Foxhunting ban would cost 'as few as 400 jobs in country'

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Aa few as 400 jobs could be lost in the countryside if there was a ban on fox-hunting, the Burns inquiry is expected to report to the Government next week.

Aa few as 400 jobs could be lost in the countryside if there was a ban on fox-hunting, the Burns inquiry is expected to report to the Government next week.

The inquiry, the official investigation into hunting with dogs ordered by the Government, is expected to tell the Home Secretary, Jack Straw, that its research suggests that the Countryside Commission's claim that 16,000 jobs could be lost is wide of the mark.

Reports at the weekend that 5,000 jobs could be at risk were the "worst-case" scenario tested by inquiry researchers. The Home Secretary will be told actual job losses could be even fewer than so far expected.

The findings will fuel demands for the ban to go ahead by Labour MPs, who are pressing a rebel amendment on foxhunting to the Government's Countryside Bill. The report could also embarrass Tony Blair, who is trying to resist the move to include a foxhunting ban in the Bill because it could wreck its passage through the House of Lords.

Some Labour MPs who oppose foxhunting and have signed the amendment are being squeezed by the Government whips to abandon the protest. The MPs are being warned that if they persist, they will destroy the Bill to give ramblers new rights of access to the open countryside.

The researchers found that the number of job losses could be about 356 if foxhunting was replaced by drag hunting and the same number of hunts and followers took part in the sport. * The High Court is to be asked to approve a bid to ban pro-hunting campaigners from joining a leading animal welfare charity. The Royal Society for the Protection of Animals has put a block on memberships of up to 300 people thought to be blood-sport sympathisers or pro-hunting group members.

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