MPs brace for 'countryside rage'

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Ministers are braced for an angry backlash from countryside campaigners over government plans to ban hunting with dogs as a sport.

Ministers are braced for an angry backlash from countryside campaigners over government plans to ban hunting with dogs as a sport.

One government minister involved in drawing up the Bill confided to colleagues at the party conference this week that he would need to "hire a bodyguard" when the Bill was published later this year.

The Government is planning to push through a law making it illegal to hunt foxes with dogs for recreation in the Queen's Speech next month.

The Bill is likely to allow farmers to continue to control foxes with dogs as long as they can prove they are using the most humane method available. But fox hunting with dogs for sport or pleasure, deer hunting and hare coursing are expected to be outlawed.

The Countryside Alliance said a ban was not justified on the evidence submitted to the Government. "The rage of the countryside will be felt," said Mark Hinge, political director for Wales. "407,000 people marched on 22 September."

Anti-hunt Labour MPs have already received hate mail and threats. Some believe they will be forced to operate the same level of vigilance as scientists who experiment on animals.

Ian Cawsey MP, who is chairman of the House of Commons All-Party Animal Welfare Group, had his constituency office targeted by pro-hunters. Yesterday, despite the danger of a backlash, he urged the Prime Minister to press ahead with a ban.

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