15 November 2001
Hunting to resume next month

By Alistair Driver in London

HUNTING is set to resume in foot-and-mouth disease-free counties next month under government proposals unveiled on Thursday (15 November).

Hunts will have to apply to regional veterinary officers for permits to hunt on a particular day, said Animal Welfare Minister Elliot Morley.

“The purpose of controls on hunting is to ensure we do everything possible to eradicate the disease while returning the countryside to normality.”

Groups involved in hunting have been asked to comment on proposals setting out the conditions under which hunts can resume.

Hunt secretaries will have to ensure that activities do not spread foot-and-mouth, Mr Morley told reporters in London.

But they will have their work cut out.

They will have to prove that individuals who want to hunt and people involved in the transport of animals will comply with the rules.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said it will also be up to the hunt to control followers and, controversially, hunt saboteurs.

If hunts cannot control saboteurs, veterinary officers will have to consider whether it is safe for the hunt to proceed, said a Defra spokesman.

Rural Affairs Minister Alun Michael denied this was a saboteurs charter.

“All people on both sides of the argument should recognise the importance of the issues concerning the spread of foot-and-mouth,” he said.

“This is not an invitation to act irresponsibly.”

Deer-hunting will remain banned as deer are a foot-and-mouth-susceptible animal, and there is a risk that hunting them could spread the disease.