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Last Updated: Friday, 19 November, 2004, 16:40 GMT
In pursuit of civil disobedience
Hunting with dogs

Hunt supporters have promised a multi-pronged campaign of civil disobedience and disruption in protest at the government's outlawing of hunting with dogs.

How effective will these measures be?

'GET YOUR SOLDIERS OFF MY LAND'

Some pro-hunt landowners have already withdrawn their permission for military training to take place on their land and others say they plan to follow suit.

One such landowner, John Stratton, says that up to 240,000 acres of land in Wiltshire, Northumberland and Wales previously used for military training have already been withdrawn from use.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said it had so far been able to continue most exercises as planned despite "a small number of withdrawals of permission".

It was too early to assess the affect of further withdrawals of permission but the armed forces adopted a "flexible year-round approach to using private land", he added.

CARRY ON REGARDLESS

Thousands of protestors insist they will defy the ban when it is introduced.

They say it would be a logistical nightmare for police to make arrests and then deal with horses and hounds.

And they say they are willing to go to prison for their beliefs.

Association of Chief Police Officers' hunting spokesman Alastair McWhirter said police forces would enforce the new legislation but admitted it would take a good deal of effort.

"Enforcing the law in the early days will require a significant commitment of resources and the consequences of this will be carefully examined," said Mr McWhirter, who is also chief constable of Suffolk Police.

New guidance was being prepared for police forces in time for the implementation of the ban at the end of February 2005 and all hunt organisers would be contacted to explain the new law, he added.

UP THE CREEK WITHOUT A WATERWAY

As with the withdrawal of permission for military training, a number of methods of disobedience focus on landowners denying access to their estates.

Farmer Richard May of Macclesfield said he and "scores of other landowners" had rivers with weirs on their land.

"Sadly the weirs need repair.

"If every landowner in the country with a weir on their land said no [access] to British Waterways, the canal system would dry up within weeks," he said.

Stewart Sim, technical director of British Waterways, said it had generally very good relations with landowners, with longstanding agreements allowing access to waterways.

But if landowners decided to block access for long periods of time, it could create "considerable difficulties", especially at times of extreme weather conditions.

He added: "We do, however, have statutory powers allowing us to gain access for both emergency works and for inspection, maintenance and repair but we would be reluctant to take such steps unless absolutely necessary."

'GET YOUR PYLONS OFF MY LAND'

Many private landowners across the UK, including Mr May, have electricity pylons on their land.

"I have six pylons, maintained by the local electricity board who obviously need my goodwill and I rather think I shouldn't co-operate," he said.

"I think I might ask them to move them."

The Energy Networks Association said most agreements allowing pylons on private land were voluntary "wayleaves" which could be terminated by a landowner with an agreed notice period.

But when this happened companies could apply to the Department of Trade and Industry for a "necessary wayleave" which would be granted if the company could prove the line needed to be kept in its current position.

"These robust statutory processes ensure that vital electricity infrastructure can remain in place and that we have access for essential works," policy director David Smith said.

LAND ACCESS OFF TRACK

Similarly, train lines cross private land throughout Britain, particularly in the countryside.

Some landowners say they are prepared to deny rail companies access to their land to repair tracks.

They are confident this will cause significant disruption.

Network Rail spokeswoman Janine Mantle said: "A large number of access points are on the public highway or on land belonging to us or our industry partners.

"We are therefore confident in our ability to maintain the required level of access to the tracks."

Cases would be reviewed on a case by case basis in the event of access being denied.

But rights of access to the network through private land were "enshrined in law," she added.

UNSEATING THE ENEMY

The Countryside Alliance says it will mount a campaign to unseat Labour MPs who voted for the ban at the next general election - this will generally mean supporting opposing Conservative candidates.

Election analyst John Curtis says that very few Labour seats are vulnerable to such a campaign.

"Of the 100 or so mostly rural constituencies in Britain, the Labour party only represents three of them," he said.

But Labour strategists had good reasons for trying to delay the ban until after the next election.

"For the prime minister the concern is that even if [the unseating campaign] doesn't drive many votes, it's going to be something that dogs him during the course of the election campaign."


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