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Saturday, 21 September, 2002, 06:19 GMT 07:19 UK
London braced for huge protest
The Essex hunt
Hunt supporters will attend the march
Organisers say they are expecting at least 250,000 people to take part in Sunday's countryside march through central London.

Police have responded to the Countryside Alliance (CA) march in London by putting 1,600 extra officers on duty.

The parade will be the biggest British civil rights demonstration in living memory and is expected to bring large parts of central London to a standstill for up to six hours.


This march will be a truly global event

Adrian Yalland, Countryside Alliance
Those taking part in the protest - called the March for Liberty and Livelihood - will be demanding the right to continue fox hunting.

They also want to draw attention to problems they see in rural areas including unemployment, poverty and crime.

Ahead of the march, the Livestock Auctioneers Association (LAA) is demanding an easing of the rule brought in during the foot-and-mouth outbreak, which bans farmers from moving animals for 20 days after they have passed through a market.

The LAA says that since the foot-and-mouth outbreak, more than 20 markets have closed and there is concern that the 150 left could soon follow.

The 20-day movement restriction on livestock bought and sold at market together with new hygiene rules affecting the smaller, older sites are being blamed.

Sympathy marches

The association says farmers are forced to sell at cheaper prices directly to abattoirs which are mostly controlled by supermarkets.

The National Farmers Union (NFU) and the LAA want the 20-day restrictions reduced, but the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) says the duration is based on veterinary advice to prevent the spread of the disease.

Countryside Alliance spokesman Adrian Yalland said: "This march will be a truly global event."

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

He also claimed that supporters abroad were holding sympathy marches.

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.

Neither the police nor organisers are anticipating trouble from CA opponents or more radical pro-hunting groups.

Open in new window : March Route
Liberty and Livelihood March

The march - postponed by the foot-and-mouth outbreak last year - is billed by the CA as a protest over the proposed ban on hunting with dogs and what the group says are other threats to rural values, customs and livelihoods.

Participants will be entertained by bands and five huge video screens en route and marshalled by at least 1,600 steward.

The CA's chief march organiser, James Stanford, said he be would happy if numbers equalled the 250,000 who turned out for a similar event in London in 1998.

Placards and banners have been prepared for the march
The march will attract a global delegation
However an anti-hunting campaign group said the numbers of people expected to attend the march had been falling steadily since March.

Mike Hobday of the League Against Cruel Sports said: "Whatever the eventual numbers, the majority of the public believe that there can be no liberty to be cruel to wild animals."

Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Andy Trotter said: "This will be a huge policing operation in terms of the scale of road closures and the numbers of people but the [policing] needs are far, far lower than for any other march of this sort and scale".

He said this was because of the "nature of the marchers, the co-operation of the Countryside Alliance and the number of stewards they will have on duty".

Mr Trotter said his officers' task would mainly be a "people-moving operation".

"We're not expecting any of the difficulties we sometimes have with demonstrations in central London," he said.


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THE MARCH ROUTE


See also:

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