Former Queen guitarist and animal welfare campaigner Brian May has accused David Cameron of an "underhand" move to bring back fox hunting and labelled the Countryside Alliance "a bunch of lying bastards" for helping him.
He was joined by fellow guitar legend and Beatles star Paul McCartney, who predicted the government's "cruel and unnecessary" move would lose them support.
The government announced earlier this week that it would give MPs a free vote on amending the current ban on fox hunting. A debate and subsequent vote will be held on Thursday 16 July, but the Prime Minister has faced a backlash from opponents who have accused him of trying to change the law through the back door.
It means hunting with dogs could once again be made legal by MPs nodding it through Parliament in a single vote.
The current law permits two hounds to flush out a fox to be shot but the changes would allow particular sorts of hunting for pest-control purposes.
Jim Barrington, a welfare consultant for the Countryside Alliance, rejected the suggestion that the plans would end up repealing the ban.
He told BBC Newsnight: "This is about addressing exemptions in the Act, which were agreed by both sides when the Act was going through, for pest control reasons, for catching a diseased or wounded animal or something like that and they don't work.
"So this is a very quick, sharp measure to allow those things to work."
However his words were pounced upon by Mr May, a fierce campaigner against animal cruelty, who claimed Mr Cameron and the pro-hunting lobby were not just misleading the public but were actively "lying".
Appearing on the same show, he said: "I think it’s a very underhand act I’m afraid, because Cameron for years has promised a free vote – a fair fight on the repeal of the Hunting Act.
"He’s now realised that this probably won’t end up with what he wants so this whole thing has been put together by circumventing the normal democratic process.
"So you introduce a little modification to an Act but this modification actually disables the whole Hunting Act and effectively this is repeal under a new name. I think this is a very Machiavellian and rather inexcusable way of behaving."
He ended his argument by saying: “I believe it’s a pretence. I think you’re a bunch of lying b****ds.”
And Sir Paul backed up his fellow musical legend by predicting that the majority of the public would turn against the Tory government if hunting was brought back.
"The people of Britain are behind this Tory government on many things but the vast majority of us will be against them if hunting is reintroduced," he said.
"It is cruel and unnecessary and will lose them support from ordinary people and animal lovers like myself."
Fox hunting was absent from May’s Queen Speech, leaving opponents hopeful that the Government was reconsidering its manifesto pledge to repeal it.
But the Prime Minister became under mounting pressure from Conservative MPs to swiftly honour the party’s manifesto pledge to hold a free Commons vote on the ban after he won a surprise majority at the election.
The Tories sought to change the law during the last parliament, but the move was blocked by the Liberal Democrats.
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies