28 November 1997

15,200 not 910 jobs would be axed

PRO-HUNTING campaigners have attacked claims by Michael Foster that his Bill would result in the loss of only 910 jobs.

The Countryside Alliance claims that independent research by Cobham Resource Consultants reveals that 15,200 jobs are directly dependent on hunting.

Janet George, Countryside Alliance spokeswoman, said Mr Foster had based his figures on the number of professional hunt staff employed by hunt kennels.

She said it was vital to take into account grooms, blacksmiths, and employees in the equestrian trades patronised by those who hunt.

It was wrong for Mr Foster to claim that jobs, hounds and horses would be saved by a switch to drag hunting, claiming the Masters of Draghounds and Bloodhounds Association had said no more than 20-25 existing foxhound packs out of 190 could be changed over.

Ms George has been at the forefront of promoting hunting, and has been instrumental in bringing together the British Field Sports Society, Countryside Business Group and Countryside Movement under the umbrella of the Countryside Alliance.

She claims Mr Fosters lack of knowledge about the countryside can be seen in the Bill. While dogs are allowed to chase rats and rabbits, if they are seen chasing hares or squirrels, owners could be liable to prosecution.

And she questions the Bills decision to allow animals to be flushed out of woodland, but then only allow one dog under close control to follow up wounded animals.

She said the consultation had not extended to watching a gun pack in action. Although wounding of foxes occurred with this method, the use of hounds ensured injured foxes were usually caught and killed.

"Gun packs are undoubtedly more efficient than traditional hunts when it comes to killing a lot of foxes, but unless hounds are allowed to chase and kill wounded foxes as at present, a lot of suffering would result."