HOPES were high amongst hunt supporters when the Pendle Forest and Craven hounds held traditional "meet" in Gargrave on Monday - despite the fact that hunting with dogs it to be made a criminal offence in less than two months time.
Although the ban is due to come into force on February 18, the Countryside Alliance will go to the High Court in the next few days to seek and injunction to postpone the deadline until a full court hearing can be held - and the Government has announced it will not oppose the injunction.
This is not being interpreted as a sign of weakness, merely a reflection of Tony Blair's fear that the ban could lead to widespread civil unrest as he mulls over the possibility of calling a snap general election.
But pro-hunt supporters are confident that without Government opposition in the early stages, legal proceedings can be dragged out for many months, possibly years, by taking the matter through both the British and European courts.
They are planning two separate actions. One, in Britain, contends that the ban is in fact unlawful because it was hammered through Westminster using the Parliament Act, which is intended for use only in times of dire constitutional crisis.
In the second action, the Countryside Alliance will argue that the ban is a breach of hunt supporters' civil rights under European law.
"We can tie up the Government in legal knots for years," one observer commented. "In the meantime, we shall be able to keep the hunts and their packs of hounds together. Who knows, we may be able to hold out until a second general election four or five years hence - and the Conservatives have promised to repeal the Act."