Last week’s article about a planned school trip to take children to a hunt sparked a heated debate on The Hunts Post’s website, www.huntspost24.co.uk. Here CATE MUNRO asks explores if a hunting trip has any educational value.

GEORGE Bowyer believes it was wrong for a rural school to block its children from watching a fox hunt.

But as the joint master of the Fitzwilliam Hunt, based in Peterborough, you would expect him to put forward this view.

Mr Bowyer believes children, including those at Ashbeach Primary School in Ramsey St Mary's, whose trip to a hunt was cancelled following a complaint from a parent, need to experience both sides of the fox-hunting debate and be allowed to make up their own minds.

"Each side of the hunting debate is passionate," he said. "Using a balanced approach in the classroom is a good thing. Actually going out to see a hunt for themselves isn't unbalanced, as long as the other side of the argument is also presented."

Age should also not be a barrier to watching parts of a hunt. Mr Bowyer has been hunting since the age of six and said it was important for young people to gain an appreciation of the reasons behind fox-hunting which, he argued, was used largely as a means of fox-control.

"There are many different types of hunting," he added, "but most of them are merely fox-control activities.

"By taking children on a trip to watch a hunt they would see the person riding ahead, dragging the scented rag along the ground. They would see the hounds and the huntsmen, but it's highly unlikely they would actually see an animal dying."

The Fitzwilliam Hunt is over 250 years old and its masters are regulars in Cambridgeshire primary schools, offering to educate children about the sport.

"The anti-hunt argument is very black and white," he told The Hunts Post. "They say the foxes are frightened, that fox-hunting is cruel and should be banned. But we try to get people to see that every single fox dies a horrid, nasty death anyway - most of them starve to death or are snared or trapped."

Mr Bowyer added that the nature of hunting meant that most hunt riders seldom saw a fox being killed.

"Its not a case of the nasty hunters getting pleasure out of seeing the killing of a fox," he added. "They are usually three or four fields away."

The Hunts Post asked Ashbeach School whether it debated both sides of the fox-hunting argument with the Year 6 children who were scheduled to go on the trip on February 7, but staff declined to comment.