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Thursday, 28 March, 2002, 12:01 GMT
Pro-hunt march 'will attract 500,000'
Countryside Alliance marchers
Countryside Alliance members take to the street
The pro-hunting Countryside Alliance is organising what it claims will be one of the biggest peace time demonstrations ever staged in the UK.

I wouldn't exactly call it open warfare but the government has lost the trust of people living in the country

Countryside Alliance

The group has promised a "summer of discontent" against the government and MPs campaigning for a ban on hunting with dogs.

It claims 500,000 people will march on central London before Parliament rises for the summer in July.

The Alliance's last large-scale march in 1998 attracted 250,000 supporters.

'Conservative estimate'

Countryside Alliance chief executive Richard Burge has written an open letter to its members urging them to take part in "law-abiding but determined protests" against rural affairs ministers at their official engagements.

Hunt sets off at Bowhill Estate
Hunts feel victimised
The letter follows last week's hunting votes in the Commons and Lords.

The government has said it will consult for six months before going ahead with new legislation on the issue.

A spokesman for the Countryside Alliance told BBC News Online it wanted to demonstrate the strength of feeling against a ban.

He said 500,000 was a "conservative estimate" of the numbers expected to march on London, based on the support for a planned march last year which had to be cancelled because of foot-and-mouth.

Relations between the government and rural communities had reached an a new low following the hunting debate, he said.

"I wouldn't exactly call it open warfare but the government has lost the trust of people living in the country," he said.

Public opinion

Hunting is an integral part of rural society and a ban would make existing problems, such as unemployment and dying communities, worse, he said.

"We need to keep the pressure on the government.

"Public opinion is turning against a ban on hunting," he said.

The Alliance is talking to the Metropolitan Police about a possible date for the London march.

A date has not been fixed, but a spokesman told BBC News Online it would be before parliament's summer recess.

See also:

13 Feb 02 | Scotland
Fox-hunting ban passed
13 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Hunt lobby's hopes may be dashed
13 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Labour MPs step up hunting call
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