Beacon display heralds Countryside March
COUNTRYSIDE campaigners lit beacons across Britain last night to herald Sundays countryside rally in Londons Hyde Park.
Most of the national press put the number of beacons between 5,000 and 5,600. More than 200 beacons were lit in the countryside around the Worcester seat of the Labour backbencher Michael Foster, whose private members Bill would ban hunting with dogs.
Beacons were also lit by sympathisers in America, Canada, South Africa and Tanzania, according to the Countryside Alliance. One farmer in Berkshire did not bother to build a beacon – he set fire to a barn instead.
Seventy-four trains and 2,024 coaches have been chartered to take marchers to London.
Michael Yardley, national spokesman for the Sportsmens Association, said the march had been “hijacked” by the Conservative Party and rich businessmen for political ends.
The Countryside Alliance refuted charges that a large part of the £400,000 bill would be met by shooting organisations in the United States.
It has also asked people opposed to foxhunting to stay away from the march.
But Prime Minister Tony Blair said it was “ludicrous” to suggest that lovers of the countryside necessarily supported hunting.
“There are very many people who love the countryside, only a few of whom take part in hunting,” he was quoted as saying in The Daily Telegraph
Other issues such as the BSE crisis, the beef-on-the-bone ban, the effect of the strong pound on agricultural exports, cheap food imports, right-to-roam and housebuilding on farmland are all bones of contention for country people.
Ian Cawsey, Labour MP for Brigg and Goole, on the Lincolnshire-Yorkshire border, claims he has effectively been barred from the event after he told organisers he was a sponsor of Mike Fosters bill to outlaw foxhunting. The Countryside March office wrote back to say: “You would in fact be marching for hunting if you joined the march.”
- The Scotsman 27/02/98 page 2, page 30
- The Guardian 27/02/98 page 9, page 19 (Leader)
- The Daily Telegraph 27/02/98 page 1, page 9
- The Times 27/02/98 page 5
- The Independent 27/02/98 page 1, page 3, page 20 (Leader), page 21