Schools urged to let pupils adopt a hound to back hunts
Pro-hunt campaigners have launched a scheme to encourage schools to "adopt" a hound in a bid to popularise the sport ahead of a government vote on the Hunting Act.
Countryside Alliance chiefs issued new advice packs to around 200 hunts with suggestions on how to engage people with hunting.
One idea involves hunts persuading teachers to allow the school to "twin" with a hound.
Pupils would receive photographs of the animal and possibly visit the kennels.
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The Alliance said the idea was to educate people about hunting with dogs so they support a repeal of the 2004 Hunting Act that banned fox hunting, due to be voted on in Parliament.
Barney White-Spunner, executive chairman of the Alliance, said hunt supporters had to begin explaining and defending hunting in order for MPs to feel confident to vote for repeal of the Act.
He said: "Welcoming newcomers to hunting, as well as promoting hunting activities to local communities, is vital to the sustainability of hunting. We cannot expect hunting to be top of the Government's priorities at a time like this, but tackling the failed Hunting Act is a matter of trust between the Government and the countryside."
However, the move has sparked outrage amongst wildlife campaigners who branded the Alliance "sick" for getting children involved in the issue.
Alan Kirby, spokesman for Protect Our Wild Animals (POWA) said it was nothing more than a propaganda exercise and claimed children would not be given the full picture.
He said: "Presumably the hunts, if they are decent and honest people they will tell the kiddies how they start culling the hounds they breed very early in their lives, should they have any defect of character or physique that might make them unfit to hunt well with the pack.
"They will want to detail how they intensify this winnowing process when young hounds are first trained to kill wildlife so any disinclined to show the necessary savagery are likely get a bullet in the head."
Mr Kirby said he doubted hunts would inform youngsters how hounds were "disposed of" if they became ill or injured.
He said: "In reality, the dogs are nothing more than disposable tools of the trade to them. Are there no stunts too sick for the killers-for-fun of the bloodsports fraternity to come up with in their desperation to preserve and promote their cruel and barbaric 'sport'?"