With hunting still on hold, hunts mark the start of the season with a call for a public inquiry into FMD

This week should have marked the opening meet for hunts all over the country. But due to the FMD crisis, most hunters are still out in their fields and hounds confined to kennels.

A number of packs have decided to mark the day with a meet or social event not only to boost morale, but also raise much-needed funds.

DEFRA has completed its veterinary risk assessment for hunting, but that it is still said to be “under discussion by ministers”.

Campaign for Hunting chairman Sam Butler said: “Although the risk assessment was obviously delayed by new the FMD cases and we must be careful not to put our needs above those of the farming community. We are doing all we can to impress upon the government that there are livelihoods at stake – not just hunt staff, but also farriers, feed merchants and other rural businesses.”

The Masters of Foxhounds Association is currently preparing a draft protocol, but Sam Butler adds that even when DEFRA sanctions the resumption of hunting, some packs may still experience difficulties.

The Union of Country Sports Workers has written individually to DEFRA ministers Margaret Beckett, Alun Michael and Elliott Morley urging them to publish the veterinary risk assessment, originally due to be published in September.

The League Against Cruel Sports has carried out a sustained programme of lobbying against the government to continue the suspension of hunting, maintaining that no ill-effects have been suffered during the lay-off, despite evidence from the Farmers Union of Wales that its members have suffered from greater fox predation and are concerned about the increasing fox population as the lambing season approaches.

The joint petition to call for a public inquiry published in Horse & Hound, the Western Morning News, Western Mail and Farmers Weekly has nowtotalled more than 100,000 signatures.

To read the full story see this week’s (25 October) Horse & Hound magazine. To subscribe online at a reduced rate, click here.