Region's hunt supporters will fight ban

HUNT supporters across East Anglia remained defiant last night in the face of a Parliament Act that will force a ban on foxhunting with hounds in England and Wales from February.

By Danielle Nuttall

HUNT supporters across East Anglia remained defiant last night in the face of a Parliament Act that will force a ban on foxhunting with hounds in England and Wales from February.

The move, which came after the House of Lords voted again to allow hunting under regulation, caused outrage among countryside campaigners who refuse to accept the situation “lying down”.

Liz Mort, spokeswoman for the Countryside Alliance, said: “The mood is extremely angry but we are still determined.

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“We don't believe the parliament act is valid. Although everybody is angry the spirit is still buoyant.

“We will fight until we win, for however long it takes.

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“The Government has tried to get a delay in enactment saying it was something to do with animal welfare. It was nothing to do with that it was because they didn't want civil unrest leading up to am election.”

Mrs Mort said the longer the issue had gone, the more support the countryside campaigners had gained.

“People are distraught because if somehow we don't have any light at the end of the tunnel people will be out of their jobs and homes and that's something we don't take lying down,” she added.

Cheryl Bickers, master of the East Essex Foxhounds, described the decision as “devastating”, saying it signalled the beginning of the end of the countryside and its sports.

“It's very pathetic to think we have all these issues going on in this country and they want parliamentary time for hunting. It shouldn't have even taken up parliamentary time with the state of the country,” she said.

“It's an unimportant issue. I think it's very sad there are a few people who want to stop a good traditional English sport that will put people out of jobs and homes.

“Foxhounds are kind lovely hounds. People want to slaughter thousands of them just to save a fox. Fox are vermin.

“There will be far more shot now because people keep them for hunting. We employ two fulltime hound staff who have just had their future and homes taken away from them.

“If a fox looked like a rat nobody would give a damn.”

Peers' rejection of the compromise solution means that the Bill will go forward for Royal Assent in its original form, including the implementation date of February 2005 - a move welcomed by animal rights organisations.

Sue Drake, of Ipswich Animal Rights, said: “It's a great relief. The total hunt ban was inevitable at some point. We were optimistic it would come to pass.

“It's a victory for common sense and compassion. We are pleased that there will be an end to the persecution of wildlife.

“We are also pleased it will become law in February because it would have meant otherwise another 18months of hunting continuing.

“There are a lot of equestrian sports, drag hunting can continue. I can understand the strength of feeling on their side but it's the abhorrence of killing an animal for sport at the end of the day.”

Lawrie Payne, the Eastern region's representative for the League Against Cruel Sports, said his organisation had been waiting a long time for the ban.

He said: “We are very pleased that this is going to come onto the statute books as soon as possible.

“For the League Against Cruel Sports, this has been an 80-year battle and to see the efforts come to fruition at long last, it is great news.

“Of course it is a concern that hunts may defy the law, but the law is there to be policed and for people that break it to be brought to justice.

“But there are other cruelties which go on in the countryside involving animals. Our main focus

would now be shooting of birds for sport, but there are other issues such as snaring and trapping which need to be addressed.”

He added there would be an effort to keep an eye out for people who went hunting in defiance of the law, which will undoubtedly take place.

Edmund Vestey, master of the Thurlow Foxhounds, said: “I think the whole thing is so disgraceful and the way it has been handled.

“It's been so dishonest that the people who we have tried to be reasonable with do not listen to nothing.

“To try to use something like a parliament act to bludgeon through something like this most be unheard of in British history I expect the lawyers are going to have a rather nice time.

“On what basis we will continue we cannot possibly tell. I think there is going to be a long and expensive legal battle over this and I an certainly not going to be think of getting rid of my hounds.”

But Jonathan Douglas-Hughes, the secretary for the East Essex Hunt, said he would not be one of those who would defy a new law.

He said: “It is a sad day. It has been on the horizon for many years but it is extremely upsetting now that it has actually happened.

“Our poor huntsman will be out of a job by February. Taking it to Europe would be a long, drawn out process, and getting a resolution there could take years.

“Personally, I would not defy the law, but there are others who have said they will and I have no reason to disbelieve them.

“I just don't know what will happen. We have all be soldiering on, on the basis that we would be able to continue to hunt - now we have to sit down and see what we will do.

“We won't to anything in a hurry. We won't go out and shoot the hounds in February. We will keep them and see how it goes. We may go drag hunting. I don't know.”

Chris Thorogood, the master of Essex foxhounds said he expected civil disobedience from some quarters.

“This is a very sad day. I am sure there will be some that disobey it, but this is going to be taken to the courts. There will be a big show of strength at the Boxing Day hunt.”

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