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Once the season proper starts (usually from early November in the northern hemisphere, or May in the southern hemisphere), the idea is to drive the fox from the covert and pursue the scent that it leaves for long distances over open countryside. The northern hemisphere season continues through to March or April.

The nature of fox hunting, including the killing of the quarry animal, the pursuit's strong associations with tradition and social class, and its practice for sport have made it a source of great controversy within the United Kingdom. In December 1999, the then Home Secretary, Jack Straw MP, announced the establishment of a Government inquiry (the Burns Inquiry) into hunting with dogs, to be chaired by the retired senior civil servant Lord Burns. The inquiry was to examine the practical aspects of different types of hunting with dogs and its impact, how any ban might be implemented and the consequences of any such ban. Amongst its findings, the Burns Inquiry committee analysed opposition to hunting in the UK and reported that: "There are those who have a moral objection to hunting and who are fundamentally opposed to the idea of people gaining pleasure from what they regard as the causing of unnecessary suffering. There are also those who perceive hunting as representing a divisive social class system. Others, as we note below, resent the hunt trespassing on their land, especially when they have been told they are not welcome. They worry about the welfare of the pets and animals and the difficulty of moving around the roads where they live on hunt days. Finally there are those who are concerned about damage to the countryside and other animals, particularly badgers and otters." Anti-hunting activists who choose to take action in opposing fox hunting can do so through lawful means, such as campaigning for fox hunting legislation and monitoring hunts for cruelty. Some use unlawful means. Main anti-hunting campaign organisations include the RSPCA and the League Against Cruel Sports. In 2001, the RSPCA took high court action to prevent pro-hunt activists joining in large numbers to change the society's policy in opposing hunting. Outside of campaigning, some activists choose to engage in direct intervention such as the sabotage of the hunt. Hunt sabotage is unlawful in a majority of the United States, and some tactics used in it (such as trespass and criminal damage) are offences there and in other countries. Fox hunting with hounds has been happening in Europe since at least the sixteenth century, and strong traditions have built up around the activity, as have related businesses, rural activities, and hierarchies. For this reason, there are large numbers of people who support fox hunting and this can be for a variety of reasons.

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