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banner Monday, 25 September, 2000, 14:27 GMT 15:27 UK
Hunters get Labour in their sights
Tractors blocked Brighton city centre
Farmers complained of too much bureacracy
Thousands of farmers and hunt supporters converged on Brighton to lobby Labour conference delegates over the plight of the farming industry and plans to ban fox hunting

More than 120 farmers driving tractors joined dozens of four-wheel drive vehicles, 150 farmers' union members and 2,000 protesters from the Countryside Alliance outside the Brighton Centre.

Traffic slowed to a crawl with some drivers tooting their hors as the Countryside Alliance marched past with their carnival-style floats, one bearing a farmer wrapped up in red tape.

Protesters waved placards aimed at proposals to ban foxhunting, saying "We are law abiding people but we will not abide your laws", and "Save rural England".

Those on foot waved placards, inviting the prime minister to "Come on down and meet the people".

Tight security

Baroness Mallalieu, the president of the Countryside Alliance and a Labour peer, blamed "stifling bureaucracy and petty regulations" for the plight of the farming industry and, in a direct message to Tony Blair, said he could never separate hunting from the farming industry.

She said: "Hunting and farming are inextricable. No one could hunt without the co-operation of the farming community but we have a prime minister who understands none of that.

"This government appears to see the problems in the countryside as an inconvenient distraction from the real issues of government, which are to win the next election. But what Mr Blair has done is to weld our groups into the single greatest political force in this land."

Sam Butler, chairman of the Campaign for Hunting, said: "MPs must realise that people do not surrender their freedoms gently and that attacking those freedoms in a democracy will degenerate into a guaranteed vote loser."

Ranks of police officers, some mounted on horseback, maintained a tight, secure ring around the Brighton centre but said the protest passed off peacefully.

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