THE Government has controversially given the go-ahead to an official qualification in hunting, despite the sport being banned for six years.
Anti-hunt protesters have hit out at the course which has been set up in conjunction with the Masters of the Foxhounds Association, based at Daglingworth, near Cirencester.
The course is a specialism option in a regular animal care diploma, which is a vocational NVQ used in everything from stables to dog grooming parlours.
It includes a residential part for young hunt workers to learn about hunting with hounds, beagles and harriers, and is being run by Haddon Training, based in Marlborough in Wiltshire.
As well as learning first aid, maths and English skills, those on the course learn about keeping packs of hounds too.
But the League Against Cruel Sports dismissed the qualification.
Spokesman Steve Taylor said: "It would be interesting to know if there's a section on how to 'accidentally hunt', which is how many hunts are getting around the law and still killing foxes cruelly.
"Whoever the comedian was who said that NVQ stood for 'no value qualification' has now been proved right. This is a qualification rooted in the past – what will be next, an NVQ in slavery?"
The specialist hunting NVQ, which is recognised by the Government's education and qualifications body, was devised by the association's Tim Easby and by Lesley Seed, who works for Haddon Training.
Mr Easby, deputy director of the association, said the NVQ was a "fantastic development".
"It will help to formalise the training needed to work with animals in a hunting context. But not only that, it will provide transferable skills for people wanting to work with animals in any other walk of life, whether it's on a farm or at a zoo," he said.
"I'm surprised the League Against Cruel Sports isn't more supportive of the idea. After all, this is a qualification for people to learn how deal with animals more safely."
Ms Seed said the course was specifically tailored for hunt learners who are working in hunt kennels.
She said: "We're thrilled to have this relationship with Haddon Training to allow the boys and girls we now have in hunt service to leave with a qualification which has transferable skills to other areas in the animal industry. In future if the youngsters leave hunting, they've got a prospect of employment elsewhere."
Hunting foxes and deer with more than two hounds was made illegal in the controversial 2005 ban, but hunts have continued to operate, using some of the many loopholes in the law.