15 November 2001
Alliance anger at hunt licence plan

By Alistair Driver

PRO-HUNTING campaigners have attacked government plans to hold hunts responsible for the activities of saboteurs who could spread foot-and-mouth.

The Countryside Alliance says it will seek clarification on this point during consultation on proposals to allow fox-hunting to resume in December.

The controversy was sparked by comments by a Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs official on Thursday (15 November).

At a press conference announcing the resumption of the sport in disease-free counties, he said hunts could be refused licences if they cannot control saboteurs.

This angered the alliance, which has demanded to know what restrictions will be placed on hunt saboteurs.

Chairman of the allainces scampaign for hunting, Sam Butler, said: “Defra is preparing to hold hunts responsible for the activities of those dedicated to disrupting them.”

He said the alliance is also concerned at the “bureaucratic conditions” attached to obtaining licences.

In particular, it wants to know why hunts will have to record the names and addresses of everybody participating and keep them for six months.

The alliance claims hunters are being victimised and face more restrictions than people using the countryside for any other purpose.

Mr Butler insisted hunting will not resume unless landowners, farmers and the hunts themselves are certain there is no additional risk of disease spread.

The National Farmers Union said it should be up to landowners to decide whether hunting is allowed on their land.

The union said it was confident the good relationship between landowners and huntsmen will continue.

Government proposals to allow farm pest control, by up to three people without a licence, were welcomed by the NFU.

The League Against Cruel Sports said it “deeply regrets” the return of hunting.

A spokeswoman said: “If they are so worried about spreading foot-and-mouth, why is hunting returning at all?

“We are more worried about the hunt spreading the disease, given their record of havoc and trespass.”

She said the league does not sabotage hunts and insisted it is vital that “everyone abides by the rules”.