THE PRO-HUNT lobby operates with a mythology that it somehow represents the countryside as a whole, DEFRA minister Alun Michael has said in an interview with The Guardian.

He told the newspaper many people in the countryside oppose hunting but are reluctant to say so.

“There is a much quieter but significant number of country people, including farmers, who will be delighted to see an end to hunting,” he said”

“But because that view is not voiced very strongly in the circles that hunting people frequent – perhaps quite wisely on the part of those who hold those opinions – they are reinforced in the view that such opinions don‘t exist.”

“So they have this mythology that somehow they speak for the countryside,” Mr Michael said.

He told The Guardian in the last couple of years he has frequently had people in the margins of meetings coming up to him and presented themselves as farmers and told him that they think what he is doing is right.

Several of these farmers have described the fox-hunters as single-minded and selfish people who do damage to the farmers‘ land, Mr Michael said.

He also declared that he was deeply disappointed by the pro-hunt lobby‘s campaign against him, since he “put an enormous amount of effort in trying to get people to listen to each other”.

About the pro-hunt campaigners, he said: “There is such a focused belief that they are right … that I believe they find it almost impossible to look outside their own mindset.”

He added that it has been equally difficult to persuade people who are against hunting to allow hunters some time to adapt to the changes that the new legislation will bring about.

“We are starting to see seriously intimidating protests, an attempt to bully. I‘ve even heard people say this is what we fought the second world war for.

“Well, actually it was rather more to defend a parliamentary democracy in which individual MPs … cast their votes in the way which they think is right,” Mr Michael said.

He told the newspaper that after long negotiations with the Countryside Alliance there had been a falling out, in part because of the language used on the alliance‘s website – which they justified by saying they feared that if they were too restrained the more belligerent groups would take over.

“The language of the most moderate seems to be dictated by an attempt to appease the most extreme,” Mr Michael said.