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Monday, 22 April, 2002, 15:25 GMT 16:25 UK
Hunters converge on London
Hunting is back on the political agenda
Protesters angry at moves to ban hunting with dogs brought Parliament Square in Westminster to a standstill on Monday.

Horse boxes and lorries driven by members of the union of country sports workers arrived to underline opposition to a foxhunting ban.

We have looked after the countryside for hundreds of years and it's some of the best in the world

Mickey Wills
Spokesman Mickey Wills said that a ban on hunting would threaten people's livelihoods in rural areas.

"Hitler was the last man to ban hunting and we can't let it happen in this country," he said.

Plans to introduce a Bill to outlaw the practice follows a vote in the House of Commons in which MPs overwhelmingly backed a ban.

Peers in the Lords subsequently voted for a compromise deal of licensed hunts.

Alun Michael
The rural affairs minister is the target of protesters' anger
A previous attempt to ban hunting ended after the government called a general election a year ago.

Support for a ban in the Commons contrasted with strong opposition to such a move in the upper house.

Alun Michael, the minister for rural affairs, has promised to bring forward legislation that, if accepted, could institute a ban.

But that will only happen when a consultation period has taken place.

Labour MP Gordon Prentice tabled a motion last week praising the government's willingness to use the Parliament Act if the legislation becomes bogged down in the Lords again.

Not political?

"We want the consultation period that Alun Michael promised in March to start," said Mr Prentice.

"So far nothing's happened."

But professional huntsman Mr Wills said the use of the Parliament Act was inappropriate for an issue like hunting.

"It shouldn't be a political issue. We have looked after the countryside for hundreds of years and it's some of the best in the world," he said.

"We have done a good job of it, they should leave the countryside to us."

The pro-hunting Countryside Alliance are planning a summer-long series of protests against any potential ban culminating in a march on 22 September which organisers hope will attract up to 500,000 demonstrators.

No compromise

Alliance chief executive Richard Burge said the march would take the name of a previous march postponed because of last year's foot-and-mouth crisis: 'Liberty and Livelihood'.

He indicated that those backing the five principles of the march would not be welcome to join the protest.

"This march is about rural liberty and livelihoods," he said.

"Anyone who does not subscribe to all five principles of our march - and these crucially include the right for people to decide for themselves whether they may hunt - will not be welcome on it".

See also:

18 Apr 02 | UK Politics
Labour MPs back hunting ban move
12 Apr 02 | UK Politics
'Summer of discontent' launched
20 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Ministers weigh hunting ban options
19 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Lords compromise on hunting
26 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Lords set to vote on hunting ban
13 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Hunting Bill clears first hurdle
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