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Wednesday, 22 May, 2002, 19:10 GMT 20:10 UK
Horses and hounds join protest
Horse and hounds
Horse and hounds in central London
Fox hunting hounds and horses have been used to disrupt traffic outside Parliament in the latest protest against a possible ban on hunting with hounds.

London Mayor Ken Livingstone said he was looking to take legal action against protestors who had "churned up" the grass on Parliament Square with horses.

The demonstration was not part of the Countryside Alliance's campaign - which currently includes a round-the-clock vigil in Westminster.
Horseback protesters
Protesters disrupted Westminster traffic

That began a week ago and will last five months until the planned countryside march on 22 September.

More than 600 demonstrators, 40 horses and 50 hounds joined Wednesday's demonstration, organised by the Union of Country Sports Workers.

Some riders and hounds defied attempts by the police to confine them within the centre of Parliament Square.

Hounds were nearly run over as riders repeatedly led a dash into the traffic.

Scores of police were deployed with many more on standby as angry protesters helped the riders break through the barriers.

'Lack of respect'

John Holliday, a professional huntsman from Ledbury in Herefordshire, said his livelihood would be at risk if the government forced through a ban.

"We are not toffs on horses. We have been fobbed off with this consultation period, but what we want to know is how they are going to ban it, not if and why and all the rest of it.

"We are not having it."

A spokesman for the union said the protesters, who included farriers, terriermen and grooms, were worried their livelihood would disappear.

"They feel they are being bullied and intimidated by a government who does not understand their way of life."

'Thoughtless'

Mr Livingstone said he backed the right to protest but this demonstration had been done in a "completely thoughtless" manner.

"If the Countryside Alliance want city dwellers to take the countryside seriously, then they should disassociate themselves from this group and condemn them for the lack of respect they have shown for the city today," he added.

Campaigners fear that jobs will be lost if a hunting ban - overwhelmingly backed in the Commons - is implemented.

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.

Job losses?

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.

A spokesman for the Countryside Alliance said one of the reasons for the vigil is the fact they have yet to be consulted by anyone.

Background and analysis of one of the most contentious issues in British politics

Latest stories

The Scottish ban

Analysis

Background

TALKING POINT
See also:

18 Mar 02 | Wales
13 Feb 02 | Scotland
19 Mar 02 | UK Politics
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