Pro-hunt protest led by Gulf War general

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The Independent Online

Britain's commander in the Gulf War led a protest march across a Welsh mountain track yesterday to champion the cause of vanishing rural communities. General Sir Peter de la Billiere headed 500 marchers on an 18-mile route through the Brecon Beacons range.

Britain's commander in the Gulf War led a protest march across a Welsh mountain track yesterday to champion the cause of vanishing rural communities. General Sir Peter de la Billiere headed 500 marchers on an 18-mile route through the Brecon Beacons range.

The hike was on the fifth day of a week-long 140-mile march as part of a campaign demonstrating support for fox-hunting, farmers, and the bid to save declining rural life. Sir Peter declared himself a "passionate" supporter of country life as he ended his trek at Merthyr Tydfil.

He had been joined by schoolchildren and pensioners as they walked from Brecon to Merthyr on one of the longest and most severe routes of the campaign trail.

The General said: "I neither hunt nor do I ride. I believe with passion in the right of the rural minority to pursue its way of life in peace and without persecution by either the government or the urban majority."

The march began on Wednesday outside The Old Parliament Building at Machynlleth in mid-Wales.

It is due to end this Wednesday in Cardiff with a rally at Pontcanna Fields near the city centre. The rally is expected to attract more than 8,000 supporters, many of whom are expected to walk more than two miles for the march's symbolic end at the steps of the new National Assembly. The Welsh Countryside March ends a series of events under the slogan "Rural Britain Deserves Better".

Among those attending on Wednesday will be Welsh political leaders Dafydd Wigley, of Plaid Cymru, Mike German, of the Liberal Democrats and Nick Bourne, of the Conservatives. A spokesman for the Countryside Alliance, which organised the march and rally, said that Welsh Labour Party leaders had not replied to an invitation to attend.

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