Blood sports union takes aim at job cutbacks

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The Independent Online
Blood sports enthusiasts and country sports workers launched a new union yesterday to protect their industry from hostile legislation and the loss of up to 160,000 jobs. The Union of Country Sports Workers wants direct talks with the main party leaders amid claims that some rural areas could be affected by a ban on hunting in a similar way to the devastation felt by mining communities after the collapse of the coal industry.

At a meeting in Whitehall, central London, yesterday - picketed by a lone protester from the League Against Cruel Sports - John Fretwell, the chairman of the new union and huntsman of the Stowe Beagles, warned that any political party which bans country sports "will be scarred in rural areas for ever".

Labour has pledged a free vote in the Commons on whether to ban hunting, but Mr Fretwell claimed that such legislation would have a serious impact on other country pursuits and affect independent hotels and the rural retail industry.

According to the union, 90,000 low-paid full-time jobs are at risk, but the figure rises by another 70,000 if part-time workers are included.

Alan Loughrin, a gamekeeper and forester from Buckinghamshire, said he would be at risk from any hunting ban. "I might get another job, but when you look at the unemployment figures I doubt whether all of us could."

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