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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 July, 2003, 14:20 GMT 15:20 UK
Huntsmen vow to fight on
The Flint and Denbigh Hunt
The Flint and Denbigh Hunt covers a large area of north Wales
Huntsmen have said they expect fox hunting to continue in Wales regardless of whether the government outlaws hunting with dogs.

MPs voted on Monday to outlaw hunting by a large majority and Rural Affairs Minister Alun Michael confirmed on Tuesday that he expects the practice to be illegal by 2005.

But the Hunting Bill still has to pass through the Lords which has so far opposed any attempts to ban hunting.

And Welsh huntsmen told BBC Wales News Online they expect many hunts to continue, regardless of whether a ban is eventually made law.

Wales is said to have more hunts per square mile than any other area of the UK.

I would lose my house and my job if hunting was banned
Huntsman Dylan Davies

Jeremy Reid, of the Flint and Denbigh Hunt, in north east Wales, said: "I think hunting will carry on.

"I've not met a person who doesn't think so.

"But I am worried about it (the ban).

"I've got a wife and two children and we live in a tied cottage provided by the hunt.

"I am a full-time huntsman and I've done nothing else for the 21 years since I left school.

Ralph Cook
Ralph Cook has been campaigning against hunts for 25 years

"It's not a hobby, it's a way of life and they are trying to take it away from us."

The Flint and Denbigh Hunt hunts foxes three says every week on horses across a large area of north Wales.

Fellow huntsman Dylan Davies, of the Eryri Hunt in Snowdonia, said any ban would be unenforceable in rural areas.

"If the government forces this through, they will have a hell of a fight," he said.

"Hunts will carry on.

"I hoped they (MPs) would go for a total ban, because the compromise originally proposed by Alun Michael was unworkable and was effectively a ban.

"This way, the arguments are more clear."

'Increase in foxes'

Mr Davies said he believed a ban on hunting would create local unemployment and lead to problems for farmers in the area covered by the hunt.

The Eryri Hunt has hunted foxes in upland areas of north west Wales, including Snowdon, on foot for 40 years.

"I would lose my house and my job if hunting was banned," said Mr Davies.

"There would be an increase in foxes and farmers aren't going to tolerate it."

But anti-hunt campaigners said the MPs' vote to ban hunting was a major step forward.

HUNTING BAN TIMETABLE
1997: Labour's election manifesto promises free vote on a hunting ban
1999: Countryside Alliance marches in support of hunting at Labour Party conference
2000: Burns inquiry says between 6,000 to 8,000 jobs would be lost by a ban.
2001: Lords votes against Hunting Bill
2002: Six month consultation announced to produce new bill
2003: MPs vote by 362 to 154 to ban fox-hunting with dog

Ralph Cook, chairman of the Wales Alliance Against Cruel Sports, said the MPs vote put the end of the long fight to ban hunting in sight.

"It was a surprise that the licensing proposal was withdrawn in Parliament," he said.

"It could be that the government knew this was the way it should go.

"There is no middle way - we either have hunting or we don't.

"The Lords will try to knobble it and it will be a case of how determined the government is to push it through.

"But everyone who is concerned about cruelty to animals can support this.

"Some hunts will try to continue, but they can be prosecuted if this becomes law.

"But I'm not celebrating yet - a lot can happen before 2005.

"I've been campaigning against hunting for 25 years and I'd like to do something else."

Support

On Monday night, MPs voted by 362 votes to 154 for an all-out ban.

Mr Michael, MP for Cardiff South and Penarth, said on Tuesday he would be "very surprised" if people were still fox hunting "in a couple of years time".

The prime minister's official spokesman later refused to confirm whether Tony Blair would support a bill banning the sport outright.

"The bill will have to reflect the vote, but we have to take this one step at a time," he said.

The bill will now return to a committee of MPs to review the changes, and will not go to the House of Lords until the autumn.

If the Lords rejects it, MPs would have to pass the bill in two successive sessions of Parliament and then use the Parliament Act to over-ride Lords objections if a ban is to become law.


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