PEOPLE have been signing up in their droves to a religion aimed at protecting country sports in another attempt to stem the Government's plans to ban fox-hunting.
Between 400 and 700 people a day have joined the Free Church of Country Sports since the Hunting Bill was passed by the House of Commons last week, according to its website.
The increase in the religion's membership is yet another indicator of the desperation among pro-hunt campaigners to stave off a ban, as they continue to target Labour ministers on their visits to the countryside.
Prior to last week's reading - during which protesters rioted in Parliament Square and eight breached the Commons - the church only had 1,500 official members as the majority of the hunting fraternity did not consider the religion to be a viable method of opposing the ban.
However, now that the Government is closer to a ban than ever before, membership has shot up to 6,058.
Rod Brammar, who came up with the idea of the church in 2001 during the foot-and-mouth epidemic, said this is merely the tip of the iceberg.
"Many members are not listed on the site so we are probably double that figure and around the 12,000 mark now," the shooting coach from Devon said.
"It is going wild. People now see us as the ones the Government will eventually have to negotiate with."
If the ban goes through, the Free Church intends to challenge it on grounds of race discrimination.
Organisers are satisfied that those who take part in country sports are sufficiently culturally different to be considered a social group with an ethnic identity.
"We are on rock-solid legal ground," Mr Brammar said.
He also warned that he knew protesters had a set campaign of violence and rioting planned leading up to Christmas.
"Absolutely massive disruption is planned.
"It is in place and will happen," he said.
"We will win. All field sports will continue to function, hunting included."