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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 September, 2004, 16:56 GMT 17:56 UK
Pro-hunt demo at Labour gathering
Protesters in Brighton
The protest was peaceful, said the Countryside Alliance
Thousands of demonstrators have staged a protest outside the Labour Party conference in Brighton in protest at government plans to ban fox-hunting.

The demonstration, led by the Countryside Alliance, came just before Tony Blair's keynote speech. The group said it was lively but peaceful.

Police say about 10,000 protesters with 1,000 working dogs joined the protest.

Two men were arrested after a dead horse and two calves were dumped near the conference centre.

Two carcasses were placed near the centre itself and one by the railway station.

Simon Hart, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, condemned the action.


It would "only serve to diminish the message of determination from the massive lawful demonstration outside the conference centre," he said.

The march began shortly after 1300 BST and began to disperse at about 1400 BST.

Hundreds of riot police and dog handlers surrounded the front of the conference centre.

Protest organisers believe the number of demonstrators exceeded the 10, 000 estimated by police.

Terriers, retrievers, lurchers, greyhounds and packs of hounds turned the promenade outside Brighton pier into one huge dog-walking area
The BBC's Ollie Stone-Lee at the march

A string of young women dressed as bunny girls led the march as it arrived at the conference centre, before several of them dashed to the seafront to stage a naked protest.

Despite the march being described as peaceful, demonstrators threw eggs at the conference centre and senior Labour MP Gerald Kaufman, one of the leaders of those calling for a hunting ban, was seen to be jostled by the protesters.

"He looked very white and shaken. He was physically jostled," said one delegate.

'Hardworking families'

Protester Baroness Mallalieu, a pro-hunting Labour peer and Countryside Alliance president, told BBC News Online: "The saddest thing is that we are seeing the police being deployed to protect the government from the people - and I never thought I would see that under a Labour government."

We are not the braying mob that John Prescott portrays
Protester Anthony Clay
She said the protesters wanted to show it was "hardworking families" which would be hit by a hunting ban.

Anthony Clay, from Cambridgeshire, agreed, saying: "We are not the braying mob that John Prescott portrays."

He said the campaign was against an unjust and unenforceable law - "that's not democracy".

Ahead of the rally, Rural Affairs Minister Alun Michael said the government was not trying to push the ban through, and was actually "looking to find as much common ground as possible for all the parties involved".

'Looking for compromise'

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We have been looking for a compromise for a long time period but it is very difficult to see one coming because it is so late in the day now.

"It is very much the last chance saloon but we hope still that the House of Lords will engage with the bill".

The march follows other recent protests over hunting.

On Saturday, some 150 demonstrators blocked the lane to the house of Commons leader Peter Hain, delaying him from travelling to the Labour conference.

Dead horse
A dead horse was dumped near the conference centre
Over the past 10 days, Mr Michael had to cancel two official events after police warnings protests might turn violent.

Earlier this month, the House of Commons voted to ban hunting with dogs in England and Wales.

In Parliament Square, hundreds of demonstrators clashed with police, while five protesters entered the Commons chamber.

The bill is now due before the House of Lords on 12 October.

At the weekend Tony Blair suggested a compromise might be reached such as for hunting to continue under licence.

The BBC's Jon Brain
"A handful of protesters were taken out of the crowd following minor scuffles"

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