Dead animals dumped as hunt protesters gather

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The Independent Online

The rotting carcasses of a dead horse and two dead calves were dumped close to the Labour Party Conference in Brighton today as thousands of pro-hunting supporters gathered to march on the conference centre.

The remains were discovered as Simon Hart - chief executive of the Countryside Alliance which is organising the protest - accused Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott of having "egged on and wound up" hunt supporters.

Police said that two men had been arrested after the animal remains were left in the town centre - the horse near the railway station and the calves on a footpath close to a fountain in Old Stein.

Officers were forced to shield their faces from the overwhelming smell of flesh as flies circled around the two calves.

One onlooker said that the calves had been dumped at around 11.25am, when two men accompanied by a television crew had unloaded the carcasses from a van.

"They arrived around 15 minutes ago in an old van and dragged the animals outside, leaving them on a path in front of a fountain," he said.

"They looked like farmers and I think the men were quickly arrested by police.

"It's terrible for the people around here and must be a risk to public health. I hope they don't carry on acting like this because it won't win them any friends or help their argument."

Although the Countryside Alliance has said it wants a peaceful protest, Mr Hart warned that demonstrators had been angered by remarks made by Mr Prescott - including comments about the family of singer Bryan Ferry who son was among pro-hunt protesters who broke in to the Commons chamber.

"John Prescott stood up here two days ago and started talking again about the 'contorted faces' of the Countryside Alliance, the braying mob outside and taking the mickey out of Brian Ferry and his family and generally saying the sort of things that you don't say in the context of any UK community that happens to take a different view to the Deputy Prime Minister," Mr Hart said.

"When the Prime Minister is saying that we should all look at this in a calm, sensible and measured way his deputy stands up and starts egging us on, trying to get people to respond and wind people up.

"I think it is irresponsible and offensive."

Police security was already very tight for the annual Labour conference but extra officers were on duty for the rally which was due to set off for the conference as Tony Blair was giving his keynote speech.

The row over fox-hunting which began when Labour swept to power in 1997 is now set to reach a climax as the Government has pledged to use the Parliament Act to steamroller a hunting ban into law if the House of Lords reject the Bill now in Parliament.

Mr Hart claimed however that there was every sign that the Lords, which is due to debate the Bill on October 12, would look at it in a "sensible and measured manner" on its merits.

President of the Countryside Alliance, Labour Peer Baroness Mallalieu, told reporters a lot of people in the Labour Party were listening to their arguments.

"Over half of the Labour peers voted to keep hunting going, so this isn't just an argument between the Labour Party and the rest, it's an argument between a small group of zealots in the Labour Party who have managed rather skilfully to manoeuvre into a position of control.

"And I think there are MPs as well who are unhappy that this issue is beginning to dominate the agenda which is not of their choosing."