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Hunts campaign launched

Pro-hunting campaigners are launching a nationwide “summer of discontent” in the battle to save their traditional rural sport.

The protest will begin with an open letter being handed in to Rural Affairs Minister Alun Michael at DEFRA in London.

The letter makes clear the deep misgivings about the possibility of a hunting ban.

The presentation of the letter, by a delegation from the Countryside Alliance and the Council of Hunting Associations, coincides with similar presentations and rallies taking place at DEFRA offices around the England and Wales.

The alliance last week signalled that it was prepared to stage a huge march through London in defence of rural livelihoods.

The first mass rally - similar to the Countryside March in 1998 is expected to attract up to 500,000 people, including many from sporting organisations elsewhere in Europe which are alarmed by the prospect of a hunting ban.

The date, possibly in July, or September to coincide with the end of the Government’s six-month consultation on a Bill on hunting, is expected to be decided by the Alliance board in the next two weeks in consultation with the Metropolitan Police.

The House of Commons voted overwhelmingly for an outright ban last month by 386 votes to 175, rejecting any notion of a ‘Middle Way’ option where hunting could continue in certain areas under license. The following day, the House of voted against an outright ban on Foxhunting in their own debate on the issue and delivered a huge vote in favour of the so-called ‘Middle Way’, the peers backed the option of allowing fox hunting under regulation by 366 votes to 59, a majority of 307.

Richard Burge, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance promised that the demonstration would be legitimate, law abiding and “there would be no civil disobedience”.

He said: “We want people in urban centres looking at their TV or their newspapers saying, `What on earth has gone wrong when decent people like us have to take to the streets in order to defend their way of life and the things that matter to them.’”

He said that any government which played on democracy and liberty on the world stage would have to consider “how would that play if their own citizens are demonstrating on the streets.”