Farmers show opposition to fox and stag hunting

Farmers in County Down attended a meeting to discuss cases of hunt havoc.
Farmers in County Down attended a meeting to discuss cases of hunt havoc.

A number of local farmers have attended a meeting in Rathfriland to show their opposition to hunts taking place on their land.

A total of 68 farmers attended the meeting, held by the League Against Cruel Sports on Friday, to discuss cases of hunts affecting land and livestock.

The meeting comes just a few months after Rathfriland farmer Alan Sloane was forced to shoot dead three dogs belonging to a hunt when they threatened his pregnant ewes.

According to the League Against Cruel Sports, a group of farmers organised the meeting to protest at the damage to their land caused by hunts.

The League also said a number of other groups, including those representing farmers, either failed or refused to attend.

These included the Ulster Farmers’ Union, the Countryside Alliance Ireland, NI Master of Hounds and the Department of Agriculture and Rural

Development, all of whom allegedly received invitations before Easter.

Janice Watt from the League Against Cruel Sports said: “It’s clear from the meeting today that many farmers are frustrated by the way the hunts are acting. The majority do not give permission for hunting to take place on their land, yet trespass and damage by huntsmen are all too common.

“Some farmers have told us that after they banned hunts from their land they were threatened and intimidated, which is completely unacceptable.

“21st century farms have no need for fox hunting, as has been made clear today. Claiming that farmers need their assistance was the last argument available to hunters, but today’s conference has proven that it is not true. It is time this barbaric, unnecessary blood-sport was banned in Northern Ireland.”

“Political representatives from most parties attended, including Sean Rodgers (SDLP), Jim Wells (DUP), Patrick Brown (Alliance), Henry Reilly (TUV), Robert Burgess (UUP). The meeting was also attended by the PSNI who provided invaluable advice to everyone who attended.

“Hunting with dogs remains legal in N. Ireland, despite a recent poll showing that only one in five people believe it should be. As part of their Election Manifesto, the League have asked all electoral candidates to pledge to support introducing legislation to ban fox and stag hunting in N. Ireland, which has already be banned in England Scotland and Wales for over 11 years.

Steven McLinn, a farmer attending the session said: “Farmers are fed up with the hunts treating our land as their own. We are business people, and we can’t afford the damage caused by this hobby.

“Alongside the fencing broken by the horses, and the crops trampled on, we’ve had reports of hounds harassing pregnant ewes causing them to abort – every lamb lost costs us money, but the hunts don’t care.”

“We have better things to do then clean up after the mess caused by hunters. We can manage our land perfectly well without them, so it’s time they stopped harassing us.

“We are extremely disappointed that the relevant organisations who signed up to the Hunting Memorandum of Understanding failed to attend the meeting despite being asked.

“They have let down the farming community badly and we would like them to at least acknowledge our plight and find a solution to address the issue of Hunt trespass, harassment and intimidation.”