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Hunt supporters ride on parliament in spirit of ‘49


HUNTING HORNS and car hooters blared as 80 riders in tweeds and hunting pink rode through London last week in a re-enactment of the 1949 farmers’ protest against moves to end their sport.

Traffic was halted as the demonstrators made their way from Hyde Park Corner to Parliament, where one of the three surviving members of the original protest handed over a letter urging the Government to abandon plans for a hunting ban.

Bemused tourists and office workers looked on as the riders, incongruous in their urban setting, trotted past the Ritz and wove around Eros. A woman saddler was injured in a collision with an RSPCA van as hundreds of protesters joined in on foot.

Dan Barton, 73, a member of the Piccadilly Hunt - as the 1949 ride became known - said it compared favourably with the original march. “But it was very different then,” he added.

“The Government understood farmers and the countryside more than they do today and it did have an impact - the anti-hunting bill was voted out.

“We have been the most law-abiding organisation in the country but if push comes to shove, I don’t know what will happen.”

In 1949, twenty riders hired horses from stables near Hyde Park before riding to Westminster. Last week, however, Mr Barton caught the Tube to Parliament. He gave up hunting four years ago after more than 60 years.

Problems

He handed over the letter pledging to continue the fight for field sports to pro-hunting Conservative MPs James Gray, Hugo Swire and Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, who promised to take it directly to Tony Blair.

Kate Hoey, the pro-hunting Labour MP joined the marchers in Parliament Square. She said she hoped Mr Blair would focus attention on the “huge number of problems facing this country” rather than on “banning people’s livelihoods in the so-called name of animal welfare when all of us against the ban know it’s in the interests of the fox”.

An RSPCA inspector in a van had been detailed to follow the protestors to “monitor the horses’ welfare”, but ended up compromising the welfare of a woman protestor by driving over her foot. After much thumping on the van roof, the inspector reversed off the woman’s foot.

Witnesses were angry that the RSPCA Inspector remained in his van while the woman lay waiting for an ambulance. However, an RSPCA spokesman later claimed that the inspector had been told to stay in his van by the police officer accompanying him. A police spokesman said that no formal complaint had been lodged and refused to discuss details further.