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Thursday, 5 December, 2002, 08:21 GMT
Hunts confident of gaining licences
huntsmen
Hunters say they provide an "essential service"
South West hunts have said they are confident they will get licences to continue their sport if new legislation goes ahead.

Many of the region's hunts hope to meet new restrictions outlined by the government on Tuesday.

There is also speculation the region's tourist industry could benefit from visitors who come to ride with local hunts.

However anti-hunt groups say they will continue to work towards a complete ban of all hunting. Around 15 hunts in Devon and Cornwall take place on upland areas.


These activities are done in the winter, which is where we want to develop tourism

Malcolm Bell, South West Tourism
Under new restrictions, hunts would have to pass some tests before being granted a licence.

Local hunts argue they already meet the requirements.

Graham Pope of the mid-Devon Hunt said: "This is a moorland and an upland pack. There is no other way of killing foxes.

"It's an essential service for our farmers which we provide."

Tourist groups in the area believe if hunts are allowed, it could boost the rural economy by stimulating hunt tourism.

One Devon hotel said 14 couples have visited the area at weekends for hunting over the past year.

Alun Michael
Alun Michael has hinted at stag hunt compensation

The Holne Chase Hotel, at Ashburton on the edge of Dartmoor, said its visitors were, on average, paying about 600 per visit.

Malcolm Bell, of South West Tourism, said: "It is a very significant source of income in rural areas that provides jobs and support for businesses to work on a more year-round basis.

"These activities are done in the winter, which is where we want to develop tourism."

Meanwhile, Rural Affairs Minister Alun Michael has hinted at possible financial help for Exmoor following any ban on deer hunting.

Mr Michael said: "There are other ways to control deer numbers.

"But I do recognise the strong beliefs of people on Exmoor and the fact that we have to engage with that."

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Alun Michael, Rural Affairs Minister
"The method that involves the least suffering should be used to deal with any particular issue"

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See also:

04 Dec 02 | England
03 Dec 02 | Politics
12 Nov 02 | England
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