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Last Updated: Friday, 10 December, 2004, 22:14 GMT
Mass hunt protests to mark ban
hounds from a pack
Packs of hounds are set to meet after the ban
More than 250 hunts will meet legally the day after the ban on hunting with dogs comes into force, campaigners say.

The Countryside Alliance said the 19 February meets would show the new law was "impossibly difficult to determine" and open to different interpretations.

The move comes after the first man to be tried under Scottish anti-hunting laws was cleared of wrongdoing.

In a test case a court ruled that Trevor Adams, 46, from Melrose, was not "hunting", but "searching" for a fox.

'Absolute nightmare'

The ban on hunting has been welcomed by animal rights activists, many of who have campaigned for a ban for decades.

Trevor Adams

But the Countryside Alliance's chief executive Simon Hart told BBC Radio 4's World at One that everyone hunting on 19 February would still be able to do so within the law.

"Anybody who suggests this is going to be an exercise in law breaking is going to be very much mistaken," he said.

The League Against Cruel Sports welcomed the statement, saying it was "a major reversal" in the Countryside Alliance's policy.

"We are absolutely delighted that they are going to abide by the law," the league's head of public affairs, Mike Hobday, said.

"If the hunts are abandoning the cruelty of chasing foxes around the countryside, then as far as we are concerned they can do it every day and twice on Sunday," he added.

But many believe hunters are still determined to break the law, as they have threatened to do in the past.

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Mr Hart made said that policing and enforcing the ban on fox-hunting would be "an absolute nightmare" for the authorities.

The campaign group said that under the ban it was still legal to hunt rabbits, but not hares.

It would also be legal to flush out a mammal with two dogs to be shot, or to "simply take your hounds on exercise".

Test case

Earlier on Friday, the first attempt to prosecute a man accused of breaking Scottish anti-hunting laws, introduced in Scotland in 2002, failed.

Trevor Adams was cleared of deliberately using a pack of hounds to hunt foxes.

He denied the charge and claimed the hounds were used to "flush" out foxes so they could be shot.

The North West Hunt Saboteurs Association (NWHSA) dismissed claims by the Countryside Alliance that hunts will continue to go out in force after the hunt ban comes into effect.

Dawn Preston, spokesperson for the NWHSA, said: "What we see here is the Countryside Alliance attempting to beat their chest in light of the failed prosecution of a huntsman in Scotland.

Scottish law's different

"They know full well that the law in Scotland is very different from the Hunting Act in England and Wales and to try and draw comparisons shows how desperate they are to get press for their lost cause."

She added that the NWHSA was ready to help record evidence of illegal hunting, and pass it to police, once the ban came into force.

In a separate development, it emerged that a North Devon landowner, Giles Bradshaw, has been allowed to use his four dogs to "chase away unwanted animals", including deer and foxes.

He contacted the Middle Way Group and its co-chairman and Lib Dem MP Lembit Opik after initially being told his use of dogs was breaking the law.

Mr Opik later argued that hunting with dogs and flushing are not clearly defined in the Hunting Act, and wondered how village bobbies were supposed to interpret the rules.

In November, the use of the Parliament Act meant a total ban on hunting with dogs in England and Wales.

However, many pro-hunt activists remained defiant after the law was passed, saying they would ignore the ban and continue to hunt.




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