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Last Updated: Saturday, 5 November 2005, 16:57 GMT
The new face of hunting
By Danny Savage
BBC News, in north Derbyshire

Hunt members have been advised on how to stay within the law
At daybreak this morning the sounds of more than 50 barking foxhounds reverberate across the multi-coloured autumnal valley close to the Barlow Hunt kennels near Sheffield.

For the dogs it was the beginning of another day's hunt, but for their masters the main concern was keeping to the right side of the law.

Other, more unfamiliar, sounds could also be heard.

A quad bike and a lone horse and rider set off in opposite directions, both dragging a soaking cloth pouch doused in the scent of a fox.

This is the new face of hunting.

I pity the job of the police. It's bad law and will not stand the test of time
Steven Clark
Joint Master, Barlow Hunt
A real fox can no longer be the quarry, the hounds have to follow a scent. If a real fox is found, the pack has to be called off.

Hours later, at the beginning of the day's hunting, the Joint Hunt Master Steven Clark warns riders to stay within the law - despite his own clear view of the Hunting Act.

"The law is very vague in my belief. It is unenforceable and I pity the job of the police," he said.

"It's bad law and will not stand the test of time from a countryside point of view, an enforcement point of view and indeed from a libertarian point of view."

To help them keep their act lawful, each hunt has been issued with a booklet entitled "How to keep hunting".

The 42-page document has been checked by lawyers working for the Countryside Alliance and explains just what is legal under the Hunting Act.

Alice the hawk in Cheshire
Some meets have started using birds of prey on their hunts
It includes all forms of hunting with dogs and even has guidelines about to do if members are arrested.

Two vans full of police officers were at today's meeting.

They were officially there to keep order if there were any clashes between hunt members and anti-hunt lobbyists.

The mood between officers and hunt supporters was friendly and relaxed.

'Test case'

Police have a difficult job enforcing the legislation; they can only go onto private land where hunting takes place if there is a clear indication the law is being broken.

Some hunters would like to see an arrest and test case of this law. They believe it would not lead to a court prosecution because the legislation is too ambiguous.

The handbook also refers to the ban being temporary, a widespread belief in hunting circles.

"We're very determined we're going to get through this problem and as you can see from the support today everyone is behind us," one man said.

"Support is increasing, not going down."

Hounds have to be called off the hunt if a live fox appears
Rosy Davidson, whose daughter was riding with the Barlow Hunt today said: "I feel heartened that support is so great.

"It's not just for rich people but for a whole gamut of people, as it should be, as it always has been and hopefully as it always will be."

Anti-hunting protesters were also out in force today.

Many of them had video cameras to record any incidents of apparent breaches of the law.

Many of them feel the law can be enforced - with a bit of determination.

See the first of the seasons hunts get under way

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