Fury at bill to ban hunting

By Rebecca SheppardTHERE was fury and defiance from countryside campaigners from East Anglia last night as a ban on hunting drew a step closer.They claimed the controversial bill would end a rural way of life steeped in tradition and wipe out an industry, while having no effect on the welfare of foxes.

By Rebecca Sheppard

THERE was fury and defiance from countryside campaigners from East Anglia last night as a ban on hunting drew a step closer.

They claimed the controversial bill would end a rural way of life steeped in tradition and wipe out an industry, while having no effect on the welfare of foxes.

Liz Mort, regional spokeswoman for the Countryside Alliance, was among thousands of people who descended on Parliament Square yesterday to protest against the bill.


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“I do not believe it will be banned in the end. Everybody is utterly furious and angry because it is so unnecessary. It should not be happening. They are using rural people as a political football,” she said.

“What this is not is a fox protection act. More foxes would be killed than there are at the moment. There are four different legal ways of killing foxes.

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“This has nothing to do with animal welfare - it is purely the Government having a go at rural people saying that we do not matter.”

Mrs Mort said people would continue hunting, even if there were a ban, as it would be an “unjust law”.

She added: “What we have said is that we will all go hunting on the same day and then line up outside a police station and say 'What are you going to do with us?' to demonstrate how unenforceable it is.”

The Countryside Alliance has estimated that hunting is worth £250million a year to the rural economy and that 15,000 people's jobs and income would be affected by a ban.

Mrs Mort said: “A whole industry would be wiped out if a hunting ban comes into force. It would just be enormous.”

James Buckle, master of the Essex and Suffolk foxhounds, said he was amazed that the bill was a priority of the Government.

“I think this casts the whole legislative programme into disrepute. After a ban most people intend to carry on absolutely as before - it will not be privately but in public, as we have never been embarrassed of what we are doing,” he added.

Teresa Craggs, from the Waveney Harriers, said a ban would destroy the core of the countryside.

She added: “The feeling is very strong that our liberties are being curbed. We are being told how we may pursue our life when we are not working.

“It will be a huge blow to democracy and will not do one iota for the benefit of the animals.

“I would disobey that particular law if the hunting ban is brought in. There are a lot of people in the hunt that feel the same way and are prepared to go to prison.”

Roger Clark, a farrier based in Stoke-by-Nayland, said there would be far-reaching effects to a ban of hunting with dogs.

“We are quite reliant on the hunting fraternity at this time of the year for our daily bread,” he added.

With a hunting ban putting a financial strain on them, he and other farriers would be unable to train apprentices for the usual four years, putting the tradition in jeopardy, warned Mr Clark.

“I find it absolutely unbelievable. I am a farrier and I have been master of a fox hunt. I can't believe so much parliamentary time can be taken up with something so trivial,” he said.

Lawrie Payne, regional spokesman for the League Against Cruel Sports, said it had been campaigning for eight decades for the ban.

“We are extremely excited that our main aims are going to be achieved. However we are frustrated about the two-year gap between the bill going through and the ban taking effect,” he added.

“It is strange to us that Parliament can decide that hunting is cruel and then allow cruelty to carry on for two years.”

Mr Payne said the organisation would also put pressure on the police to ensure people who flouted the ban would be brought to book.

John Rolls, the RSPCA's director of animal welfare promotion, added: “Hunting has no place in modern Britain and, with the reintroduction of the Hunting Bill, the game is finally up for the Countryside Alliance.

“The hunts should now accept the inevitable and look to the future welfare of their hounds, by halting breeding programmes, converting to drag-hunting or rehoming their animals.”

rebecca.sheppard@eadt.co.uk

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