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Wednesday, November 10, 1999 Published at 06:38 GMT

UK: Wales

Pro-hunt rally draws thousands

Rallies across Britain have atttracted thousands of hunt supporters

Thousands of supporters of fox-hunting gathered in Cardiff on Wednesday for a rally opposing government plans to ban the sport.

It followed a week-long protest march from Machynlleth to the Welsh capital organised by the Countryside Alliance.

The BBC's Wyre Davies: "There are powerful social and economic arguments on both sides"
The number of people who gathered for the rally in Cardiff has been disputed by the Countryside Alliance and opponents of hunting.

The Alliance claimed over 10,000 people turned out at Pontcanna Fields to hear speeches from members of the Assembly's three Opposition parties.

Anti-hunt campaigners claimed there were no more than 6,000 people at the event.

The majority later marched to the National Assembly building in Cardiff Bay, carrying banners and blowing hunting horns.

South Wales Police said the march passed peacefully and without incident.

[ image: Pro-hunt supporters are fighting new legislation]
Pro-hunt supporters are fighting new legislation
An estimated 400 supporters spent a week walking 140 miles from Machynlleth to Cardiff.

The organisers had earlier said the protest would be one of the biggest gatherings ever seen in Wales.

The Countryside Alliance claims 5,000 jobs in Wales are at risk although the RSPCA said independent research suggested that fewer than 100 jobs were directly dependent on the 30 Welsh hunts.

The Government's plan to ban fox-hunting prompted a wave of protest from people who reject claims that the sport is cruel.

NFU Cymru president Hugh Richards told pro-hunt supporters and farmers that the knock-on effect of a ban on hunting could lead to the destruction of the rural way of life.

Among those who attended the rally were the Plaid Cymru leader Dafydd Wigley, Tory leader Nick Bourne and Liberal Democrat leader Mike German.

The First Secretary Alun Michael met a delegation of six hunt supporters when the march arrived at the Assembly.

Sir Peter de la Billiere, Commander of British Forces in the Gulf in 1991, also lent his support.


Sir Peter, who does not hunt or ride, said: "I believe with passion in the right of the rural minority to pursue its way of life in peace.

"Without this freedom there would be no freedom in our land."

The First Secretary Alun Michael met a delegation of six hunt supporters when the march arrived at the Assembly.

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