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Sunday, October 10, 1999 Published at 13:56 GMT 14:56 UK


Hunt protesters target cities

Hunt supporters say 16,000 jobs are at risk if a ban is introduced

Thousands of demonstrators have gathered in the centre of Birmingham at a protest rally against plans to ban fox hunting.

Fox hunting
Approximately 10,000 people attended the event in the city's Centenary Square.

The aim of the protest is to take rural concerns to Britain's big cities and is the first of five planned events organised by the Countryside Alliance.

Protesters are demanding that the government drops any plans to ban the sport.

The rally included speeches from pro-hunting Labour peer Baroness Mallilieu, Chief Executive of the Countryside Alliance Richard Burge and other campaigners.

Police said anti-hunting demonstrators were also in Birmingham, but that the rally passed off without incident.

Simon Hart, spokesman for the alliance, said supporters had not been impressed by statements from the prime minister and other senior ministers following the Labour Party conference in Bournemouth two weeks ago.

[ image: The protest is the first of five planned for UK cities]
The protest is the first of five planned for UK cities
Mr Hart said the alliance had protested at racecourse and in country towns, but was now taking its message to cities.

He said: "We want to peacefully and gently bring the message into Britain's major cities because we think this is a problem which is a national one.

"We want people to hear what we have got to say and see first hand the problems we are facing."

Most of the demonstrators had come from rural counties surrounding Birmingham.

The last rally staged by the alliance was at Bournemouth, as Tony Blair made his keynote speech to the conference.

Mr Blair said MPs would get a chance to vote on a ban before the next election, but said fox hunting was not a "great issue", and no decision had been taken on how and when to bring forward legislation.

Leader of the Lords Baroness Jay has also said that a ban on fox hunting would not get past the Lords, even after the planned expulsion later this year of most hereditary peers.

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