Hunt staff are to have more say in how hunting proceeds next season under the ban, under the “Hunting: forward, not back” strategy document, published by the Countryside Alliance (CA) and the Council of Hunting Associations (CHA).

The CHA will invite staff, as well as masters, to contribute ideas and experiences in a series of regional meetings next month — after some packs were criticised for excluding hunt staff from some pre-ban gatherings. Plans are also afoot to introduce career bursaries for hunt staff.

“These meetings will allow those who are actively engaged in hunting to share their experiences under the new legislation since 19 February and develop a way forward,” said CA spokesman Tim Bonner. “The career scheme will encourage good people to come into the profession.”

Brian Fanshawe, secretary of the CHA, said: “This is giving more involvement to people on the ground. We want to listen as well as spell out the options, and it’s important that those who have to practise new forms of hunting are involved.”

The Masters of Foxhounds Association (MFHA) is met on Thursday 26 May to finalise details of the bursary scheme, which has been funded by a private donation.

“The idea is to give bursaries to four young people to go to learn the ropes at a big kennels,” explained Fanshawe. “There’s perhaps less of a structure than there used to be when hunts employed more staff who moved through the ranks, starting in the stables. With horse-walkers and steam cleaners, hunts need fewer staff these days — but we must try to attract the right people.”

The CA/CHA strategy also proposes organising long-term research to prove that the Act increases unnecessary suffering and is bad for wildlife management. Talks are ongoing with independent individuals and bodies, such as The Game Conservancy Trust, which might be involved. A wildlife research unit at Oxford University is already analysing years of fox and hare report forms.

The strategy urges hunt supporters to continue “dialogue” with their MPs — especially new ones — and return to the field next season as subscribers.

According to the eight-page CA/CHA document, subtitled “An outline strategy for the repeal of the Hunting Act”, the three strands of the strategy — political, legal and practical — are going well.

But it warns that more funding is still needed for the legal challenges, which could
fail if the Alliance does not reach its £3million target figure.

The strategy’s prerequisites for a repeal are:

    1. Ensuring that the legal challenges are fully funded
    2. Lobbying government to introduce coherent wildlife management legislation
    3. Strengthening public and media opposition to the ban
    4. Maintenance of hunting’s infrastructure
    5. Growth in confidence of hunting’s public image and ability to be fully accountable
    6. Evidence that the ban is ineffective, unworkable and costly to police
    7. Evidence that the ban is detrimental to the management and welfare of wildlife
    8. Continued support for hunting from farmers, landowners and their organisations

To view the strategy in full, visit www.countryside-alliance.org

  • This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (26 May, 05)


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