'We Weren't Fox Hunting. We Were out Rabbiting and Exercising the Dogs. It's Legal to Do That.'

Article excerpt

Byline: By MARTIN SHIPTON Western Mail

A television programme being screened tonight suggests one of Wales' oldest and best-known hunts could be breaking the law by continuing to pursue foxes with a pack of hounds. An investigation by S4C current affairs programme Y Byd Ar Bedwar raises serious questions about the activities of the 400-year-old Gogerddan Hunt in north Ceredigion.

The law still allows trail hunting - where hounds follow a scent laid out for them by a hunt - and the shooting of foxes using two dogs to flush them out, but the 2004 Hunting Act which became law a year ago this week strictly forbids fox hunting with a pack of hounds.

When contacted initially by the programme, a Gogerddan Hunt official said they always kept within the law, and never used more than two dogs at a time on shoots.

But a week ago Y Byd Ar Bedwar filmed the Hunt going out on a shoot in Pontrhydfendigaid, near Tregaron, with a pack of at least 15 hunting dogs. The footage will be shown on tonight's programme.

When Y Byd Ar Bedwar's journalists confronted the Master of the Gogerddan Hunt, Dai Owen, he denied they'd been hunting illegally.

'We weren't fox hunting,' said Mr Owen. 'We were just out rabbiting and exercising the dogs. It's perfectly legal to do that. I can put my hand on my heart and say that we weren't breaking the law.'

But the owner of the farm where the pictures were filmed saw things differently, saying he had asked the Hunt to kill foxes on his land.

'Yes, we were hunting foxes,' said Non Jones, who farms at Dolebolion, Pontrhydfendigaid.

'Gogerddan come here once a year to hunt,' he said. 'I think it's important to make sure that the fox population is controlled, particularly now with the lambing season coming up. We just can't afford to lose our new-born lambs to foxes.'

Dai Owen was then asked to explain the contradictions between his account and that of Mr Jones. 'The farmer must have got things wrong,' he said. 'He must have misunderstood the situation.'

This is the second controversy surrounding the Gogerddan Hunt in the last six weeks. Last December they were involved in an incident at the Cors Caron nature reserve near Tregaron.

Former chief warden of the Countryside Council for Wales, Ian Tillotson, was out walking with five family members - including two young grandchildren - when they came across a line of men with shotguns nearing a public footpath on the nature reserve. …