Hunters and Shooters just wanna have FUN! Forget Foot & Mouth – the ‘Guardians of the Countryside’ want access

Hunters and Shooters just wanna have FUN!

Forget Foot & Mouth – the ‘Guardians of the Countryside’ want access

The Hunt Saboteurs Association (HSA) today expressed its disappointment, although not surprise, at moves from both the hunting and shooting fraternities to gain access to the countryside despite the continuing Foot and Mouth ‘crisis’. The Countryside Alliance, the self styled ‘guardians of the countryside’ met last week with DEFRA (formerly MAFF) to push for the resumption of hunting even though new outbreaks of the disease arise daily.

This is also despite several ‘at risk’ and ‘infected’ areas covering the usual shooting areas of Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cumbria. Shooters will apparently be allowed to start the grouse shooting season on the ‘Glorious 12th’ as normal.

Dawn Preston, spokesperson for the HSA stated: “The situation is deplorable, but we are no longer surprised at desperate moves by bloodsports enthusiasts. The hunters were hit hard when the Foot and Mouth crisis started in February, as they were forced to cut short their fox, deer and hare hunting seasons, and indeed the mink hunting season has been practically lost altogether.

“August would normally see the start of the cub-hunting season, where the new hounds in each pack are taught to hunt through the sordid practice of hunting young foxes, but the start of this will hopefully be delayed due to ongoing F&M restrictions, and this in turn will have a serious effect on the effectiveness of the hunts come the main season in November. With this in mind, no wonder they are so determined to get on with the slaughter as soon as they can.”

She continued “Shooters, desperate to get one good grouse season in (to follow previous poor years) seem just as happy to forget the obvious risks of spreading Foot and Mouth through their activities.”

The DEFRA website gives a veterinary opinion stating ‘Grouse shooting carries a risk that the activity will spread infection and cause new outbreaks of FMD.’ Despite this, permission has been given for shoots to go ahead – even in infected areas, a decision that seems to us to be pure madness in light of the risks of spreading the disease.

However, some good news does reach us via the Daily Torygraph’s Peterborough column, concerning the Duke of Westminster who has already called off all 30 days of driven grouse shooting at Abbeystead, his 19,500-acre estate in Lancashire:

“His Grace has taken the view that, in view of local conditions, it would be irresponsible to permit any shooting to take place,” says estate manager Rod Banks. “Abbeystead is in an infected area and also in a movement controlled area, so we have decided just to batten down the hatches.”

Current rules, announced a fortnight ago, require shooting parties in infected areas to obtain a special licence. Unfortunately, the small print precludes anyone who has been in contact with livestock in the previous seven days from qualifying. With so many beaters and guns being farmers or vets, the effect is potentially crippling.

Surely other ‘responsible’ land owners cannot fail to follow this example? When it comes to the best interests of the countryside versus the demands of ‘country sports’ enthusiasts, it seems the latter will always take priority.’


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