Hunter Hogg 'the sadist'

Douglas Hogg, the Minister of Agriculture, "passionately defended" fox hunting yesterday, claiming that field sports generated pounds 2.7bn for rural communities. The Labour MP Tony Banks called him "a crude mouthpiece for a bunch of bloodthirsty sadists".

Mr Hogg, speaking at a game fair at Grimsthorpe Castle, Lincolnshire, said: "My ministerial colleagues and I are passionate defenders of field sports. I shoot and I fish. I do not myself hunt - at least not yet - but I resolutely champion the rights of those who do."

Mr Banks, MP for Newham North-West, said the pounds 2.7bn figure was plucked from the air. "Mr Hogg is allowing himself to be used by the British Field Sports Society and is just spouting their propaganda ... He would be better trying to sort out the total mess he has made over BSE," he said.

The furious exchanges highlight Labour's pledge - repeated in its draft manifesto, New Life for Britain, this month - to provide time for a free vote in the Commons on foxhunting, which would be almost certain to see it banned.

"There will be a majority in the next Parliament to ban hunting animals with hounds," Mr Banks, a leading animal rights campaigner, said.

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