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Breakfast Sunday, 22 September, 2002, 06:25 GMT 07:25 UK
Countryside march
Previous countryside march in London
Breakfast will bring you full coverage of this morning's protests
At least a quarter of a million countryside campaigners are expected to join a huge rally in London to protest against a proposed ban on hunting and to highlight the problems faced by rural communities. It could be the biggest demonstration in the capital in modern times.

The march for Liberty and Livelihood will follow two routes. At 10 o'clock this morning the so-called marchers for Liberty will set off from Hyde Park Corner.

At the same time the Livelihood marchers will move off from Blackfriars bridge on the Thames. Both groups will meet at Whitehall and the marchers will converge on Parliament Square.

  • This morning, Breakfast reported live from Hyde Park and Blackfriars. We also travelled up to London with protestors from across the country.

  • Breakfast's Luisa Baldini went to South Dorset, where she heard about the concerns of one group travelling to London for today's march. She'll be following them on today's march and will report on how they fared on Monday's programme.


  • At 7.10am, Breakfast spoke to Richard Burge from the Countryside Alliance which is organising the marches.

    He told us: "There are two things that everyone wants.

    "The first is a tolerant and diverse countryside. The second is that they want the government to acknowledge that they need the consent of the countryside for change."

  • At 7.25am, we brought together two people with totally divergent views on farming: the writer David Cox and Sean Beer who's a lecturer in Agriculture at Bournemouth University.

    David Cox believes that subsidies to farmers should end. Britain should buy its food on the world market - and farmers should be allowed to go to the wall if their businesses are uneconomic.

    He told Breakfast: "The idea that we pay too little for our food is ridiculous...Why do we want to preserve an uneconomic industry? We don't have miners or shipbuilders any more."

    Sean Beer believes that giving British farmers extra help is part of "joined up thinking". The main problem, he believes, is that society wants to have it all: high quality, safe and environmentally friendly farming - but without having to pay higher prices or taxes.

    Background

    The focus of the protest is opposition to a ban on hunting with dogs in England and Wales, but a wide range of other grievances from rural communities are also being linked with the demonstration.

    Pressure group Friends of the Earth believes that focusing on fox hunting misses the point and there is a need to look at fundamental issues, such as protecting Britain's farming industry.


    The countryside is going into steep decline with farmers losing their jobs

    Tony Juniper, Friends of the Earth
    The countdown to the march comes amid newspaper reports that the Prince of Wales wrote directly to Prime Minister Tony Blair to highlight his concerns about the countryside.

    Police expect the event, officially called the march for liberty and livelihoods, to be the biggest demonstration in the capital in recent years.

    An extra 1,600 officers have been drafted in to police the demonstration and up to 250,000 people are expected to attend.

    More than 2,000 coaches and 31 specially chartered trains will carry protesters to London where they will form two separate marches converging on the heart of government at Whitehall.

    The marches have been organised by the Countryside Alliance, formed originally to oppose a ban on fox hunting and other forms of hunting with dogs.

    Open in new window : March Route
    Liberty and Livelihood March

    However, the organisation says it represents all rural people who feel their way of life is under threat.

    The march is being supported by the National Farmers Union (NFU), which claims British farming is in danger of meltdown.

    The Friends of the Earth group wants to broaden the scope of rural debate.

    Tony Juniper, who takes over as FoE director next year, said: "We have got to protect the environment, keep people farming, look after the rural economy and give consumers what they want.

    "Right across the world, big supermarkets are making bigger and bigger profits and at the same time the countryside is going into steep decline with farmers losing their jobs.

    "You're not going to deal with that simply by talking about hunting."

    Charles's concerns

    March organisers say they are hoping to draw attention to other grievances, including the decline of village shops and pubs and the lack of affordable housing in rural areas.

    Both issues have been a cause for concern for the Prince of Wales in the past and several Sunday newspapers report he has made a direct approach to Tony Blair on the matter.

    They suggest he has written a letter claiming those living in the countryside were being treated in a way that would not be tolerated if it applied to any other minority group.

    Placards and banners have been prepared for the march
    The march is expected to attract a global delegation
    Downing Street and St James Palace declined to comment and Mr Blair's official spokesman said: "The government continues to govern for the whole country, rural and urban alike."

    March supporters are flying in from as far afield as New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the US and across Europe.

    Tory party leader Iain Duncan Smith will be marching, as will celebrities including ex-footballer Vinnie Jones, actor Edward Fox and Weakest Link presenter Anne Robinson.

    Robert Sturdy, MEP for the Eastern region and the European Parliament's Conservative spokesman on rural affairs, will be among the politicians on the march.

    He said: "It isn't about hunting and field sports, but about all rural affairs and I have very strong feelings about the rural community as a whole."

    Police are advising protesters and anyone planning to visit London on the day of the march to leave their cars at home.

    An appeal has also been issued for marchers not to bring pets, farm machinery or livestock.

    The event had been planned for last year, but was postponed by the foot-and-mouth outbreak.

  •  WATCH/LISTEN
     ON THIS STORY
    Countryside march
    Louise Bevan reports for Breakfast
    Countryside preparations
    Breakfast's Luisa Baldini reports
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    See also:

    17 Sep 02 | UK
    10 Sep 02 | Politics
    12 Apr 02 | Politics
    21 Mar 02 | Politics
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