Hostilities between British fox hunters and saboteurs resume

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Hunters and saboteurs resume feud

John Vidal, The Guardian

Tuesday December 18, 2001


Long running hostilities between fox hunters and saboteurs formally resumed yesterday. The Prince of Wales's favourite hunt, the Beaufort, claimed first blood by meeting at dawn within hours of the official restart of the long-delayed season, and opponents promised action against several packs in the next few days.
Yesterday the Countryside Alliance claimed that up to 30 of Britain's 300-odd fox hunts had gone out for a "gentle start" to the season which had been suspended in February when the foot and mouth epidemic began. "We didn't have so much as a whisper from the antis", said Simon Hart, hunting campaigner at the alliance.

Andrew Wasley of the League against Cruel Sports said saboteurs had chosen not to go out but would "definitely" be trying to stop the killing of foxes by dogs in the next few days. Both sides expect confrontations at some hunts on Boxing Day.

A heavy frost prevented some packs going out yesterday but riders with the Cotswolds hunt left their horses and took to running behind their dogs, so keen were they to resume hunting.

The joint master of the Beaufort Hunt, Ian Farquhar, said he was "delighted" that hunting was finally underway again as around 150 supporters on foot joined more than 70 riders at the Swangrove Estate near Badminton, South Gloucestershire. The Beaufort is expected to meet again today at Highgrove, Prince Charles's Gloucestershire home.

The government's controversial new rule that all hunts and people following them over fields must register their names and addresses was not tested. In theory, saboteurs refusing to register could stop a hunt by chasing it and breaking foot and mouth bio-security rules.

The Campaign to Protect Hunted Animals, an umbrella group of the RSPCA, League Against Cruel Sports and International Fund for Animal Welfare, released a Mori poll suggesting that 83% of people polled found hunting with dogs either cruel, unnecessary, unacceptable or outdated.

Phyllis Campbell-McCrae, IFAW's UK director, said: "These results show clearly that the majority of people remain opposed to hunting with dogs. There are no compelling reasons for allowing it to resume."

But the Countryside Alliance replied by publishing a poll of rural vets which found almost two thirds saying that a ban on hunting would increase animal suffering.

The government intends to give MPs a free vote during this parliament on several options which would effectively ban hunting with dogs. A spokesman for the Department of Rural Affairs declined to say when the vote might go ahead.
 

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