**Foxhunt fuckwits

Four arrests under hunt law

Press Association
Saturday February 19, 2005

Four men were arrested today under the new hunting legislation, police have said.

The men were found at 4am between Hullavington and Sherston, Wiltshire, with four dogs and the carcass of a hare, police spokesman Dave Taylor said.

The men, aged 31, 32 and 33 from south Wales and a 53-year-old from Ireland were arrested on suspicion of hunting with dogs under Section 1 of the new Hunting Act, which came into force yesterday.

Mr Taylor said they are also being investigated as to possible firearms offences relating to a modified air rifle and possible offensive weapons charges relating to the possession of a pointed/bladed article.

The men have now been released on police bail pending further enquiries.

Mr Taylor said: "They may become the first men prosecuted under the new law." He added: "We would stress that they were nothing to do with any of the organised hunts."

Thousands of defiant hunt supporters gathered across England and Wales today as foxhound packs rode out for the first time since new legislation on hunting came into force.

Over 250 hunts set off across the country "to drag hunt within the law" following the ban on the hunting and killing of foxes with hounds.

Anti-hunt groups claimed they already had evidence of "suspicious behaviour" and urged their supporters to stay vigilant.

Actor Jeremy Irons and Labour MP Kate Hoey were among the many followers condemning the ban as "prejudiced and bigoted" and determined to see it overturned.

Others claimed the new law was unenforceable and impossible to monitor.

Chief executive of the Countryside Alliance Simon Hart said it was "simply the first day in the dismantling of the Hunting Act".

In a legal drag hunt foxes are flushed out of a wood and shot dead before their scent is left as a trail for the hounds.

The South Shropshire Hunt, whose joint master is Otis ferry, son of rock star Bryan Ferry, claimed its first legal fox hunting kill within an hour of riding out near Shrewsbury today. Clare Rowson, the West Midlands spokeswoman for the Countryside Alliance, said: "The fox was shot, taken out of the earth and then given to the hounds."

Mike Hobday, from the League Against Cruel Sports, which has 100 monitors out at hunts, said "extremely suspicious activities are taking place".

He added: "We have a number of clear signs of suspicious behaviour and we are gathering the evidence together in order to be able to get an assessment across the country.

"We have captured evidence on film and also have evidence from members of the public but that is all we can say at present."

Earlier, the league's chief executive Douglas Batchelor condemned the hunt's decision to go out with hounds as "reckless".

"They will need to exercise extreme caution if they are to avoid committing a criminal offence," he said.

The Countryside Alliance said hunts would be difficult to monitor.

A spokesman said: "The Hunting Act gives no right of access to the police, let alone animal rights activists, to enter private property for the purpose of investigating hunting activities."

Over 270 hunts will meet in England and Wales today - on the last six Saturdays a maximum of 12 hunts across the country have been followed by animal rights activists.

"Over 75% of hunts have never been followed by animal rights activists."

Describing the ban on hunting with hounds, which came into force yesterday, as an "embarrassment" to prime minister Tony Blair, Mr Hart said he was sorely tempted to say "sod it" and defy it completely.

Despite this temptation, Mr Hart who was attending the Duke of Beaufort's Hunt, Didmarton, Gloucestershire, insisted he would be urging all hunts to stay within the law and carry out drag chases.

But he also pointed out that "dogs will be dogs." Under guidelines from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, an accidental fox kill is acceptable, as long as there is no proof of intent, he added.

Mr Hart said: "There has been hunting in England for 700 years. This (the ban) may take two or three years, perhaps two or three months, to unpick. It will be nothing more than a temporary break in normal service, as broadcasters say."

Oscar winner Irons, who was attending the Bicester Hunt in Oxfordshire, said the ban was "the thin end of the wedge".

"England is made up of minorities whether Asian or huntsmen," he said. "I believe as a nation we should be allowed to live in liberty."

He added: "The important thing is we intend to challenge the law. So it's important to keep the hunt together and keep the infrastructure of hounds, kennel keepers and horses together."

Labour MP Kate Hoey gave a defiant speech against her party's ban on fox hunting today before she rode out with the Duke of Beaufort's Hunt.

She branded members of her own party who supported the ban on hunting with hounds "prejudiced and bigoted."

She told a crowd of more than 3,000 supporters, gathered at Worcester Lodge: "We will prevail and this law will have to be overturned."

Police officers were also out in force to look out for evidence of breaches of the ban and act to prevent violence between hunt supporters and opponents.

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