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December 2000

[Week 52 · Dec. 25th - 31st 2000]

MARCHING ONWARDS

March 18th has now been set as the official date for a second Countryside March, and the Countryside Alliance estimates that over 300,000 people will atttend this time. In 1998 around 275,000 attended a similar protest march.

Meanwhile, the CA's director of communications, Nigel Henson, has suggested that Boxing Day hunts attracted over 325,000 attendees on the day. The spring March, however, is not just about hunting, but also about the rual way of life.


[Week 51 · Dec. 18th - 24th 2000]

MANNING THE BARRICADES

On Wednesday the Commons sat down to a second reading of the Hunting Bill. On the one hand Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, seems to approach the debate with a open attitude - allowing hunts to be licensed - while the Prime Minister is committed to a total ban.

Outside the Commons protestors were at the barricades with the writer and broadcaster on country matters, Robin Page, apparently arrested after sitting down in the road. Further up the road, in Trafalgar Square, other pro-hunting demonstrators were voicing their feelings.

Meanwhile the Countryside Alliance, is planning a large Countryside March in London on March 18th next year. It is believed the march will be one of the biggest so far with demonstrators focusing on this government's illiberal attitude towards the civil liberties of country people, and on its rural policies. This mood will be further reinforced with statistics published by the Ministry of Agriculture on Monday 18th which showed that in the year to June 2000 almost 24,000 of England's farmers and workers left farming.

  [Week 50 · Dec. 11th - 17th 2000]

GENETICS DISCOVERY

'Nature' magazine has published details of some scientific work which has been carried out round the world into the genetic mapping of a lesser member of the cabbage and mustard family - thale cress. One group of researchers have been able to identify the gene which controls the plant's flowering time which may ultimately lead to developing plants which are specifically seasonal. There are also possibilities such as taking disease-resistance genes from other cabbage family members and re-introducing them into plants which have less, or lost, resistance.

Prince Charles, on a visit to North Wales, called for more support for our countryside; saying that it was important to preserve traditional skills, and that there was a danger that a bleak economic future will force born and bred country people from the countryside.

On Wednesday The Guardian had a report that the Countryside Alliance may use the Human Rights Act, recently enshrined in our own law, should there be a ban on hunting.

There was also news this week that the Duke of Westminster, one of the country's largest landowners, is to freeze or cut the rents of his tenant farmers such is his concern about the state of the farming crisis.


[Week 49 · Dec. 4th - 10th 2000]

MARCH OF THE ROAD MAKERS

Wednesday's Daily Mail carried a story about the CPRE [Council for the Protection of Rural England] fretting over the government's plans to build roads across swathes of our countryside Apparently there are 77 road building schemes on the drawing board, and many of these will impinge upon SSI [special scientific interest] sites. This is obviously something that concerns any person involved with the countryside, and DO we really need any more roads in Britain?

And are the miltant voices in farming about take over the NFU? Apparently a well-known member of Farmers For Action [FFA] has been voted onto the NFU's Council. Over half those who voted in a recent local ballot cast for Derek Mead, a Somerset dairy farmer and member of FFA. The NFU has been much criticised in the last couple of years by hard-pressed and militant farmers for its softly-softly attitude to all manner of EU and government policies. If the Somerset NFU result is repeated in the future, are we likely to see a more vociferous NFU emerging?


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