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Tuesday, 24 September, 2002, 16:05 GMT 17:05 UK
Countryside Alliance march: Did it achieve anything?
A massive 400,000 strong crowd has attended Sunday's Liberty and Livelihood rally in London.
The march is the finale of the Countryside Alliance's "summer of discontent" intended to demonstrate growing anger in rural communities to the government.
More than 2,000 coaches were organised to bring demonstrators in from all over Britain.
Cornish fish farmer Sally Bentall postponed her honeymoon and flew to London directly after her wedding service along with half her guests to attend the march.
"It's just one rule after another closing down the countryside, with no support for those who live and work here" she says.
But there are concerns that more militant campaigners may cause unlawful disruption at the protest.
Did you go along to the demonstration? What will it achieve? Can the city and the countryside be united?
This Talking Point is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
A £3billion of subsidies and they still can't make a living?
All the countryside seem to want is for urban taxpayers to pour money in their pockets and leave them alone to their traditional pursuits - cruelty to animals, factory farming and of course keeping walkers from setting foot on their precious acres.
Unfortunately, the current subsidy system is part of the problem.
1) Continental farmers receive greater subsidies than British farmers, making it harder for British farmers to compete.
2) Subsidies are paid based on the area of land used, rather than the amount of produce. The only farmers who really benefit from this system are those with exceptionally large farms.
3) The NFU is largely run by these same people, many of whom also get along well with the supermarket barons.
This means that the NFU leaders will not press for reforms in supermarket pricing, as this will upset their friends, nor will they push for reform of the CAP, as they are doing very well out of the current system, thank you very much.
Chris Arnold, England
What I find extremely insulting, as a committed trade unionist, is the fact that the organisers are comparing the campaign and march to that of the Tolpuddle Martyrs. How many of the Countryside Alliance would be prepared to risk deportation to Australia by sea in horrific conditions for the sake of their cause?
Over a quarter of a milllion protesting over the right to rip defenceless animals to pieces -don't kid me on that's not what this is about. I'm proud to say our very own Scottish parliament has quite rightly banned this barbarism. Shame on you all - there are more important issues to protest about if you'd care to look beyond your own backdoor. And to those who say townies don't know what they're talking about - I say cruelty is the same wherever you live. And by the way I'm no supporter of New Labour either!
People who complain that there are more important things to worry about don't seem to understand that there wouldn't be a controversy if the Government wasn't trying to ban hunting in the first place. So if you think people should be concentrating on the Middle East or whatever, tell that to Parliament, not the Countryside Alliance who are only reacting to a potentially monstrous invasion of liberty that should never have been proposed.
The countryside march is portrayed by the BBC as mainly being about supporting foxhunting. This is only a very small part of the protest, which is about the way the life and livelihood of those who live in the country is being affected by government indifference and urban bias. The BBC's distortion of the true overall picture is disgraceful.
If you used your bus service, you would still have it. If you used your local shop, you would still have one. If you used your local pub, it would still be there. Why should townies pay to subsidise your local?
I grew up in the country but regard fox hunting as both juvenile and unnecessarily cruel. If people want to hunt, let them go drag hunting. If foxes are a real nuisance, cull them humanely.
Urban dwellers need to understand that there is a difference between the needs of those living and working in the countryside compared with the needs of those expecting a theme park for the occasional ramble. Hunting is also not the preserve of the 'toffs'. However, it is difficult to argue about what constitutes a 'cruel sport' with individuals whose only view of a chicken is one wrapped in polythene on the supermarket shelf.
More nannying from a patronising Labour government. I support and love the countryside and it is utterly ridiculous for citizens of urban areas to complain about and support the banning of country pursuits - it has nothing to do with them and is something they know nothing about.
I have only one thing to say to these countryfolk - get orrrrrrf my land!
This march is not about liberty and livelihood but bloodsports and subsidies. The real issues faced by the agricultural working class - low paid seasonal work, dangerous conditions of employment and poor residential security of tenure - won't get a single mention today.
