THE COUNTRYSIDE Alliance is warning that if hunts stop taking fallen stock because of a hunting ban then it will lead to chaos for farmers.

DEFRA claims that hunts deal with less than 5% of the number of dead livestock. But it includes all pig and chicken fatalities in its calculations – an inclusion that massively distorts the real value of the service offered by hunts to beef and sheep farmers, says the alliance.

A recent case concerning a dead horse in the Duke of Beaufort hunt country highlighted the chaos that could result if hunt kennels pull the plug, says the organisation.

The Duke of Beaufort’s hunt withdrew its collection service in protest against a possible hunting ban and was unable to deal with a horse which had a heart attack while being ridden on a main road.

DEFRA was contacted and suggested two other hunts that might provide a service, but they were too far away from the dead horse.

The local knacker yard said it would collect the horse for incineration, but that wasn’t acceptable because a vet had to carry out a post-mortem for insurance purposes.

Eventually, the carcass was collected by another knacker yard who undertook an 80-mile round trip to do the job and charged £200.

These are the situations that may face livestock farmers, says the CA, which believes that even if new companies do move in to collect fallen stock, access into farm yards by large vehicles will be difficult.

Hunts operate with approved sealed vehicles but they are small enough to get into yards and tight corners where large animals may have fallen. Legislation prevents farmers dragging a dead animal around the farm to be taken to a place more accessible by a large vehicle unless the farmer has an approved means for transporting a carcass.

The alliance points out that of the 143 packs approved to handle fallen stock under the Animal By-product Order, only 29 have applied to join the NFSCo.

One of the reasons is that area postcodes are a critical part of joining the scheme, but many cover a vast area. This would mean hunts having to travel even further distances with the knacker van – something they say would be too costly.

But farmers are likely to have to pay far more for the removal of dead animals if they have to rely on knacker yards, claims the alliance. It has compiled figures which show that hunt kennels charge about £25 to remove cattle (12-24 months old) compared with around £52 charged by knacker yards. Ewes collected by hunt kennels are charged at around £6 compared with £22.