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Last Updated: Sunday, 31 October, 2004, 13:24 GMT
Hunt supporters blessing hounds
Hounds (generic)
The House of Lords has voted for licensed hunts instead of a full ban.
Hundreds of people opposing a ban on fox-hunting in England and Wales have attended a special service to say prayers for hounds.

The event at Avon Bank, Pershore, Worcestershire, was organised by the Free Church of Country Sports, which celebrates the countryside.

It held the service on Sunday to mark the feast day of the patron saint of hunting, St Hubert.

The church said some packs of hounds came from long distances to be paraded.

Lords vote

The ecumenical movement, which says it welcomes all religions, described the service at Bredon View House as a bonding exercise for countryside people and a "peaceful show of solidarity".

Its founder John Milne said: "A number of packs came, not only fox hounds but basset hounds and mink hounds.

"The (hunting ban) is pure prejudice. If it's banned, there will be more hounds having to be put down than foxes killed by hunting in a year."

The House of Lords last week voted for licensed hunts instead of a full ban.

Country folk are an ethnic community and we're getting more and more ostracized
John Milne, Free Church of Country Sports
They voted by 322 to 72 for a compromise suggested by ministers but rejected by MPs in 2003.

The Commons has already overwhelmingly backed a ban and could force it onto the statute books next month.

Mr Milne added: "If hunting is banned, there will be demonstrations and what has happened so far is just the tip of the iceberg.

"The country would be brought to its knees and we as a church don't want that.

"Our church is giving Tony Blair a peaceful way out of the situation.

"He says you can't discriminate against religion. Country folk are an ethnic community and we're getting more and more ostracized as time goes on.

"I want the countryside to be left to run itself."

The church was formed during the foot-and-mouth crisis in 2001.




SEE ALSO:
Peers mount new bid to save hunts
26 Oct 04  |  Politics
Timeline: Hunting row
13 Oct 04  |  Politics


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