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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 July, 2003, 11:06 GMT 12:06 UK
Hunt master's vow to fight on
Clifton-on-Teme Hunt
Clifton-on-Teme Hunt has been active since 1920

For Chris Burrows-Wood, hunting is not a sport - it is a way of life which he describes as the thread which holds the fabric of the countryside community together.

He has been involved in hunting for more than 30 years and is Joint Master of the Clifton-on-Teme Hunt in Worcestershire with his wife Jo.

He runs 60 hounds covering an area of more than 50 square miles incorporating 350 farms.

Rural Affairs Minister Alun Michael has predicted that hunting with dogs could be outlawed for good by 2005, after MPs voted for an outright ban during a passionate debate on Monday night.

Government distrust

The surprise U-turn has angered Mr Burrows-Wood but he says he is not entirely surprised.

The countryside as a whole is ready to spring into action to defend what it thinks is right
Chris Burrows-Wood

"Personally I feel as though we have been stabbed in the back by the government," he told BBC News Online.

"We expected the amendment, although not the way it happened.

"Alun Michael said at the committee stage of the bill that he wanted to be fair and look at all the evidence but he didn't and from then, a lot of what the government were saying was not what they were doing.

"It was clear that hunting people did not trust Alun Michael and when there is no trust, its not entirely surprising when you hear of a U-turn like Monday.

"As far as I can see, ministers have voted against their own bill."

'Ready for action'

Mr Burrows-Wood said he would lose his job, his home and would have to put down the all the hounds he has bred himself if an outright ban on hunting were imposed.

Personal implications aside, he added it would have a devastating effect on the countryside as a whole.

Clifton-on-Teme Hunt
The Hunt took part in the Liberty and Livelihood march

"Farming, shooting and hunting are all the same community.

"They are all linked in and you can't attack one without attacking the other. Hunting is just one of the threads which holds the community together," he said.

Although he is not concerned about the immediate future of hunting - it is the long-term he is worried about.

"We are going ahead with this season's hunt and we will have to wait and see what happens in the future.

"But we are sleeping quietly, not unconsciously.

"The countryside as a whole is ready to spring into action to defend what it thinks is right.

"There will be a big fight between now and Christmas but I am confident this can be sorted out."

He said he feels the government should be spending concentrating on more important issues.

"There are things like education, the fire service, weapons of mass destruction that the government should be getting more involved in.

"At the end of the day, banning hunting with dogs will not save one fox, one hare or one mink."

The BBC's Jonathan Beale
"The days of fox hunting now look numbered"

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