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Last Updated: Monday, 13 February 2006, 14:21 GMT
Business as usual after hunt ban
Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
BBC Wales business editor

Hounds with a hunt
Some hunt workers may have gone part time
A year ago there were was some concern about a fox hunting ban.

Businesses could close, jobs would be lost and people in rural communities would feel more alienated than ever.

But would a townie like me notice much of a difference today?

Well, no is the answer.

The horses and hounds are still here, as are the huntsmen, kennelmen, blacksmiths and others.

Meriel Williams of the Llanwnnen Hunt in Ceredigion told me: "'We've maintained the structure. People are trying to carry on - 'business as usual', if you like".

The Llanwnnen Farmers Hunt, which has up to 100 members, celebrated its 50th anniversary last year. The pack hunts in Carmarthenshire over 350 square miles of country.

That is echoed by Neil Davies, who has spent the past year with hunting communities to make a series of documentaries for the BBC.

He said: "If anything, the economy around the hunt has got stronger as people in rural communities club around it. The hat that gets passed around at hunt social events is fuller than ever".

No hard research has been done but every economist and hunt supporter I've spoken to can't think of a single person who has become jobless since the ban came into force 12 months ago.

A very small number, it seems, may have gone part time.

This may not last. If farmers tire of hosting hunts that can't kill foxes, hunting and its jobs could yet wither away.

"We are hoping to keep the support of landowners, but that goodwill could be withdrawn over time and hunts disbanded", said Meriel Williams.

But even if that were to happen, would it make much difference?

If the Burns Report was right, fewer than 100 people in Wales have full time jobs dependent on foxhunting. Compare that with the almost 58,000 people who work on farms.

And any job losses might well get absorbed by the growth in other rural services. Stables and livery yards, for example, are reportedly very busy catering for city girls wanting ponies in the country.

In fact, many economists say providing services for townies - pubs and restaurants are other examples - is the real future for the countryside.

Farmers will take issue with that, but its clear that the economic impact of fox hunting is pretty marginal.

According to Dr Michael Woods at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth: "The fact that the ban seems to have no effect with things continuing as before raises important questions for hunt supporters.

"If there's so little economic impact, as appears to be the case, should they carry on trying to overturn the ban?"

A special programme looking at the impact of the hunting ban in Wales, People's Voice with Huw Edwards is on BBC1 Wales at 2235 GMT on Monday.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Watch Gareth Jones' report on the impact of the hunting ban



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