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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 November 2005, 07:26 GMT
Opponents keep eye on hunt season
Nia Thomas
By Nia Thomas
BBC Wales rural affairs correspondent

Hunt hound
Supporters say many hunts have had to cut their number of dogs
Anti-hunt groups have said they will monitor hunts in Wales carefully as the new season begins on Saturday.

The League Against Cruel Sports and the International Fund for Animal Welfare have said they are gathering evidence that the new law is being flouted.

There have been no prosections for hunting in the Welsh courts, but one hunt monitor told BBC Wales he expected to see a test case soon.

But the Countryside Alliance said hunting would continue within the law.

The Wales-based hunt monitor - who wishes to remain anonymous - said: "I'm very confident that within this season the courts will be seeing the first test cases of this legislation," he said.

"There's been widespread flouting of the legislation so far.

"I'm quite confident that once the police start to work with us and once we start to supply more and more video evidence to the police the courts and the police will have no option but to take action."

Ifor Evans, Aber hunt
Ifor Evans says he knows of no hunt which has broken the law

Chairman of the Aber hunt near Bangor in Gwynedd, Ifor Evans, said: "We as a pack are not going to break the law."

"We are going to keep within it and I don't know anyone who has broken the law," he said.

The new act, which came to force in February, has meant a period of change for the Aber hunt.

But Mr Evans denied allegations that all the warnings by pro-hunt supporters that hunts would have to disband were empty threats.

Artificial trail

"We've had to put down ten hounds and I think a lot of people have cut down.

"I think everybody is waiting for common sense to prevail. But I don't think you're going to see the same number of fox hounds in kennels."

Despite the confidence of the anti-hunt groups, many feel it will be difficult to prove that the act is being deliberately broken.

We've already been looking at a number of hunts and we will now be deciding on which ones to put our resources into
Anonymous hunt monitor

If a pack of hounds is following an artificial trail and they happen to cross the trail of a live fox - and follow it - they are not in breach of the act because there was no intention to hunt a fox.

Elfan Bell, a solicitor and master of the Llandeilo hunt in Carmarthenshire, said: "It's a very badly drafted act and it's an act which is going to be very difficult to enforce.

"Obviously we can't go out to deliberately break the law but as a lawyer I can see it will be difficult to bring about prosecutions."

The Aber valley hunt will be taking two hounds at a time to flush out the fox to a gun - which is permitted within the new law. But its chairman was worried about the long-term effect of this practice.

"For the first few years I can't see a problem but my biggest concern is how we're going to carry on after that," said Mr Evans.

"If we're going to be hunting with two hounds, how are we going to start young hounds because they've got to go out with experienced hounds to learn their trade?

"So I don't see a problem for the first, say four or five years, but after that I do see a problem with starting young hounds," he said.

Hunt supporters in Brighton
Hunt supporters' demonstrations failed to halt the ban

Mr Bell claimed the new law had done the fox itself no favours.

"As far as the antis are concerned I'm not quite sure what their aims were but certainly it hasn't helped foxes in any way because now of course people are having to use other means to control their numbers.

"We've always argued that hunting has been the very public face of fox control, whereas now darker, more sinister methods are being used."

But organisations who fought hard for a hunting ban say the new act is the right way forward.

The hunt monitor said: "We've already been looking at - for the past six or seven weeks - a number of hunts and we will now be deciding on which ones to put our resources into. We will definitely be monitoring hunts in Wales."

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