Pro-hunt leaders admit they can't control violent element

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Leaders of the pro-hunting Countryside Alliance have admitted they cannot control a violent element intent on causing mayhem at campaign rallies.

Leaders of the pro-hunting Countryside Alliance have admitted they cannot control a violent element intent on causing mayhem at campaign rallies.

According to a letter leaked to the Independent on Sunday, there are serious concerns about the ability of organisers to prevent outbreaks of public disorder.

The hunting lobby is determined to continue campaigning, particularly after it became clear that the Government will bring in a Bill later this year to outlaw hunting with hounds. But the letter makes it clear there are serious problems inside the Countryside Alliance.

Dominic Webber, the group's East Sussex county chairman, wrote to head office in London this summer complaining about the behaviour of protesters demonstrating in Brighton before the Prime Minister's appearance on BBC Question Time in July. He said he was "concerned about the anger of some of our members" and admitted the event in Brighton was "very hard to keep in order".

"Violence broke out and the crowd was extremely aggressive when the Prime Minister arrived," the letter said. It adds that the "list of dos and don'ts" issued by the Countryside Alliance leadership was ignored by a minority in the crowd, saying: "Most of the organisers were pushed to their limit."

Mr Webber's letter urged the Countryside Alliance in London to book a rally in the capital some time in September. He warned that if there was no demonstration: "There may not be a substantial increase in membership. There may be no safe vehicle for supporters to express their feelings. We may not be able to control the substantial minority of people who will resort to public disorder. If that happens, important and highly-respected supporters may be forced by their advisers to abandon the cause."

Last week pro-hunting campaigners were denied access to a Brighton hotel for a meeting because police said there was a security risk.

"This letter shows that the police were right to see certain elements as a risk," said a spokesperson for the Hunt Saboteurs' Association.

Despite continued protests throughout the week of Labour's party conference in Brighton, the Government has made it clear it is ready to bite the bullet on hunting in the next parliamentary session.

Home Office sources said the Bill was a "must" in the run-up to the next general election. One said: "There will be a Bill in the Queen's Speech to ban hunting because it is so popular with ordinary people."

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