Thousands of people lined the streets of Lewes to support the Boxing Day Hunt. 

Despite yesterday’s news that the ban on hunting with dogs is unlikely to be repealed next year, crowds cheered the scores of Southdown and Eridge Hunt riders who rode into the town.

Dozens of horses stood outside the White Hart Hotel in High Street for the meet at 11am, before heading out of the town onto the South Downs.

Hunts also met in Battle and Petworth, where there were about 1,000 people on the streets and 90 mounted.

A Countryside Alliance spokeswoman said support was unwavering across Sussex.

Executive chairman Barney White-Spunner said: “Today has been an extraordinary display of support for hunting right the way across the country.

“Thousands of people have turned out to support their local hunts and reject the pointless, prejudiced and wasteful Hunting Act, sending a clear message to the Government.”

The meets came as senior Conservatives admitted there is no immediate prospect of winning a Commons vote on making hunting legal again.

Hunting with dogs was outlawed in 2005, one of the most controversial acts of the Labour government.

Environment secretary Owen Paterson said hunt supporters must do more work to win around sceptical MPs.

Mr White-Spunner added: “They understand the difficulties of coalition government and the serious issues facing the nation, but this law is flawed and it has failed.

“Tackling the Hunting Act is a matter of trust between David Cameron, his Government and the countryside.”