Hunting Debate: Antis sound their horns and give chase

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The Independent Online
Anti-hunting supporters gave a hero's welcome outside the Commons yesterday to Michael Foster MP, the sponsor of the Bill to outlaw hunting wild mammals with dogs.

Amid emotional scenes rarely seen at Westminster, Mr Foster was cheered and applauded by supporters after the vote. He told the television cameras that fox hunting was doomed, and did a "thumbs up" sign a hundred times for the photographers.

Some of his supporters shouted "411 must be given time" - a demand that the Government should bow to the number of MPs who supported the Bill by giving it government time to reach the statute book.

They held up an effigy of a red-coated huntsman, and the biggest cheers went up when Mr Foster held aloft a stuffed fox. MPs who voted for the Bill were cheered as they came out of the doors of the St Stephen's entrance, but Michael Heseltine and the MPs who voted against the Bill had gone to ground.

Across Parliament Square, the farmers and the tweedy followers of hunting were vowing to fight on to kill the Bill before it can kill their sport. The opposing camps were never allowed to get close enough for blows, as a result of careful shepherding by the police.

Tourists were bemused by the sight of an anti-hunt van chasing a pro- hunt horsebox around the Square, battling it out with loud halers.

They chanted: "Where's Foster? - Gone fishing!", in a jibe at his support for angling. Pro-hunt campaigners had placards saying, "This is real life, not the Archers", and a horsebox bearing the slogan "No to the Bill" did circuits of Parliament Square.

All day, they had led a merry chase with the anti-hunting lobby around the square.

The noise of traffic around Parliament Square was drowned by a anti-hunt supporter bellowing through a megaphone from a van, "Are you there Mr Blair?" The Prime Minister was hundreds of miles away, in Bosnia, but it was loud enough to be heard inside Parliament.

In the Chamber, Mr Foster had carefully arranged the interventions from his own side to bring out points in the Bill, but the stage managing fell short at the end, when he went outside to meet his supporters.

It had been planned to hand a stuffed fox to a child, but no child could be found among the campaigners, and after he held it aloft for the cameras, it was taken back inside the Commons.

The fox is likely to make another appearance, however, with the Bill having months to run at Westminster.