asked the Minister of Agriculture what protection he proposes to afford tenant farmers with T.T. dairy herds against the intrusion of foxhounds, horses and huntsmen amongst their herds with the possibility of scattering their cattle amongst neighbouring herds of non- T.T. cattle by breaking down fences and leaving open gates, such as happened recently in West Norfolk.
Incidents such as that in West Norfolk are infrequent and most hunts do their utmost to cause as little damage as possible to agriculture. I do not consider, therefore, that any special action is needed. Hunting is only carried on by courtesy of the farmers concerned, and hunts have no legal right to hunt over private property. If they do so and the farmer objects, he can sue the hunt or individual huntsman for trespass and claim damages; or make a claim for compensation from the hunt for any damage caused.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that farmers have to go to a great deal of expense to get their herds accredited T.T., and unless they can be protected against this kind of thing, there will be a great deal of damage? Further, is he aware that in this neighbourhood last season a number of in-calf heifers slipped their calves as a result of the hunt passing through their field?
As I have already stated, a hunt has no legal right to hunt over private property, and if farmers object, they can take the steps I have indicated.
But does my right hon. Friend realise that, so far as tenant farmers are concerned, the landowners reserve sporting rights and, therefore, the tenant farmers are without protection?
If any private farmers who object to hunting over their land are in any way intimidated by landowners, and such cases are brought to our notice, we will certainly look into them.
Is it not a fact that the reservation of sporting rights has nothing to do with cases of trespass, or the rights of anyone to recover damages? Sporting rights have nothing to do with it.