MoD to review possibility of ban on foxhunting

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The Independent Online
Foxhunting could be banned on more than 500,000 acres of Ministry of Defence land following a review announced yesterday by ministers.

One of the first victims of a ban on foxhunting on MoD land could be the Royal Artillery's own foxhunting pack at the Bulford Camp on Salisbury Plain.

The MoD review, coupled with a review of foxhunting on Forestry Commission land, would hit more than 60 foxhunting packs, including one in the New Forest that hunts deer, and foxhunting packs in the Quantocks.

The move could be pre-empted this week by Michael Foster, a new Labour MP, who is under pressure to introduce a private members' Bill banning hunting with hounds for all wild animals.

Mr Foster, who is anti-foxhunting, came top in the ballot of MPs for the right to introduce legislation, and will announce his decision this week after consulting his constituents in Worcester. A spokesman for the League Against Cruel Sports said: "It is looking very good.

"Some hunts will be chopped; others will be seriously inconvenienced. But what we really need is legislation to protect wildlife from unnecessary suffering, by banning all hunts whether for deer, foxes, hares or mink. They would then have to go hunting by putting down a false trail, which would preserve the social side of their activity."

Field sports lobbyists said that up to a dozen hunts would be forced to close. But they insisted that the practical difficulties of imposing a ban would make it an unattractive proposal for both the MoD and the Commission.

Landowners have written to the MoD threatening to withdraw permission for exercises to encroach on their land, and could put up to a quarter of a million acres presently used for training out of bounds to the military in the case of a ban, said Janet George, of the British Field Sports Society.

She said: "There is not much benefit and a hell of a lot of hassle for the Government in trying to get at hunting through the back door, which is what this is.

"They don't relish the prospect of pushing a total ban through Parliament, but they want to have something to offer the anti-hunting lobby."

An MoD spokeswoman said: "It is our intention to carry out a thorough review of the effectiveness of hunting with hounds to control fox numbers on MoD land." No timetable has yet been set for the review, which will consider alternative methods of controlling fox numbers, such as shooting, but it is expected to start soon, and be completed "within months, rather than years", she added.

The MoD owns about 600,000 acres, while the Forestry Commission controls 2.8 million. Among hunts which would probably be forced to close by a ban are the Borders Hunt, the New Forest Fox Hunt and the New Forest Buckhounds.