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THE MASTER’S VIEW

Steven Clark, joint-master of the Barlow hounds in Derbyshire and Yorkshire

“Our unofficial plan will be to continue as normal. It depends on the recommendations coming from the Masters of Foxhounds Association and the Council of Hunting Associations, but while farmers and landowners will have us, we will carry on. At the moment, the overwhelming majority will continue to have us.

“In terms of where we’d meet, we could probably carry on as we do now. But where we meet depends on whether we’re looking for maximum publicity in terms of unworkable law or not. I know a few pub landlords who would gladly have us every day of the week if it would help the cause.

“Our local coppers have told us it’s going to be a nightmare, but decisions about policing will be left to higher-ranking officers.

“Certainly, co-ordinated hunting days, or one mass day, could be very effective to demonstrate how stupid the law is and embarrass the government, depending on legal advice as to whether that would jeopardise anything in the courts.

“Also, any action has to be directed at the ban and the ban alone. Our argument is not with Joe Public.

“You can’t affect landowners and farmers adversely, and they must be at the forefront of our minds. Everything we do has to be toward securing a long-term future for hunting.

“Hunt supporters could also report people walking their dogs and clog up the system and police time by asking for crime numbers — if an old lady takes her dog off the lead in the park and it chases a squirrel, she is just as guilty. If we can’t go hunting then neither should anyone else.”

THE POLICE VIEW

Alistair McWhirter, spokesman on hunting with dogs for the Association of Chief Police Officers

McWhirter, also chief constable in Suffolk, envisages that forces will face four types of activity: mass protests and civil disobedience; individual “martyrs” who say: “I’m hunting; arrest me”; hound exercise clubs which may try hunting illegally, and, finally, clandestine hunting.

McWhirter cannot confirm what will happen if thousands defy the law en masse, but adds: “We will enforce the law, but it will be a challenge because of the number of people who have said they will disobey it.”

Neither will McWhirter confirm whether police will use video or helicopters to enforce the law, but he adds: “We’ll use the full range of tools, as we do protecting hunting now. But it’s twaddle that there will be cameras in trees.

“If people want to exercise hounds, that’s lawful. There isn’t an offence until they actually hunt a mammal. But we wouldn’t always know what constitutes hunting — and the police wouldn’t want to get involved in that.

“This law will affect our relationship with rural communities, although of course there are country people who are anti-hunting, too. But many people who hunt are the police’s greatest supporters.

“Anyone cautioned or charged may find it hard to get a firearms certificate. Landowners can be prosecuted if they knowingly allow hunting on their land, as can people who aid and abet.”

Individual forces will decide what resources will be allocated on the basis of need and annual policing policy priorities, which are published by the Home Secretary in
early December.

THE VIEW OF THE RSPCA, LACS and HSA

A spokesman for the RSPCA says: “If the law has been flouted, our inspectors will investigate, but we hope that the majority of hunts will take up draghunting or other legal activities.

“Everything we do begins with a call from a member of the public — that would include hunting.

“At this point, we haven’t had any discussions with the police [regarding the assistance with seizure of horses and hounds], and it will depend on every circumstance, but we will of course assist wherever possible.”

A spokesman for the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) says: “We’ve always been monitoring hunts — going with video cameras, and individuals will continue to monitor. After 18 February, we’re going to see illegal hunting. We don’t see it as our position to enforce the law, but if we see lawbreaking we will inform the relevant authorities.

“We’re planning demos on Boxing Day. Our membership is 30,000, and hasn’t changed since this began.”

Nathan Brown from the Hunt Saboteurs Association (HSA) says: “We’ll make available all information we can to the police to assist with prosecutions. We’ll continue our efforts in monitoring hunts and make sure we have video cameras to compile evidence that can be used by the police and Crown Prosecution Service.

“We work across the country, so won’t be targeting any areas in particular, but we do a lot in Surrey and the Home Counties.”

  • Read other peoples’ views about the hunting ban in today’s Horse & Hound (25 November, ’04)


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