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  • 1 The Elphinstone Institute, University of Aberdeen 24 High Street, Aberdeen, AB24 3EB, UK
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Recently in Britain a proposal to ban hunting with dogs has caused a political furore. A fever pitch has been reached with the impending prospect of legislation under the new Labour Government. (Twice previously legislation has been brought before Parliament, but has failed to become law.) Among communities, the polarisation of popular opinion into pro- and anti-hunting pressure groups, led, in June 1998, to the formation of the Countryside Alliance, arguably the largest protest body with a 'status quo' agenda that Britain has ever known. Out of these tensions and perceived threats to rural lifestyles there has grown a renewed sense of community, in which such cherished institutions as the hunt supper together with the singing of traditional hunting songs have come to the fore. The assertion of identity 'in song' of those who value these cultural traditions has, during the last six years, crossed the boundary from the closed gatherings of hunting groups and rural communities into the public arena of political controversy. Based on fieldwork in the west Yorkshire Pennine hills, this paper will consider the changing perceptions of the function and meaning of such songs and the political implications of their performance.