Countryside war of words continues as hunting season starts
As the hunting season gets under way across the Westcountry battle-lines have once again been drawn between warring sides.
Seven years after the battle over fox hunting pitted rural communities against their urban neighbours the arguments still rage.
Today The Countryside Alliance branded the Hunting Act "an attack on rural people" insisting it had "failed spectacularly" to improve animal welfare."
Meanwhile, the League Against Cruel Sports said despite the ban, not all hunts used the legal methods of train and drag and thousands of wild animals were still being chased and killed by "criminals and thugs".
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Opening meets mark the beginning of the official hunting season with most hunts holding them in the last week of October and the first week of November.
Barney White-Spunner, executive chairman of the Countryside Alliance said the Hunting Act made it impossible for farmers to control foxes to safeguard their livestock.
He said: "It is quite clear that as well as the immense difficulties the law has brought for hunts, the police and in some cases the courts, it has had no benefit for the quarry species.
"In some areas alternative management methods have seriously reduced the fox population, whilst in the uplands the Hunting Act makes it nearly impossible for farmers to control numbers and protect their livestock.
"The Hunting Act was an attack on rural people rather than an attempt to improve animal welfare which is why it has failed so spectacularly.
"We continue to campaign for a resolution to the hunting debate based on evidence and principle, not prejudice and political point-scoring".
Mr White-Spunner's comments came as the Alliance released findings from a survey of 123 hunts across the country.
He said: "It is immensely encouraging that seven years on from the ban, hunts are in good heart.
Joe Duckworth, chief executive at the League Against Cruel Sports, said the organisation had launched a £1 million strategy to tackle illegal hunting and other wildlife crime.
He said: "These criminals are not just breaking the law, they are behaving like thugs with no regard for wildlife or those living in rural communities.
"Members of the public call to tell us of the havoc that hunts bring with them.
"The hounds riot through private gardens, trespass on railway lines, and even kill family cats and dogs.
"When people try to stop them or ask what they're up to, they often face verbal or physical abuse and even intimidation.
"Hunting animals with dogs for sport is cruel, unnecessary and illegal."