ANTI-HUNT CAMPAIGNERS are secretly planning to buy up thousands of acres of land where game shooting takes place in order to block the pastime, as they widen their attack on country sports, according to reports leaked to a Sunday newspaper.
A leaked internal report from the League Against Cruel Sports reveals that, with the 20-year battle won to secure a ban on foxhunting, the organisation is turning its attention to shooting.
It is preparing plans to buy large areas of moors, foreshore and wetlands in order to prevent other landlords from acquiring the shooting rights. The League plans to sell on the land, using the proceeds to buy up more areas. But it will retain the sporting rights for itself - thereby denying others the right to shoot over growing parts of the country.
The Sunday Telegraph newspaper revealed details from LACS’ own reports that it plans to sell of nature sanctuaries, which it previously claimed were vital for the protection of wild animals, in order to fund the move. Such sanctuaries are described as "surplus to future requirements" in League reports to its annual meeting in July.
Lawrie Payne, the League’s Honorary Secretary, writes: "The league needs to refocus its resources… On the sanctuaries side, the league may need to acquire new areas of land such as moorland, foreshore and wetland for the anti-shooting campaign and … may need to dispose of properties that were purchased to further the anti-hunting campaign, but are no longer needed for that purpose.
"The SSSIs [sites of special scientific interest] have wildlife value, but no commercial value… The committee of the league therefore recommends that the land and property holdings portfolio be reviewed."
Up to 30 plots, totalling more than 2,000 acres, in southwest England are now under review. The agenda for the annual meeting shows that a members' proposal to retain the sanctuaries - which provided a "positive contribution to conservation and the environment" - was rejected by the ruling committee.
Jim Barrington, a former director of the league who is now a spokesman for the Middle Way group made up of MPs and campaigners that propose licensed hunting, said the plan was part of a "drip drip" tactic designed to destroy country sports.
"It is very strange that a body that claimed shooting was a better form of pest control while it was campaigning against hunting, now says shooting is cruel and should be banned," he said. "It is really hypocritical. The league is blinkered and political. The substantial number of them don't care about animal welfare."
l Meanwhile, Nigel Yeo, the assistant chief constable of Sussex Police, said the ban on hunting with hounds could cost forces the equivalent of five constables each. He said police could be forced to impound packs of hounds in order to uphold the ban when the hunting season starts in October.
Mr Yeo told the Association of Police Officers annual conference that forces could then have to meet average kennelling costs of £15 per animal per day, amounting to £125,000 a year - the equivalent of paying five experienced officers. "Does the public really want its money spent like that?" he said.