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LETTER : Hunters are the messiest of our farmland crossers

Dear Editor, During the summer months, Oliver McDonnell, writing inthe Farming Independent , highlighted the problem of modern farming: people walking across farm land, making gaps in ditches, leaving gates open, trampling through fields of corn, then passing through fields of livestock, sometimes with dogs, exciting and terrifying sheep and putting themselves at risk of attack by a suckler cow (protecting her calf) or a bull.

These people have no idea of the damage they do, and couldn't care less. When they have gone, there are cattle in neighbours' corn, or sheep have had become excitable and could ultimately lose lambs.

The farmer discovers that all this activity could cost him days of putting everything right. If he says anything to the intruders, he gets 'the finger'.

I can well sympathise with Mr McDonnell and support him in his article. But I was surprised that he didn't mention the fox hunting people. Maybe they didn't bother him at all. If he had over 90 horses tearing up his winter corn, leaving gaps in ditches; a hunt terrorising his livestock in fields, yards and sheds with their horses, hounds, and hooters, then he would really have something to complain about.

The hunters are the most arrogant and tribal people one could meet. Generally, they never ask permission to enter lands. If a farmer asks them to leave, or tries to prevent them from encroaching on his land, he gets bad mannered abuse, even from so-called ladies with gutter mouths. If the farmer sends a bill to the hunters, they generally do not pay because there are solicitors and members of the judiciary riding with them. They are a law unto themselves.

In this compensation-ridden society of ours, even a farmer who succeeded in winning a court action against a hunt could be ruined by the excessive cost of the proceedings. So the best and easiest way forward for the farmer is to refuse everybody access to his farm.

Lock all gates, especially on roadsides, due to the ever-present danger and consequences of animals straying onto our new, busy 'Motor Racing Tracks'.

People who leave gates open can cause serious accidents. In today's world, the right of access of another age is just not possible anymore. Everywhere one goes, there are charges for car parking, for example, or to use another person's property in any way. But no one is paying the farmer for the recreational use of his land.

The farmer has everything to lose by allowing his property to be used as a 'freebie'. People need to realise that his land is out of bounds to trespassers and vandals. There is an agreed set of rules with the IFA and sporting organisations and this has been signed up to by the Masters of Foxhounds Association.

Under these rules, people are obliged to seek the property owner's permission before entering onto his land. If the farmer refuses permission, such people must abide by his wishes and stay out.

The IFA has a clear obligation to all its members to ensure that the rules of the agreement are observed and implemented in their entirety. The farmer's right to refuse entry to people likely to damage his livelihood is enshrined in law. It would greatly help the landowner in the present climate if the Government would now, like England, Scotland and Wales, ban foxhunting, as 90pc of farmers do not want these trespassers on their lands.

I would ask the 10pc of landowners that invite the foxhunters in to please ensure that those people do not use and abuse their invitation to trespass and vandalise their neighbours' farm property. I ask them to be good neighbours and confine the hunt to their own lands.

Irish farmers will no longer tolerate what happened in the past. We croppies will not lie down! Yours faithfully,

Philip Lynch

Chairman, Farmers against Foxhunting and Trespass

Tel: 056-7725309