THE four hunts that decided to disrupt the return of steam trains to the Whitby-Pickering railway line deserved all the flak they attracted this week.

Protests against the hunting ban should be expected, of course, but it is bad tactics to select some other pursuit to disrupt. The target was Labour MP Lawrie Quinn but all the protest achieved was widely-reported and justifiably angry outbursts from the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. In addition, it provided a platform for Mr Quinn to denounce hunting and hunt supporters. As a public relations exercise it was a complete disaster.

So far the hunting community has handled the ban well. Most have continued to hunt after a fashion. If the antis thought hunts would shut up shop and melt away, they have been proved wrong.

But before the ban was implemented we suggested that direct action protests of this type were risky. Anything which disrupted the lives and activities of non-hunting folk would be likely to be counter-productive. At this stage in the battle, even though the matter has moved into the realm of the High Court and, perhaps, the European Court, huntsmen and women need to hold on to what support they have managed to gather in the wider community. Last weekend's incidents made hunting folk look like idiots.

We rest our case.