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Hunting: Prime Minister sympathetic to easing the hunting ban

David Cameron has indicated that he could be willing to consider a relaxation of the hunting ban imposed by the previous Labour Government, reports The Telegraph.

The Hunting Act 2004 was a central policy of the last Labour Government, which attempted to end hundreds of years of hunting tradition in the British countryside.

Opponents of the Act claimed that the Government was out of touch with the countryside and the rural way of life, but supporters of a ban pointed to the often horrific suffering of animals as a strong reason to introduce a law banning hunting.

The Hunting Act 2004 specifically bans the hunting of wild mammals with dogs in England and Wales, and is aimed at the hunting of foxes, deer, hares and mink.

The Act has been reasonably effective at reducing the number of hunts and some prosecutions have been made; however, hunting has continued in some areas.

Now the Prime Minister has indicated that the law banning hunting could be relaxed, with the support of a cross-party alliance of MPs, to permit practices aimed at pest control.

The proposal is to permit the use of more than two dogs to flush out a fox from its hide in order for it to be shot, something that is currently banned under the Hunting Act.

"There is a very specific issue here around pest control and the impact it has on hill farmers," a Downing Street spokesman told The Telegraph.

"The Prime Minister has some sympathy with these concerns. Given the cross-party nature of concerns this is something which the House [of Commons] may wish to consider."

The Coalition Government is committed to offering MPs a free vote on whether to repeal the Hunting Act in its entirety, but this will only take place when parliamentary time allows and there is no commitment for that vote to take place within this Parliament, which runs until May 2015.

The Government has particularly cited the plight of hill farmers to support the proposed law change, as they suffered significant losses due to late snow earlier in the year and their livelihoods are now under threat from foxes.