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Hunting Ban Protest Begins in U.K.

September 18, 2002

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LONDON (AP) _ Three huntsmen began a four-day trek on horseback Wednesday from southern England to London as part of a protest over government plans to ban hunting with hounds.

The riders plan to complete the 150-mile journey from Dorset on Saturday, arriving in the capital ahead of a demonstration that organizers predict will attract at least 300,000 hunt supporters.

The Countryside Alliance, the pro-hunting lobby group behind Sunday’s rally in London, says hundreds of people will lose their livelihoods if the government outlaws the sport, in which horse riders pursue game animals with packs of dogs that kill the prey.

The government is expected to introduce legislation on hunting, which is already banned in Scotland, within the next few weeks.

Opponents say the sport is cruel because dogs pursue the fox to its death. Opinion polls have consistently shown a majority of Britons oppose hunting with hounds.

But supporters say a ban would be insensitive to the wishes of country dwellers and put thousands of people out of work.

Public hearings last week considered all facets of the industry, including animal cruelty, pest control and jobs.

In March, the House of Commons voted for an outright ban, but the upper chamber of Parliament, the House of Lords, voted for lesser restrictions. The government has said it will look at a compromise, but pro-hunt supporters fear it will simply use its big majority in the House of Commons to push through a ban.

Kate Hoey, one of the few legislators in the governing Labor Party to oppose a ban, said ending hunting would ruin the livelihood of hundreds of people and impinge on civil liberties.

``I think it’s quite wrong for something that’s been carried out for generations by decent, civilized people to be made illegal,″ she said.

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