Fox-hunters find favour in countryside opinion

A ban on hunting with dogs is supported by less than a quarter of people in the countryside, the Burns inquiry has found.

A ban on hunting with dogs is supported by less than a quarter of people in the countryside, the Burns inquiry has found.

Research for the committee disclosed that most people in rural areas were opposed to a ban on fox-hunting. The finding, which shows considerably more support for the sport thanhave recent opinion polls, will come as a blow to anti-hunt campaigners.

Backbenchers led by Gordon Prentice, the Labour MP for Pendle, plan to table an amendment to the Countryside Bill in an attempt to force the Government to introduce a ban. They hope that their revolt will coincide with the publication of the Burns inquiry's report.

According to the final report on the "effects of hunting with dogs on the social and cultural life in England and Wales" by the Department of City and Regional Planning in Cardiff, support for hunting was strongest among men, older people, longer established residents, workers in rural occupations such as farming and the lower social classes. The Burns inquiry report will be submitted to Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, later this week.

The League Against Cruel Sports claimed the findings were undermined by a separate poll commissioned by the animal-welfare campaign, which found that only 4 per cent of people thought hunting was important for rural life. "The main argument of pro-hunt supporters has been that the countryside would be destroyed if fox-hunting was banned. This poll proves that that argument is flawed," a spokesman for the league said.

However, the report submitted to the Burns inquiry said: "Support for a ban on hunting with dogs was expressed by 22 per cent of respondents, considerably below levels reported in recent opinion polls on this subject. In fact, a majority of residents in the survey (59 per cent) were opposed to any ban on hunting."

The study added that hunting appeared to represent a "relatively insignificant part of the day-to-day lives of most residents - only one-quarter considered hunting to be an important part of their lives - but a significant part of the wider life of the study areas, with 64 per cent of residents in the survey stating that hunting is important to day-to-life in their parish or community".

The wider role performed by hunting within the four study areas was recognised by most of those who had recently moved there, people who had not been hunting over the previous 12 months and workers in non-rural occupations.

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