I don't hunt but I marched in support of the rights of those who do. Any majority should not be able to dictate to a minority on an issue relating to their liberty.
Foxes must be controlled. When anti-hunt people or 'townies' tell us what a cruel sport it is, I wonder how many of them have ever seen chickens with their heads ripped off or lambs attacked. I do not hunt, but I do believe that there is no safe alternative to curtail the foxes destroying so much of our livestock.
The Countryside Alliance state that fox hunting in not the main issue of the march, rather affordable housing and public transport. These are two of London's main issues too, so welcome to the club!
Coming from the countryside myself, what angers me is the way in which the whole debate has been hijacked by the pro-hunt lobby. I am sick of the pro-hunters saying that people in the countryside support hunting with dogs. In my experience, nothing could be further from the truth. If it wasn't for the pro-hunters, I would be marching with the demonstrators too!
The Countryside Alliance say that hunting isn't the main reason for their campaign, yet the majority of banners were 'pro-hunting'.
This does suggest that pro-hunting groups have hijacked the campaign
We should be looking at the real issues - how to make the free market work in our favour (by forming a strong union against the supermarkets?), "Honest Food" (a great but under-exposed campaign) and planning (how can we get affordable housing without mass-concreting).
A march based on these issues would be worth supporting.
No matter how many people vote to keep fox hunting legal, cruelty is cruelty. If I were to make shooting cats, or hanging dogs, a local tradition in my area, would the government make it legal, or ignore it? Or would I be prosecuted for animal cruelty ?
Ian Duncan Smith said "passing an anti hunt bill will make many people criminals" What utter rubbish. Criminals are folk who break laws. All they have to do is to obey the law then they won't be criminals
Fox hunting is the only way that you can control the Fox by any form of natural selection. I do not hunt, but logic and a knowledge of country ways dictates this assumption. The real world situation is that the bulk of town people in the UK vote against country sports until nature invades their lives (rats, or foxes killing all their chickens when they move to a country village)then they want other people to sort it out!
Barbara Simpson, Scotland
The march is not just about hunting, it is about the threat to the rural way of life in our country. Please, we don't want to live in a concrete jungle, do we? Twenty people are coming to London from my family
I've been speaking to people who are going to the march on Sunday. Interestingly, none of those I've spoken to (about 10 so far) would have gone if they weren't being coerced into it by their employers (wealthy landowners - who also hunt by the way).
Graham Shelton, UK
I am a "townie" and have never hunted in my life! Nevertheless I will be marching tomorrow with several of my friends as I believe that this Government is attacking many of the basic freedoms which have been held dear in this country for hundreds of years.
The ignorance and old-fashioned class prejudice displayed by some of your correspondents are truly staggering. Please help to redress the balance by pointing out that most of the marchers are like me - honest, ordinary people who feel disenfranchised by a government that has an unassailable majority and seems hell-bent on destroying country life regardless of all argument.
Julie, Newcastle, England
It's not that everyone is in love with New Labour, far from it. But there is a much greater dislike by the silent majority for the old concentration of privilege and power in the hands of a small but wealthy minority. The marchers, whether they like it or not, appear to want to hold on to the divisions and prejudices of an almost bygone era. Most people in London are not with them.
The fact that people are willing to go on a march, because they think they have the right to kill foxes says it all. Surely there are more pressing issues happening in the world at the moment like Iraq and the Middle East. In any case the only march I would support would be the Anti-Hunting League.
The foxes will be wondering why it's so quiet this weekend.
Why should the ordinary, regular person care? After we've witnessed the recent decimation of communities built on coalmining, shipbuilding and steelworking, why should we care about the whinging of a wealthy and privileged few? Surely, in the interests of equality, the main issue facing rural communities is land reform....?
Martin, Welsh borders
I am only interested to see how many people will turn up to the Don't attack Iraq demonstration later this month, compared to the Livelihood march. It will give everyone an idea about how much people really care about each other and how selfish and cruel some people really are here in the UK.
