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Thursday, 1 November, 2001, 06:16 GMT
Hunt kennels in trouble, claim supporters
Worcestershire Hunt Kennels, Fernhill Heath, near Worcester
The Worcesterhire hunt has lost 60% of its staff
Supporters of fox hunting say the industry is being crippled because of the foot-and-mouth epidemic.

Hunt organisations across the country say they are having to lay off staff because under current foot-and-mouth restrictions hunting is illegal.

A risk assessment of the effect of hunting on foot-and-mouth has been carried out by scientists and is currently being considered by the government.

But hunt supporters have accused the government of "sitting" on the report for more than a month as a way of trying to ban hunting "through the back door".

'Political dogma'

Bob Brierley, spokesman for the Worcestershire Hunt Kennels, told BBC News Online: "We have been told that the report was submitted to Margaret Beckett more than a month ago.

"Surely the government has a responsibility to report the findings of the scientists as early as possible.

Bob Brierley
Bob Brierley says fox hunting is being "crippled"

"This is just another case of the government using political dogma to delay the recommendations on hunting."

The hunt runs from 1 November each year and Mr Brierley said the Worcestershire Kennels, at Fernhill Heath, near Worcester, has lost 60% of its staff since the start of the foot-and-mouth outbreak.

This, he says, has had a knock-on effect on other business used by the kennels such as blacksmiths, liveries and oil suppliers.

Empty stables

"We should be hunting three days a week at this time of the year - some of the other packs are hunting four or five times a week - but there are no horses in our kennels.

"There are no grooms so the stables are empty and we have not bought any feed.

"Normally the blacksmith comes in one day a week with our horses so he is losing work with us and the other packs."

He added: "People can now go out walking across any bridle path or footpath. Why are we not allowed to hunt?"

A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said the risk assessment report was currently under consideration.

He added that it would be published by the end of November.

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