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Planet Ark World Environment News UK Court to Decide Fate of Hunting With Dogs

Date: 16-Feb-05
Country: UK

Three of Britain's top judges, including Lord Woolf, the Lord Chief Justice, will rule on a challenge by Countryside Alliance campaigners that the Hunting Act, which comes into force on Friday, is invalid.

The High Court had rejected the alliance's claim last month but gave the group permission to take their case to the Court of Appeal.

If the appeal court rules in the alliance's favour, the ban will be postponed, a prospect not unwelcome to the Prime Minister Tony Blair's government which fears rowdy pro-hunting protests could become part of the run-up to May's expected election.

The government rammed the controversial law through parliament last November with the rarely used 1949 Parliament Act, which fox-hunters claim is flawed.

A Countryside Alliance spokeswoman said on Tuesday if they lose their case against Parliament Act, they could seek permission to appeal to the Law Lords but had ruled out lodging an injunction against the Hunting Act itself.

"We have an excellent legal team that have advised us that we have a strong case before the Court of Appeal," she said. "We are confident that we will be able to get this hunting act repealed, however long that takes."

Fox-hunting has been practised in Britain for centuries but Blair made the banning of the sport -- on grounds of cruelty -- part of his 1997 election manifesto.

The alliance has also lodged papers at the High Court in a second case in which they claim that the human rights of the hunting fraternity are being breached by the ban. That case is not expected to be heard before April.

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Reuters
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