It's Class Warfare Not Foxes' Welfare Behind Scheme to Ban Hunts; DUKE PARALYSED IN RIDING ACCIDENT DEFENDS TRADITION AGAINST NEW BILL

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Byline: ANTHONY ARMSTRONG

SCOTLAND'S biggest landowner, the Duke of Buccleuch, last night launched a scathing attack against new proposals to ban foxhunting.

The Duke, who has been confined to a wheelchair since he was injured in a fall from his horse while hunting almost 30 years ago, described the plans as 'class warfare disguised as animal welfare'.

He claimed Britain already had the strictest laws in the world to protect animals from cruelty and that a ban would simply cause needless job losses.

A Bill to outlaw foxhunting, drawn up by Labour MSP Lord Watson, is to go before the Scottish parliament next month.

The Duke said: 'We live in strange times. At one moment convicted IRA murderers and bombers get early release from prison and in the next, country folk are to be threatened with jail for a wholly fictitious crime.' He added: 'One can only marvel at the sense of priorities of the new parliament in choking its legislative time table with vindictive laws aimed at country people representing 3 per cent of the population and bringing bringing no benefit to the other 97 per cent.

'Anxious parents watching drug crime figures and patients on hospital waiting lists must share our sense of dismay and disbelief.' Although disabled, the 75-year-old Duke is still Senior Master of the Duke of Buccleuch's Hunt and periodically attends Border meets in his specially-adapted distinctive yellow and black estate car.

Speaking at a hound judging evening at the Hunt kennels near Newtown St Boswells, he said: 'Pink politicians in the towns seem to think a ban would be one in the eye for the toffs - the idle rich.

They do not realise that foxhunting involves the most widely-based cross section of society to be found anywhere.

'They persuade themselves that such class warfare disguised as animal welfare is perfectly justifiable regardless of the enormous damage caused to rural communities.

'The repercussion could be endless in terms of job losses, horse rearing, point-to-pointing, steeple-chasing, common ridings and wildlife habitat protection.' The Duke, an internationally-respected conservationist, said he once asked a hunt saboteur what motivated him. 'Was it his love of the fox or his loathing of people like me? He looked startled and then replied "I suppose it's a bit of each really".' The Duke went on: 'Turning from the 95 per cent political motivation and 5 per cent animal welfare, it has to be recognised that no country in the world has stricter laws on animal welfare and cruelty than the UK. …