Hunting with dogs becomes illegal in England and Wales today, marking a watershed in the development of a more civilised society for both people and animals. Anti-hunt campaigners are now urging the hunters to abide by the law and adopt cruelty-free equestrian activities such as drag hunting instead.

"The pro-hunt Countryside Alliance has lost its argument with the public, with Parliament and in the courts. It should now advise its members that they too will lose their argument with the Police (1) and the RSPCA if offences under the Hunting Act are committed from today," said John Rolls, RSPCA Director of Animal Welfare Promotion.

"Pro-hunters must finally accept that this just and valid law reflects the will of the majority, who can no longer tolerate cruelty inflicted upon animals in the name of 'sport' or tradition."

John Cooper, Chairman of the League Against Cruel Sports said: "The hunting ban is a massive leap forwards to the creation of a decent and humane society. Our children and grand children will grow up into a better and kinder world as a result of the hunting ban.

"In turn, their children will view the chase of a wild animal with a pack of dogs as being just as archaic and misplaced as bear baiting which Parliament banned in 1835."

Phyllis Campbell-McRae, Director of IFAW UK said: "The ban on hunting with dogs will radically change the landscape of animal welfare in the UK and worldwide. Britain has banned a traditional practice because of the suffering it causes to animals. This should act as an inspiration and example to other countries where animals suffer for human entertainment."