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David Cameron skips west Wales hunt

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Charles Frampton; Master and Huntsman to the Heythrop Hunt

Charles Frampton; Master and Huntsman to the Heythrop Hunt

PRIME MINISTER David Cameron sent his apologies to ‘drag’ hunters in Pembrokeshire as the European Council took priority over local drag hunt as part of hunt week.

On Monday (Feb 1) The famous hunting club the Duke of Beaufort’s Huntsman, Tony Holdsworth brought along the clubs hounds to initiate the hunt week in Pembrokeshire which started at Castle Morris in North Pembrokeshire.

After a full day’s hunt, members of Pembrokeshire, South Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion, and Carmarthenshire Hunt clubs, as well as visitors from all over the UK prepared themselves for the arrival of the famous Heythrop Hunt club, who it was said would be accompanied by the Prime Minister.

Christopher Harte, Carmarthenshire Hunt’s PR manager invited the Herald to attend the hunts and said: “On Monday the Duke of Beaufort’s Hunt, known as the ‘badminton,’ was met by visitors from surrounding counties at Castlemorris. The following day the meet at Haycastle was with the Heythrop Hunt whose best known rider is the Prime Minister, David Cameron.”

Mr Cameron’s absence was apologised for on the evening, but the gathering of hunters were not deterred and turned up in force with almost 30 riding hunters and in total around 90 people arriving to see off the hounds and chasers.

Over the past week a number of hunts have taken place in South West Wales, and in total over three thousand riders, foot followers and supporters have turned up at the South Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire, Tivyside and Vale of Clettwr Hunts.

‘Drag’ hunting has taken place in the UK and has been a large part of country living since the early 19th century, it involves dragging a scent along the ground for a set distance for the hounds to follow, the scent is usually made from oils and sometimes animal meats or urine.

Farmers often vocalise their dislike of foxes and explain that the reason the animals are considered pests is due to the surplus killing they commit when entering farms, especially into chicken coops, where they may kill several but only eat one.

The sport and its gatherings often attract anti-hunting activists who instead of choosing to take action lawfully, go down the more illegitimate group.

A representative of the South West Wales hunts explained the practices of the protesters and saboteurs: ”We do, occasionally get our hunt meetings interrupted by balaclava wearing youths. These are mainly students from the Bristol area who are paid to be silly for the day. The organisers, both of whom are based in Pembroke, pay £30 to each student, and they get a packed lunch as well.”

“You know these idiots are not animal lovers as in recent weeks they have lured hounds on to main roads where some have been hit and injured by passing vehicles.”

Mrs S.M Johnson from Lampeter who travelled over an hour and half to the first hunt, and over two hours to the second told the Herald about what her fellow hunters have experienced when protesters have been present: “I myself have been lucky enough to never have a run-in with such people, but from what is said by other members of the hunt, it accomplishes nothing and leaves a bad taste for the day, for everybody involved.”

On the second day while on horseback Mrs Johnson said: “The best time of day is around about half past two when everybody else goes home and there are only a few of you left it’s like the private view before the big exhibition and you never know you may get a very interesting bit of development at that time of day.”

Taught by Mrs Noreen Vaughan a national hunt breeder and former competitor at Wembley, Grace Evans riding Abergwaun Acrobat attended the hunt riding side saddle and said:

“Noreen took me under her wing too teach me everything I know and I went to county and competed there, and came forth, and ever since we’ve been going hunting as much as we can.” Noreen added: “Hunting has been going for centuries and is just part of the countryside, long may it continue, it brings everyone from all walks of life together, it hopefully will never be stopped.”

A spokesman for the Hunts said: “Both days were splendid and the hospitality given by the hosting hunt people was absolutely perfect. We were overwhelmed by the kindness shown to us and both days were a joy to behold.”

He added: “For the past twelve years all of these hunts have complied with the law by only laying “drag” trails for the horses and hounds to follow. These trails are expertly laid down and often results in hunts taking over six hours to complete the course.”

“The support of the farming community is essential to the survival of the hunts and virtually every farmer in the wide area gives permission for the hunts to use their land.”

One Carmarthenshire resident against fox hunting said: “Hiding behind the age-old excuse of tradition and the hunter instinct, they take life that is virtually useless to them in terms of sustenance. It is merely a method of satisfying a hidden psychopathic urge, tempered only by the laws of the land that prevent them from killing fellow human beings for sport.”

However a representative from South West Wales hunts said: “The old concept of hounds chasing and killing wild animals is a far-fetched urban myth which, alas, is still considered to be the case by those who are ignorant of the facts.”

Highlighting the community spirit of the hunt he continued: “What is of considerable satisfaction to the hunts and their committees are the number of young people who become active members. In some hunts the weekly turnout can reach up to 20% of the riders.”

Tom Quinn, Campaigns Director for the League Against Cruel Sports said: “Although hunts claim they act within the law, we believe that many of them continue to hunt illegally. The Heythrop Hunt is a good example of this, having been convicted of hunting illegally in 2012.

