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3 Oct 2014
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Bob Walker Hunting Row Escalates
Bob Walker reports from rural Leicestershire on how people are reacting to a new government consultation on hunting.

The seemingly never-ending debate over the future of foxhunting in England and Wales may be drawing to a close, with a series of public hearings in Westminster chaired by the rural affairs minister Alun Michael.

It marks the end of a six-month consultation process ordered by the government, following debates in the Commons which produced an overwhelming vote in favour of an outright ban.

Although the issue of hunting with hounds has been repeatedly discussed in Parliament and was examined in detail by Lord Burns, Mr Michael insists the government is still open to argument.

The hearings will take evidence on three important issues: utility - the need to cull foxes; cruelty - whether unnecessary suffering is caused and implementation - how a ban could be introduced.

In rural Leicestershire - one of the main centres of foxhunting - there's growing unease over the consultation process and a feeling that the majority of Labour MPs will vote again for an outright ban - no matter what the inquiry decides.

Peter Collins, huntsman at the Quorn Hunt, has spent all his working life with hounds and finds it impossible to imagine life following a ban. He sees little point in holding further hearings in London and is pinning his hopes on the Countryside Alliance's protest rally in London on September 22.

The winding countryside roads which snake across Leicestershire to the North of the county are littered with placards and posters advertising the rally.

But at the headquarters of David Taylor, the Labour MP for North West Leicestershire, different posters are on display. His windows have been plastered with Union flag-style stickers defending hunting and bearing the name of the "Real CA" - a shadowy organisation said to be planning direct action in support of hunting.

However Mr Taylor, who favours a ban, says hunt supporters are guilty of overstating both the economic argument and the depth of support in the countryside.

He says surveys he's conducted in rural parts of his constituency have shown a slight majority in favour of a ban with substantial minority support for the so-called "third way" - some form of licensing for hunts.


BBC News Online feature on hunting with dogs

Peter Collins, huntsman at the Quorn Hunt in Leicestershire, has no faith in parliamentary hearings.
Listen - Report in full. Plus, Alun Michael, Rural Affairs Minister, on the period of consultation on fox hunting (09/09/2002)
Headquarters of the Quorn Hunt.
Duke of Devonshire: has pledged to allow hunting to continue on his land, regardless of any ban.
Other Stories

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