Supporters will defy fox-hunting ban

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The Independent Online

Hundreds of hunt supporters plan to sign a declaration this weekend pledging to break the law if Parliament passes a Bill banning fox hunting.

The Countryside Alliance, the pro-hunting lobby group, is encouraging supporters to sign a promise to continue hunting and risk a criminal record if a ban comes into force.

They are organising "Declaration Day", a series of meetings around the country where hunt supporters will be encouraged to support the law-breaking campaign.

But yesterday, a spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers said: "Those who are proposing civil disobedience need to understand that the police will take action."

Anti-hunting groups accused the Countryside Alliance of organising "a stunt" and said it was irresponsible to encourage people to risk criminal records.

Douglas Batchelor, chief executive of the League Against Cruel Sports, said: "This is a conspiracy to break the law, which no one should put their name to."

The Countryside Alliance is organising 12 gatherings throughout England and Wales. A spokesman for the alliance said "there is a case for civil disobedience" and compared the campaign to that led by Martin Luther King. The alliance added that it would support those who faced criminal charges. But several leading members of the alliance, including its president, Baroness Mallalieu, do not plan to sign it.

Yesterday Eddie Braithwaite, who hunts with the Lunesdale Foxhounds in Cumbria, said on BBC Radio 4, that hunts "are all set to continue". The Conservative environment spokesman, David Lidington, said the Tories did not approve of people breaking the law even if they disagreed with a ban. But he added: "The Government needs to understand that it is their intolerant Bill that has driven thousands of law-abiding citizens to consider civil disobedience."

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