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Friday, 5 January, 2001, 23:31 GMT
Activists steal beagle pack
The kennels say only a few beagles were left behind
Animal activists have stolen a pack of 46 beagles from a hunt kennels.

The Animal Liberation Front (ALF) says it stole the dogs from the Wye Beagles kennels in Kent because the government failed to ban hunting with hounds.

The organisation says all of the dogs have been placed in loving homes, but countryside groups have condemned the theft as heartless.

The beagles were stolen in an early morning raid at the kennels near Wye College on Friday.

As the government procrastinates on their pledge to ban hunting the Animal Liberation Front is taking matters into its own hands

Animal Liberation Front
Thieves broke into the kennel compound by using bolt cutters to cut through chains and padlocks on the entrance.

In a written statement the ALF said the theft was a deliberate attempt to stop hunts in the region, and warned it would be part of its ongoing direct action campaign against hunting.

'Sick hound taken'

The pro-hunting Countryside Alliance said that the theft was potentially endangering the beagles' welfare.

Spokeswoman Wendy Peckham said the pack had disappeared without a trace, and that farmers who searched within a six-mile radius of the kennels had found nothing.

Everyone is devastated by this heartless theft

Countryside Alliance
"If they had just been let out, it is certain that many of them would have been found by now," she said.

"Some of the hounds were bitches in season, and a sick hound that was being cared for in a separate kennel has also been taken.

"Everyone is devastated by this heartless theft."

The hounds had all been accounted for at 2200 GMT on Thursday, before the kennels were closed for the night.

Kent Police are now searching for the beagles.

Wye Beagles hunt secretary Will Denne said the theft had wiped out 53 years of breeding at the kennels, which are used exclusively by students at the nearby Imperial College, Wye.

Willam Denne
William Denne: "We are not going to give in"
But he vowed that a hunt planned for Saturday would go ahead as scheduled.

It would meet at Haguelands Farm, Dymchurch, about 12 miles from Wye, at about 1200 GMT.

Up to 150 people on foot and 25 hounds would hunt a hare, he said.

"The whole pack was taken. It will take years to build the pack up again. Everybody is very much shocked and upset by the theft."

But he added: "The one thing we are not going to do is give in to the Animal Liberation Front and activists of that nature."

The Hunting Bill, which is before Parliament, includes options to clamp down on hunting with hounds with a total ban, self-regulation or compulsory licensing of hunts.

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