Calls in Wales for hunting laws relaxation

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Media captionAnimal welfare campaigners claim hunt supporters are trying to repeal the Hunting Act 'through the back door'

Calls have been made to relax hunting restrictions and allow packs of dogs to flush out foxes on hill farms in Wales.

Currently only two dogs can be used but some farmers claim their incomes are being affected by fox attacks on lambs.

Animal welfare campaigners are against any change.

The UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said the UK government was going to ask MPs whether the Hunting Act should be repealed.

Derek Morgan. who farms sheep and cattle on the uplands of Llangurig in Powys, said he had lost a number of lambs over the years, and attacks by foxes were on the increase.

He is one of a number who are calling for a relaxation in hunting laws to allow packs of hounds to flush out foxes.

Image caption Farmer Derek Morgan says he is losing lambs in fox attacks

He said that it was more effective and humane.

"You've got two dogs chasing a fox round all day. It seems quite ridiculous," he said.

"If you have a pack of hounds... then (you can) flush them out of the forestry or flush them out of the rough and the job is done."

Simon Jones, huntsman with the South Pembrokeshire Foxhounds, which trail hunts twice a week since the ban on hunting with foxes was introduced in 2004, is also demanding a change.

"Flushing a fox with two dogs to my mind has never been a workable way of controlling foxes," he said.

'Stay under cover'

"The countryside around here is thick - gorse covered. Any sensible fox is never going to leave a big thick cover with two dogs chasing him. It's just not going to happen."

The calls for a relaxation in the law have won support from Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Plaid Cymru politicians in Wales.

Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire Conservative MP Simon Hart said: "I think what we are looking at is simply a suggestion by upland farmers that makes a bit of sense to be honest which is we can do this better but we do need one or two changes to the law.

"It doesn't actually alter the fact that hunting will remain a criminal offence."

But Steve Carter from the RSPCA in Wales is against any relaxation in the law.

He said: "If you're using a whole pack you'd be returning pretty much to the Hunting Act.

"This is trying to repeal the act through the back door."

A Defra spokesperson said: "The government recognises that hunting evokes strong views and that the issue is a matter of conscience.

"That is why it's been subject to a free vote in Parliament for many years and why the government has said it will put forward a motion before the House of Commons on whether the Hunting Act should be repealed and, if it's carried, bring forward legislation in due course."

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