At last! The silent majority is on the march. This is not just about vermin (fox) hunting. It's about opposing the loud liberal minority from destroying our way of life! For your information I am a working-class townie.
What is the march about? If it is to stop the ban on foxhunting then I support it. If it's to stop the government halting farm subsidies then I am against it. If it is to protest against a stupid planning laws then I am for it .The result is that I will not go, simply because its aims are just too vague.
It absolutely infuriates me that the pro-hunting lobby are always stating that they have huge support from the general public; would this be the same general public that they have spent years deriding as the "great unwashed"? If the fox hunters would just freely admit that they get a perverse thrill out of animal cruelty rather than harp on about "protecting the countryside/livelihoods" I would have a lot more respect for them (but only respect for their honesty).
Christian Walker, Derbyshire
I've lived much of my life in the country but when I've tried to get support or carry out collections on behalf of environmental and wildlife campaigns the response has usually been resoundingly apathetic. If only those people rallying around the CA were as passionate about trying to conserve rather than kill wildlife. The CA stands for everything that is rank about middle England.
The leader of the York and Ainstey hunt said this morning on Radio York that the march was never about rural issues but about hunting. They have chartered a train to take supporters to the march. Of course the people who visit the countryside for recreation want the liberty to walk on open moorland, the Countryside Alliance are against this: double standards.
Wayne McDonough, UK
Why is it when miners protested to save their livelihood they were branded communists, revolutionaries and living in the past, yet when the same group of people who condemned them protest to save a hobby it is an issue of fundamental human rights? If only some of these same people had protected the rights of the people of towns like Treorchy, Merthyr, Bedlington and Govan.
The housing boom, that allowed the migration of commuters to rural areas, drove up house prices as tied houses and affordable property was sold off, driving away the key people necessary to support villages throughout the UK. And gradually the infrastructure was decimated.
Hunting has never been the key issue in the countryside and while the CA continues to focus on that small point for their own petty aims, we will never be able to address the important issues of rebuilding the rural infrastructure and giving a rural way of life back to those thousands who REALLY deserve it.
Well done, a peacefull march!. May'be if you lot had thought before putting you're cross for the Tories you might not be in this situation, "market forces" etc, blah blah blah. (See Pete from malmesbury.) A wry smile on "townies chops".
Fox hunting is an outdated sadistic sport. It is about time that people in the countryside moved on. Surely they are intelligent enough people to find another way of entertainment - could it be they were always used to getting their own way under the previous government? It's about time they entered the 21st century.
When the Countryside Alliance starts to describe plausible remedies for its problems and decides how it might escape its culture of subsidy and dependency, then others will take note.
I've lived in the countryside all my life and am disappointed that the pro-hunters are manipulating this rally. Many - perhaps the majority of country dwellers don't support hunting.
Andrew W, Rural South East England
Speaking as a townie who can't afford a house largely because of a lack of development land, and having marvelled at how from the air, even south east England appears to be entirely covered in fields, I do sometimes wonder if lobby groups aren't being a little over-zealous in their protection of England's admittedly beautiful countryside. I couldn't care less whether people hunt or not. I just want somewhere to live.
F Marsden, England
Don't worry about the countryside. Labour has a cunning plan to solve every problem there - concrete it over with houses and airports!
Maybe the tube drivers will go on strike in support of the country folk. Why not? They'll strike for everything else.
I am astounded at the amount of times pro-country people call "townies" ignorant. The problems of lack of local community, rising house prices, yuppies moving in and unemployment are minor compared to the problems suffered in much of the north, Wales and Scotland over the last 20 years. Britain was run for hundreds of years in the interests of wealthy countryside gentlemen and now the worm has turned some people really don't like it!
Much of rural England has already been taken over by wealthy commuters, who play at being village folk, whilst our own young cannot afford to live where they were born and brought up. The CA has done absolutely nothing to address the real problems, and their march will not alter that fact.
