The Countryside Alliance-backed challenge to the Hunting Act on human rights grounds will be heard in the High Court the week of 4 July, alongside a case brought under EU law on free movement of goods and workers by nine people.
The nine, which include an Irish horse dealer and breeder, a West Country hireling operator, a Belgian-based Viscount, plus Portuguese and German hunting enthusiasts, will say that their rights have been infringed in a disproportionate manner.
A procedural hearing was held last week relating to the CA human rights challenge. Mr Justice Collins, sitting at the High Court, said their case, which is being handled by David Anderson QC, should be heard with that brought by UK campaigners.
Anderson is seeking an order to quash the Hunting Act or a declaration that it is of no effect and should not be enforced.
The group is led by Irish dealer Francis Derwin, who says the ban has hit his business: he sells around 800 horses a year, of which 300 are hunters, 90% of which are usually sold to England. Since the ban, he has not sold any hunters to England.
Kevin Lamacraft, who runs a hireling yard near Exmoor with his wife, Ruth, has employed Polish and Czech staff. His part in the case will relate to EU workers’ employment.
The judge also ruled that a case brought by Devon-based Union of Country Sports Workers members Brian Friend (a Cotley hunt follower) and Hugh Thomas (an ex-gamekeeper), would be adjourned pending the CA case. However, Friend’s arguments — which centre around cultural rights — that are not already covered by the 10 other claimants’ cases may be put forward.
The RSPCA has been given permission to give its views in the case.
Meanwhile, the CA is making an urgent appeal to hunts to donate to the legal challenge appeal, an account ring-fenced for the appeal. Legal costs to date total £1 million, but this will escalate in July.
A CA spokesman said: “It’s simply not possible to put cases like this before courts for free. The hunting community cannot allow the legal challenges to fail simply for lack of funds. If we look back to find it failed because we couldn’t afford to pursue it through the courts, it would be disastrous.”