthen the Hunting Act and bring an end to the illegal persecution of wildlife still going on under the guise of ‘trail’ hunting

“The Boxing Day hunt parades are portrayed as the celebration of a great tradition with huge public support, but the truth is very different.

“There is nothing to celebrate in the chasing and killing of wildlife in the name of ‘sport’ and the polling figures have shown us, year after year, that the majority of the public clearly do not want hunting made legal again.”