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Countryside Alliance chief hits out as ministers ditch hunting ban repeal

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: January 08, 2013

Sir Barney White-Spunner has become the first from the pro-hunting lobby to abandon the Government’s line that the Hunting Act is not among its top priorities and call for the promised vote to repeal the laws

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The leader of the hunting community in the region has spoken out for the first time against the Government’s refusal to allow a vote on repealing the hunting ban.

Sir Barney White-Spunner, the Dorset-based chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, criticised the view taken by Environment Secretary Owen Paterson that a free vote must not be rushed.

It is the first such intervention from a community that had backed the government line that ministers had more important things to worry about and follows the first successful prosecution of a hunt – the Cotswolds-based Heythrop.

After Christmas, Mr Paterson said he wanted the Hunting Act repealed, but confirmed the Conservatives’ promise of a free vote on whether the issue should be debated by MPs again would not happen any time soon.

“There’s only a point having a vote if you’re going to win,” said the Environment Secretary. “At the moment, it would not be my proposal to bring forward a vote which we were going to lose. There needs to be more work done on MPs.”

Sir Barney said he disagreed with that view, and said he was confident the vote could be won as more MPs might changed their minds on repeal if the issue was debated again.

“While we understand the difficulties of coalition and that the numbers in the House of Commons are undoubtedly very close, we believe that a vote on repeal could be won, not least because any debate would again expose the Act as an illogical and illiberal mess,” he said.

Sir Barney believes there are fewer Conservative MPs opposed to repeal but that Scottish Labour MPs, voting on a law which affects England and Wales, are a problem.

“Support has grown to a point that we could be confident of winning a vote on the repeal of the Hunting Act among MPs in England and Wales, where the law takes effect,” he added.

Anti-hunt groups, including the League Against Cruel Sports, IFAW and the RSPCA, said the vast majority – three-quarters – of the population wanted the Act to stay.

Meanwhile, a fundraising campaign has been launched to help pay the legal bill and fines of the three huntsmen with the Heythrop Hunt, and the hunt itself, who all pleaded guilty to illegal hunting last season in the Cotswolds.

The Alliance paid tribute to Julian Barnfield, the now-retired hunt master of the Heythrop, after he admitted illegally hunting a fox three times in Gloucestershire and once in Oxfordshire. Sir Barney described the court case against him as ‘the RSPCA’s vendetta’.

“No other huntsman has had to endure so many allegations. He has never shirked from the limelight, being a consistently brilliant advocate,” said Sir Barney.

A Heythrop meet takes place in February to raise funds for the £25,000 fines and costs.

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  • Harymary  |  January 10 2013, 7:35AM

    The Hunting Act became Law in 2005 by the will of the people. It will stay Law in 2013 and forever by the will of the people.

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  • Harymary  |  January 10 2013, 7:34AM

    The Hunting Act became Law in 2005 by the will of the people. It will stay Law in 2013 and forever by the will of the people.

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  • foxey-face  |  January 09 2013, 6:45PM

    Hunting with Dogs is illegal - Yes, really! Now, We can we start to actually properly prosecute the Countryside Alliance/Hunting brigade. when they 'go equipped' to break the Law, every time they attend these hunts. They have no intention to follow the supposed 'trail' they have (not) laid, across main roads, without any care or thought for the hounds, the horses or the car drivers, who will kill the horses and hounds when they collide with them, unintentionally, on the road. The Hunting fraternity have had their chance to abide by the Law, they will only abide by the Laws which they feel protect them - it's time to prosecute the bally lot of 'em and Long Live the RSPCA and their new Chief Exec., at last they've got teeth and they're gonna use them! Racist and Vile abuse and violence is continuously hurled at those who try and uphold the Law and stop these people killing animals. This is not 'townies' versus 'countryfolk' - this is 'right-thinking, law-abiding citizens' versus 'the bloodthirsty''

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  • Alan19531953  |  January 09 2013, 4:11PM

    If only the hunts would move with the times and divorce themselves from needless animal cruelty then they would have far more support. Killing animals just for the fun of it, regardless whether it is a family pet or a fox, is downright wrong, plain and simple.

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  • jane-sg  |  January 09 2013, 2:32PM

    Lots and lots of Dorset people are anti-hunting, the countryside alliance is not the voice of the countryside, just the voice of hunters who see their single issue as being more important than the really important issues of unemployment and recession. There would be a massive public outcry if this ban was attempted to be repealed. Hunters should concentrate on enjoying their pastime within the letter of the law rather than continually complaining about this one issue as it just makes them come across as a group of blood thirsty people who only hunt for the 'thrill of the kill'.

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