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Saturday, October 30, 1999 Published at 18:05 GMT


Prince Charles takes sons hunting

William has been fox hunting several times

The League Against Cruel Sports has accused the Prince of Wales of using his sons to make a "political statement" after he took them hunting on the first day of the foxhunting season.

Prince William joined his father, the Prince of Wales, on the Beaufort Hunt on Saturday.

His younger brother, Prince Harry, followed their progress as a pillion passenger on a trials motorbike.

Fox hunting
The chairman of the League Against Cruel Sports, John Cooper, said: "With a possible hunt ban on the cards he is clearly trying to intimidate MPs into shelving a ban because he enjoys foxhunting.

[ image: Prince Charles is keen his sons share his passion for foxhunting]
Prince Charles is keen his sons share his passion for foxhunting
"Charles is engaging the practice of setting a pack of hounds on a wild animal for fun - but this is animal abuse in the name of tradition.

"He is out of touch with the British public who know that this cruel and barbaric pastime has no place in the 21st century."

Legislation looming

The princes' appearance on the hunt, which takes place close to Prince Charles' Highgrove home in Gloucestershire, came amid renewed debate among the pro- and anti-hunt lobbies over the future of the sport.

Parliamentary legislation on banning the activity is due to be outlined in the Queen's Speech on 17 November.

Prince William, who has been foxhunting several times in the past, was dressed, like his father, in tweed jacket, jodhpurs and riding cap.

[ image: Charles' girlfriend Camilla is a keen huntswoman]
Charles' girlfriend Camilla is a keen huntswoman
A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman told BBC News Online: "To say that by taking his sons hunting he is making a political statement, is absolute nonsense."

She said: "Hunting is still a legal sport and everyone knows that the Prince of Wales is a hunter. As for the children, while it is still legal they are perfectly free to make their own choice."

Although the Beaufort Hunt's official opening meeting takes place next week, foxes were being hunted on Saturday as part of what is known as autumn hunting.

A hunt marshal said the idea was to split families of foxes up, ready for the new season. It also allows the hounds to pick up the scent.

A large demonstration by hunt supporters in the south west of England is expected to take place at Exeter racecourse in Devon on Sunday.

At the demonstration, part of a series organised by the Countryside Alliance, there will be speeches from Labour peer Baroness Mallalieu and other pro-hunting grandees. A march will then proceed to the town centre.

Other protests have already attracted 12,000 in Birmingham, 19,000 in Newcastle and 11,000 in Norwich.

The final demonstration takes place in Cardiff on 10 November.

'Vote-catching gimmick'

TV presenter Anne Robinson attended the opening meet of the Vale of the White Horse Hunt, near Fairford in Gloucestershire on Saturday.

She is one of a number of celebrities including Harry Enfield and Ian Botham who support foxhunting.

[ image: The fox hunting debate is intense]
The fox hunting debate is intense
She said: "I care passionately about the countryside and the rights of the people who live in it.

"The government's support for a ban on hunting is a vote-catching gimmick and is playing on the heart strings of people whose knowledge of rural life is based on Walt Disney movies and Animal Hospital.

"I am on the side of liberty. Tony Blair should mind his own business. If he is concerned about cruelty to animals he should set his sights on the welfare of domestic pets locked up in the inner cities."

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