The pro-hunting lobby always assume that anyone in support of a ban on hunting must be a townie. I have lived in the countryside all my life and do not enjoy seeing foxes being torn apart and farmland destroyed. We experience far more problems from our neighbours' (who are pro-hunting) dogs fouling our lawn than from these beautiful wild creatures. Foxes belong in the countryside.
I must say that I have to agree with Matt, UK. The hunting debate has wasted a lot of time and money and people have lost the plot concerning the abuse of our countryside. I come from a small village in Cornwall and it is true, houses are being built and communities destroyed so the wealthy, middle class townies can escape the filth and squalor that they have created in the cities. The houses are vastly overpriced which means locals cannot afford them. No-one seems to be paying too much attention to that.
The UK is full of poverty, crime, hospitals in chaos, we're ready to go to war for another country in Iraq and what are we hearing about? Toffs in red jackets moaning about not being able to fox hunt.
These comments are typical of the ignorance of the towns and cities. It is not just the middle classes of the countryside who are affected but everyone. With local post offices, shops and banks being closed down the communities are being destroyed. It is typical of the left-wing trendies of Islington to hide behind the debate of fox-hunting instead of concentrating on the real issue of the declining economies of our farms and villages.
A nice visit to the London area may sharpen everybody's sense of urgency in wanting to protect our countryside before it, too, is paved over, polluted and gridlocked.
Wendy, London, UK
I have lived all my life in the countryside and have absolutely nothing in common with the people attending this rally. There are millions of us in the countryside who are anti-bloodsports and against factory farming practices. Hopefully people will see most of the attendees for what they are - a bunch of outdated hypocrites clinging to a way of life that has no more to do with the real needs of the countryside than the man in the moon!
I sympathise but will not be attending. A lot of people will turn up and will mill about for a bit and then a lot of people will go home again. Nothing will change. If rural workers were to strike, including B&Bs and rangers, then they may get a more considerate ear. Townies would soon take note.
Mike, Great Britain
If they saved the money they spent organising this pointless march and ploughed it into the rural community we'd all be better off.
I fully support the countryside march on Sunday. I hope it will remain peaceful and highlight the neglect of the countryside by this metropolitan government. As long as extreme left wing members of the Labour party stop treating the ruination of the countryside as revenge for what happened to the miners, then no solution will be found.
I will be marching, as I did last time - but honestly I don't see what effect it will have. A much greater effect can be achieved by a few influential politicians or TV pundits in my view.
I fully support the Countryside Alliance march. It means the foxes, pheasant, fish and other wild creatures get a day off from being pursued by ginned up chinless oafs.
If the Liberty and Livelihood march does anything to combat the bias and bigotry displayed on this Talking Point by people such as Chris, UK and Jon, England with their class warfare based arguments, then it will have done some good.
Peta Seel, France
Anyone who cares about our countryside should back the march - it's about keeping the countryside alive, not just promoting the huntin' and shootin' fraternities! We have some of the most beautiful countryside in the world, and it's cared for by the farmers and the people who live in the little villages and hamlets - the same people who are being completely trashed financially by our "Islington luvvey" politicians!
I'm right behind them. This government is doing all it can to destroy our history, heritage and long-established ways. It's about time they realised they should be governing for everyone, not just a favoured clique of left-leaning Guardian readers.
I have absolutely no interest of the plight of middle Englanders who are complaining that the countryside is being 'closed down'.
I wonder if they supported the millions miners, steelworkers, dockers, textile and factory workers in the 1980s when communities were systematically ruined by middle Englanders voting Conservative?!
I wonder if Jon, England is aware that a lot of the people going on the Countryside Alliance march are working class? If such stereotypes were made about any other group it would be classed as prejudice. Rural people are not all right-wing, wealthy and bigoted. Judging by some of the comments they appear far more open-minded than many urban people.
I don't see how marching to London will help the countryside - it'll surely just make the Londoners hate farmers even more?
Free flowing traffic in the north of England, because all the tractors will be in London.
05 Sep 02 | UK
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