Hunting in New Forest suspended over equine flu fears
HUNTING in the New Forest has been suspended following the equine flu outbreak which has led to horse racing being hit by a six-day shutdown.
Members of the New Forest Hounds (NFH) met yesterday and decided not to go ahead with the trail hunts which had been scheduled for today and Tuesday.
Racing has been suspended until Wednesday at the earliest in a bid to halt the spread of the highly-contagious disease.
The presence of thousands of free-roaming ponies in the Forest has led the NFH to put its own activities on hold.
Spokesman Graham Ferris said: “There’s no equine flu in the New Forest or anywhere near it.
“There’s also no specific veterinary advice not to hunt, but we felt that calling off the trail hunts planned for today and Tuesday was the responsible thing to do.
“We’ll have to wait and see what advice is given over the next few days and go forward from there.”
The League Against Cruel Sports is urging all UK packs to cease hunting immediately to prevent the spread of the disease.
Chris Luffingham, the League’s director of campaigns, said: “There is a serious risk of horse flu spreading among both horses and hounds if they continue meeting up
“It would be grossly irresponsible of the hunts to ignore the precedent being set by the horse racing authorities.”
During the foot-and-mouth crisis in 2007 hunts were confined to their stables.
Mr Luffingham added: “It would be shameful and irresponsible if the hunts were to be out in the countryside this weekend, given the risks.”
Equine flu is similar to the human version, with infected animals being hit by coughing and runny noses as well as feeling generally run down.
The outbreak is centred on the Cheshire stables of Grand National-winning trainer Donald McCain, where several horses have tested positive for the disease.