“Anyone who claims that trail hunting is the same as drag hunting doesn’t know what they are talking about. Drag hunting is a legal and cruelty-free pastime where hounds follow an artificial scent. But no traditional hunts claim to drag hunt – they all claim to trail hunt with hounds trained on a fox-based scent.

“Unsurprisingly the hounds of hunts that claim to be trail hunting often end up chasing and killing live foxes. But the hunts often avoid prosecution by protesting that it was an accident. The hunts will claim that the only time they can’t control their hounds is when they’re about to kill a fox. This is clearly absurd. Huntsmen are experts at controlling their hounds which makes their claims that these illegal hunting incidents are accidents even more unbelievable.

“Hunt monitors around the country regularly see hunts chasing foxes and there have been a number of well publicised incidents recently where hunts have killed foxes. Unlike hunts and their followers, these animal lovers give up their time to help stamp out cruelty, and would never mistreat hounds or horses.”

Local artist and animal rights activist Diana Brook commented: “I think that it is abhorrent that it is still taking place in our countryside, that it is unlawful and that it is fully endorsed by our MP Simon Hart.

“He does not represent the majority of opinion and he certainly doesn’t represent me.”

Diana also mentioned a petition, which states: “There is a direct conflict of interest between our MP’s paid employment of a bloodsport lobbying organisation and his membership of the EFRA committee.” And is calling for him to leave either.

South Pembrokeshire Hunt master for a decade until 1997/8: Simon Hart MP, did not wish to comment on any current hunts but responded to the petition: “Sadly they clearly haven’t bothered to look at the rules of membership and declaration for select committees as if they had they would have realised that one of my committee colleagues is Vice President of the League Against Cruel Sports – and the committee is the richer for it!”

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Pembrokeshire airport lease expected to be completed by end of year

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HAVERFORDWEST’S council-run airport, which had a circa £119,000 deficit last year, is expected to be leased out by the end of the year following “reasonably complex” negotiations, councillors heard.

Back in May, members of Pembrokeshire County Council’s Cabinet supported the leasing of Withybush Airport as part of plans to make the facility cost-neutral to the authority.

Last year, Pembrokeshire County Council’s Cabinet, members heard the financial position at the council-supported Haverfordwest/Withybush airport deteriorated in 2022/23, with an out-turn position for 2022/23 of £238,000.

That loss has been reduced to an expected £119,000 for 2023/24 “following an extensive review of the operations of the airport”.

At the July 18 meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council’s full council, a series of submitted questions on the airport were heard.

Merlins Bridge councillor John Cole asked: “With the council leasing out the Haverfordwest airport, can members be assured that the lease is at comparable rent with similar airport facilities, and the airport being offloaded purely as a cost savings measure?”

He also asked a second related question: “Are current users protected and assured that their tenancy and rents currently payable to the authority are taken into consideration?”

Responding, Deputy Leader Cllr Paul Miller said the proposed letting was considered to be “best letting,” with restricted private documents detailing the figures available to all members.

On the second question, he said existing tenants had been involved throughout the process, and once the new overall lease was in place tenants would be protected through legislation.

However, he stressed the new leaseholder would be able to change conditions in the future and the council would “not dictate terms” in the future.

A further question was asked by Saundersfoot South councillor Chris Williams: “On a recent services meeting back in 2023, we had a productive meeting at Withybush Airport to look at the impact regarding costs to PCC and to consider options with regards to its future operation.

“Can you please clarify if the airport is still owned and operated by Pembrokeshire County Council and if so at what cost since April 1, 2024?”

Cllr Miller said the airport was still currently owned by the council following the Cabinet decision, with “reasonably complex” negotiations ongoing, complicated by land ownership issues and the need to obtain the civil aviation licence.

“Hopefully by the end of the calendar year we will have completed that transaction,” Cllr Miller said, adding that £25,000 had been spent since April 1.

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Farming

FUW sets out its key priorities at the Royal Welsh Show

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THE Farmers’ Union of Wales has set out its robust asks of the UK and Welsh Governments despite the challenges presented by navigating through a constantly changing political landscape.

Speaking at the Royal Welsh Show this week, FUW President Ian Rickman reiterated the fact that the Union’s stance remains constant and relentless in an ever changing political arena.

“Welsh farming is at an important crossroads which will determine our future for decades to come. Whilst our direction of travel depends heavily on the development of devolved agricultural policies, we must not forget how decisions made by the newly elected UK Government will effectively determine the degree of funding the Welsh Government has available to support agriculture and rural development.

“This, in turn, will have an impact upon the extent to which Welsh food producers can be expected to compete against producers in other UK nations and across the globe on various levels.

“Despite these challenges, our focus as a Union is to keep-on lobbying governments relentlessly for the best possible outcomes for our members, Welsh agriculture and our rural communities.

“The recent Senedd Cabinet reshuffle and UK General Election certainly brought about considerable change to the political landscape in Wales, not least the appointment of Huw Irranca-Davies MS as Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and a new UK Labour Government holding a majority at Westminster.

“However, turmoil in Cardiff persists as Vaughan Gething’s resignation leaves the door wide open for yet another reshuffle within a matter of a few months.

