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Tuesday, 12 November, 2002, 07:24 GMT
New hope for Dartmoor hunts
dartmoor
Dartmoor walkers could be endangered by shooting
The South West could be one of the few places in England where hunting with hounds survives, according to government sources.

Westminster briefings indicate the government plans to set up local tribunals to consider where hunting is justified - and upland areas like Dartmoor and Exmoor are the most likely.

About 15 hunts operate on Dartmoor and Exmoor, but more could be drawn to the area if a deal is agreed.

A bill to ban or partially ban hunting with dogs is almost certain to be announced in the Queen's Speech on Wednesday.


Hunting is no less cruel on Dartmoor or Exmoor than anywhere else

League Against Cruel Sports
The tribunals would consist of local people, from both sides of the hunting debate, chaired by someone from the legal world and they would decide if pest control was needed in a certain area and from there, how best to carry it out.

In lowlands areas it is generally accepted that shooting is the most humane method.

But in upland areas like Dartmoor and Exmoor, shooting is more problematic. There is a danger in shooting in vast open spaces like the national parks and of hitting other animals and people.

BBC Devon environment correspondent Simon Hall said that the government was trying to remove itself from the firing line over hunting.

MPs vote

He said: "The government has had a lot of flak about this. If it devolves the decision to the tribunals, it can step back from it."

hunting hounds
Anti-hunting groups have ruled out a deal
The problem with such a deal is that it could unite two enemies, the Countryside Alliance and the League Against Cruel Sports.

Ivor Annetts, mid-Devon co-ordinator for the League Against Cruel Sports, told BBC News Online: "We are opposed to anything other than an outright ban.

"Hunting is no less cruel on Dartmoor or Exmoor than anywhere else."

Mal Treharne, Somerset-based policy advisor for the Countryside Alliance, said: "We can understand why areas like Dartmoor and Exmoor are being recognised by the govenment as special, regarding hunting, but we cannot understand why other areas should not be under the same rules."

There is also a large majority of MPs in the House of Commons who want an outright ban.

They could simply amend the bill to ban it totally.


Click here to go to BBC Cornwall

Click here to go to Devon
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See also:

01 Nov 02 | England
12 Mar 02 | England
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