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Last Updated: Saturday, 1 November, 2003, 09:51 GMT
Hunters pledge to defy the law
Foxhounds
Hunt supporters brought foxhounds to the protest
Nearly 4,000 pro-hunt campaigners demonstrated in mid Wales on Saturday as part of a nationwide show of support for the sport.

There were 750 on horseback, accompanied by around 3,000 on foot with dogs, for the gathering at the Royal Welsh Showground, at Llanelwedd, Builth Wells.

People who support the freedom to hunt signed a declaration saying they will refuse to co-operate with any future ban on hunting - even if it means breaking the law.

The event, organised by the Countryside Alliance, was one of 12 Declaration Day meetings being staged across the UK on Saturday.

As many as 37,000 have signed up to support the "hunting declaration" to oppose a proposed ban, according to the organisers of the event, the Countryside Alliance and the Council of Hunting Associations.

Civil disobedience

Simon Hart, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, said: "The mass gatherings will give individuals the opportunity to make clear their intention to take part in peaceful, but committed, civil disobedience should a hunting ban ever be imposed."

A bill to ban fox hunting with dogs was effectively killed off on Thursday after the House of Lords ran out of time to debate it.

It must be stressed that signing the declaration is an issue for personal conscience
Gareth Vaughan, Farmers Union of Wales
The Hunting Bill, which was turned into a complete ban by MPs in the summer, ran into trouble when peers voted by 74 to 34 to adjourn its committee stage to another day.

With MPs and peers still locked in heated debate over the measure, no-one had realistically expected the bill to become law before the start of the new session on 26 November.

Ministers now have the option to reintroduce the bill in the same form as it left the Commons - with a total ban on hunting - which could mean it being forced into law next year using the Parliamentary Act.

Provided it is passed again by the Commons, it would then go to the Lords in early 2004.

A fox hunt
There were 750 hunt riders at the protest
The Parliamentary Act - the rarely used instrument to enforce the will of MPs if there is deadlock with peers - could only be invoked if peers voted to block the bill for a second time.

If it was used a ban could become law by autumn of next year.

Farmers Union of Wales President Gareth Vaughan voiced his support for the Declaration Day event at Llanelwedd.

But, he stressed :"Whilst the FUW is supporting the mass gatherings in principle, it must be stressed that signing the declaration is an issue for personal conscience.

"I understand the Countryside Alliance have spoken to the police on the issue and they advise that signing the declaration does not necessarily commit an individual into breaking the law."




SEE ALSO:
Timeline: Hunting row
21 Oct 03  |  Politics


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