Her party has promised its MPs and peers a free vote on the issue, but a substantial number are likely to support a ban.
Lady Mallalieu, an opposition spokeswoman on home and legal affairs, told the Lords in a debate on the rural economy: "In the parish in which I live on Exmoor, the local hunt is the largest single employer ... 16,000 jobs in rural areas are directly dependent on the continuation of hunting and the same number again, indirectly.
"Many of these people are living in tied housing, in families with children at local schools, and have known no other career."
Lady Mallalieu, who is a barrister, added: "The latest estimate indicates that a further 150,000 people are engaged in work or businesses which would be adversely affected by the end of hunting ... rural communities may be a minority, but the time has come when their views should be heard above the clamour of urban and suburban views and their needs, so long neglected, met at last."
The Environment Minister of State, Earl Ferrers, replying to the debate, told Lady Mallalieu: "You always make the most fascinating of speeches and I was glad to see you stand up for the right for rural needs and views to be heard. I was glad to hear your support of fox hunting." He commended hunters as "good, respectable, honest people".