Beauties help hunts seem less beastly

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Indy Politics

Confidential documents from the Countryside Alliance, the group leading the fight to save fox-hunting, show it wants to present a new, "prettier" image.

Confidential documents from the Countryside Alliance, the group leading the fight to save fox-hunting, show it wants to present a new, "prettier" image.

The group plans to lobby the Labour Party conference in Brighton this month. But it wants only good-looking women, and the odd handsome man, to appear on television bulletins and in newspapers.

The alliance wants to play down the "muddy wellies" image associated with hard-pressed hill farmers and tweedy matrons. Neither will be welcome when the group mounts its high-profile campaign, codenamed "Operation Warning Shot". Instead, it is pinning its hopes on "beautiful" people who will line the streets and seafront.

Supporters have been e-mailed, asking them to turn out in force, with messages saying: "Youth and Beauty (either or will do) wanted as leaflet distributors at the Labour Party Conference. Bring your girlfriend, boyfriend."

The Independent on Sunday has obtained details of the tactics being employed by the alliance for its planned week of protests. The campaigners say they are not planning to repeat the mass countryside march at last year's Labour conference in Bournemouth, and they clearly want to put the best face on their protests.

The e-mail continues: "The theme will be liberty and the 'countryside united' and each day will show the country-sports community linking arms with other important rural issues. We need significant numbers on each day and it is suggested that regions in reach of Brighton should major on a certain day."

The campaigners are fighting the Government's plan to introduce a Bill with a range of options to ban foxhunting on a free vote, but it is certain the petrol protests from people in rural areas will be raised again at the conference. Supporters of the CA were told: "We need feet on street. There will not be a 'march' as such, but people are needed to line the seafront outside the conference centre."

A leading opponent of foxhunting, Angela Smith, Labour MP for Basildon, said: "It seems to be a last desperate attempt at a makeover of the ugly face of hunting - either that or they are planning to seduce delegates."

Tactics by the alliance to boost its influence also include an attempt to influence an online ballot on fox-hunting, and advising supporters how to vote in the ballot for members of the National Trust board, which has banned stag-hunting on its land. MPs hostile to fox-hunting, who include the Conservative home affairs spokeswoman, Ann Widdecombe, are to be bombarded with mail from alliance members who have had e-mails urging them to start a mass letter-writing campaign.

Alliance lobbying can be extremely effective. Earlier e-mails told supporters to protest about a television advertisement for a mobile phone service which appeared to be anti-foxhunting. The ad was withdrawn after the co-ordinated campaign of protests from alliance members.

A phone company associated with the advertisement distanced itself from the broadcasts and told the alliance they had been withdrawn "because of the upset and confusion it has caused" to the fox-hunting fraternity.

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