At a UK level, the FUW is calling for a fair, multiannual funding settlement of £450 million per year in EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) legacy funding for agriculture and rural development in Wales.

“The role of this support in underpinning food production, environmental protection and rural communities in Wales cannot be underestimated.

“We also need to see a far more robust approach to future trade deals with other countries and trading blocs if we are to protect Welsh farmers and UK food security. Food imports and exports must be subject to the same customs and adherence to similar standards if we are to provide a level playing field for both UK and EU producers.”

The FUW is calling for incentives and support for farmers to invest in on-farm renewable energy production that benefits local communities. Food production should be recognised as a national asset and the use of productive agricultural land to meet tree planting and other environmental targets should be halted.

Procurement policies must prioritise public sector support for Welsh and British businesses, recognising the range of benefits such properly designed policies can deliver for society. The newly elected UK Labour Government must also protect and promote the UK’s high animal health and welfare standards and bring in a law that ensures that all dogs should be kept on a lead in fields near or adjacent to livestock.

“Despite the uncertainty in Cardiff, we call on the Welsh Government to build strong relations with the newly elected UK Labour Government to ensure that Welsh agriculture receives the attention it deserves. EU CAP legacy funding allocated for Welsh agriculture and rural development must be protected for this purpose and such funding should continue to be co-funded using national funds.

“The ongoing process of negotiating a revised Sustainable Farming Scheme that provides stability for our food producing family farms must also continue if the scheme is to be implemented in 2026. It is crucial that the scheme considers economic, social and environmental sustainability on equal footings and is accessible and achievable for all active farmers in Wales.

“We also want to see the adoption of practical and innovative technological solutions as a central part of the Control of Agricultural Pollution ‘NVZ’ Regulations review. The process must be based on robust data and evidence while seeking to address water quality issues through innovation rather than regulation.”

Mr Rickman added that the Welsh Government has to, now more than ever before, adopt a scientific and holistic approach to bovine TB eradication in Wales by working with the Technical Advisory Group in investigating the effectiveness of current testing regimes and methods for addressing disease transmission by wildlife.

“Finally, moves towards net zero must be sustainable and based on robust science in such a way that actions carried out in response to short-term targets are not reversed. Reducing our carbon footprint must be manageable and realistic, and must not compromise production or the economic viability of farming businesses.

“The coming days are a celebration of Welsh agriculture and the farmers who continue to produce high quality food and protect the environment against a constant backdrop of political uncertainty and challenge.”

Mr Rickman said that the impacts of such uncertainty across the UK and some fundamental policy questions would be the focus of the FUW’s seminars being held over the coming days, as panels of professionals tackle a diverse range of areas of concern for Welsh farming.

“As always, in addition to these events, our staff and Presidential Team will be meeting officials and stakeholders in order to highlight FUW’s farming members’ good news stories and industry concerns. Rest assured, despite navigating a constantly changing political landscape, our constant and relentless stance remains; to represent the interests of Welsh farmers,” concluded Mr Rickman.

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Health

Health Board to make decision about the future of St David’s GP Surgery

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THE FUTURE of Primary Care provision for patients registered with St David’s GP Surgery in Pembrokeshire will be discussed by Hywel Dda University Health Board at a meeting on Thursday, 25 July 2024.

An engagement exercise was undertaken to gather patient and local stakeholder views on the future of GP services following the decision of the one GP who runs the Surgery to resign his General Medical Services Contract, which takes effect from 31 October 2024.

The engagement with patients and stakeholders included a drop-in event St David’s City Hall in June. This event was well-attended and gave people an opportunity to discuss their concerns in person with the Health Board and Llais, the patient’s voice organisation for Wales.

Patients and members of the local community were also able to share their views via a questionnaire which was available at the engagement event, and also from the Surgery, the local Pharmacy, online, or by contacting the Health Board by phone or e-mail.

Jill Paterson, Director of Primary Care, Community and Long-Term Care, at Hywel Dda University Health Board said: “Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to feed back their views to us. The Health Board is committed to listening to and engaging with our local populations and we would like to thank patients and stakeholders for their involvement in the process so far.

“We would like to reassure patients that we are working to find a sustainable solution from the limited options available so that services can be delivered as locally as possible for patients from the 1 November.

The main themes picked up during the engagement period include concerns about the impact on the community of St David’s if the Surgery were to close, continuity of care and also travel to another GP surgery, especially with regard to public transport.

“People at the drop-in event were provided with information about the frequency of public transport and other transport support available in the community,” said Ms Paterson.

“There was also much appreciation expressed for Dr Stephen Riley and his team and for the care that they have provided over the years. We very much appreciate the continuing support given by the Community to the team at St David’s Surgery throughout this challenging period.”

On Thursday, 25 July, the Board will consider the feedback received.

Ms Paterson continued: “We understand local people will want to know what the future of their GP services will look like, and we will be writing to all patients to inform them of the outcome once a decision is made by the Board.”

To read the Board papers and watch the meeting on the day, please visit: Board Agenda and Papers 25 July 2024 – Hywel Dda University Health Board (nhs.wales)

An update, following the Board’s formal decision on Thursday, July 25 will be shared with patients and stakeholders.

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