7 July 2000
Pro-hunt protest closes Severn Bridge

By John Burns

PRO-HUNTING protestors and militant farmers stopped traffic on the new Severn Bridge on Friday (07 July).

Police closed the west-east carriageway as 100 protestors from the Rural Action Group (RAG) and Farmers For Action (FFA) drove their vehicles slowly across from Wales.

The east-west route was then closed and vehicle numbers were swelled by lorries, four-wheel drive trucks, vans and horse-boxes, from the English side of the bridge.

For the benefit of TV cameras, horns were tooted and lights flashed.

Those in the vehicles waved red cards symbolising a final warning to Mr Blair as MPs in London debated proposals that could mean the end of hunting with dogs.

RAG was formed just days ago.

Its spokesman said RAG and FFA made the bridge protest to warn Tony Blair that if plans to ban hunting and other “harassment” of the country way of life continued, the entire motorway network could be forced to a standstill.

Farmers For Action spokesman Dave Handley said: “We believe everybody in the countryside has a right to do what they believe is appropriate.

“RAG supported our protest in Manchester last week, and today we are repaying the debt to them.

John Pratt, Brecon farmer and FFA campaigner, said that while he did not hunt, he did allow the hunt on his land and valued the hunt collecting fallen stock.

“I also feel very strongly about protecting peoples freedom in the countryside. It is now time for action.

“The countryside has suffered enough at the hands of this government. And there are thousands more of like-minded people prepared to fight this government to the bitter end until they stop meddling in issues they do not understand.”

Protestors said that their intention was not to disrupt travellers too much, but to get the message across to the government.

The BBC reported that Gwent Police said the crossing had to be closed on safety grounds.