Peers have been warned to take heed of the House of Commons' overwhelming wish to outlaw fox hunting.
Environment Minister Lord Whitty urged the House of Lords to try to reach a compromise with MPs over an issue which has dogged the political agenda since Labour came to power in 1997.
Earlier this year, MPs voted for a ban after the government was forced to abandon a compromise plan which would have allowed fox hunting to continue under licence
But pressure groups such as the Countryside Alliance, have already warned that the government risks provoking a row over civil liberties if it uses the Parliament Act to force the bill into law.
Should hunting with dogs be banned? Can a compromise be reached?
This debate is now closed. Read your comments below.
The following comments reflect the balance of views we have received:
Thank God there is an Upper House to thwart the spiteful scheming of the current batch of politicians. Save us from these opinion poll obsessed career politicians. The debate on fox hunting is passionate, honest and heartfelt - on both sides. The vote in Parliament is totally divorced from the arguments. It is political expediency between the Labour hierarchy and the baying back-benchers - the titbit of a ban for support of health reform etc. I suggest anyone involved in the debate saves their breath - the MPs aren't listening, they aren't interested in your views.
Foxes weren't created to be cuddled in people's arms, they are not pets - they are a vicious predator and must be controlled by fox hunting, which ensures the maintenance of a healthy fox population by natural selection, the survival of the fittest. Why should other people's ignorance influence our lives.
Harry Towers, UK
Hunting with dogs is currently legal. But the hunt supporters say fox numbers are out of control. Surely this is an admission that hunting does not work?
Oh and for all you pseudo countryside folk (the vast bulk of hunters live in Kensington in my experience), I used to shoot foxes. It's a lot faster than hunting and more effective. This is not a class issue, it's just common sense.
Rob Smith, UK
Such stupidity. What's next- banning the foxes from hunting THEIR prey? Banning the eating of meat? Banning dog ownership altogether?
Dogs are predators. It is in their nature to hunt prey. Denying my Jack Russell and Lurcher their hunting is to deny the very nature of dogs- and the prey (mice and rats, in the case of my dogs) die much more quickly and cleanly than they would if I were to trap or poison them.
I think that all hunting should be banned, particularly involving dogs - they don't just chase the animal; if they catch it and rip it to shreds. How can this be deemed a "sport"?
Hunting by man is natural, humane and morally correct. Man evolved as a hunter/gatherer and only survived because he hunted. It is the corrupting and perverting effect of modern 'civilisation' which now produces the bizarre situation in which it is proposed that hunting should be criminalised. Man should be true to his nature and continue to hunt. Fox hunting must be allowed to continue.
Lindsay McLane, UK
My nine year old son is just starting to join me hunting, this is far better than him getting into drugs or other trouble.
Glyn turner, Notts
The pro-fox hunting lobby would gain more respect all round if they just admitted that they get a kick out watching animals kill each other. Their attempts to say that hunting isn't cruel, when the fox is plainly terrified (why else does it run?) just makes them look and sound ridiculous.
Simon O'Brien, UK
Hunting with dogs should not be banned. I am not a hunts person but I understand how foxes can do so much damage to not just farmers but wildlife in general. Foxes have no natural enemy, so they will just overpopulate the country if hunting is banned or you will have everyone who owns a gun licence shooting them until they become an endangered species in years to come. Hunting with hounds is tradition and the cunning of a fox is down to foxes for generations being chased by hounds and learning how to evade capture.
A McKenzie, England
How can MPs ignore the findings of the Burn's report and the opinion of the electorate who do not oppose hunting? Why not spend some time on the important issues rather than vicious class hatred driven crusades.
Pro Hunters always claim that if their sport is banned then foxes will suffer because they will be shot, poisoned or gassed etc. Has it escaped their notice that foxes are already shot, poisoned and gassed?
Are foxes the big menaces that farmers claim? Where's the data? Should foxes be persecuted at all?
Andy Ross, UK
I absolutely support a ban to hunting in ALL forms. We send people to jail in this country for being cruel to their pets why should wild animals be any different. Hunting for "Sport" is barbaric, cruel and unnecessary and no economic or social argument will sway my opinion on this.
Andrew L, UK
Lord Bragg summed up the stupidity of this attempt to ban hunting in his speech today. This is just class envy and entrenched politics. It should not form any part of our democratic world.
Bob Harvey, Lincs, UK
If it is cruel (RSPCA) to prevent a chicken from expressing its natural behaviour, then it is cruel to prevent a dog from expressing its natural behaviour, which is to hunt and kill in packs. If you don't like dogs hunting, then you don't like dogs - period, since hunting is what dogs evolved to do. A domestic dog which has had its hunting instinct removed by genetic engineering through selective breeding is as sad as an eagle which has lost its desire to fly.
Tim Sage, UK
Fox hunting should continue. Rural jobs depend on it and there are many other benefits such as cementing a significant part of the rural community. Foxes are vermin and on the increase. You poison rats, why not hunt foxes?
Paul Restorick, England
Fox hunting is barbaric - lets ignore fishing, which is a red herring used by the pro fox hunting barbarians. As for wasting government time why don't the pro hunters just accept the ban and stop wasting time so the government can give more time to health, education etc. We have banned bear baiting and other base forms of cruelty so let's move into the 21st centaury and ban fox hunting now. I would not like to live near to someone who gets enjoyment out of torturing and killing animals, God only knows what these people treat their children.
Gary Gatter, UK
Please ask the people who would ban hunting, whether they would prefer their fox control to be by poison, shooting or trapping. At least when a hound catches a fox, it kills it outright there and then. The house of Lords now has to realise it is the last bastion of common sense in our country.
Hunting is a vile practice and should be totally banned. Our political representatives don't seem to have the guts or even the common decency to stand by their stated policy.
Garry Stork, UK
I grew up in Apartheid South Africa, a country where banning and eliminating people you didn't like was the whole point of the system. It is hard to believe that a British government is prepared to bully a minority of people like this, over something so unimportant. If people invested a quarter of the energy of this debate into worrying about parental cruelty, Victoria Climbie would still be alive.
Sarah de la Pasture, UK
If the reason for wishing to ban hunting with dogs is because of perceived cruelty to prey, how can licensing of hunts be considered? To issue licences to hunts is surely tantamount to saying that something is perceived as being cruel but "licensed" cruelty is somehow okay? Or am I missing some modern politically correct morality here.
Eleanor Rooney, Scotland
I want fox hunting to continue. Foxes are a plague round here, why should they be allowed to be snared, gassed, run over but not hunted? Only with hunting do they either escape uninjured or they are quickly killed. I have seen this with my own eyes. Death is not pleasant however it comes, gassing and snaring are worse.
Bernadette Restorick, England
Hunting is necessary as part of an overall plan for conserving wildlife, and, for that matter, it is also often a key component in large-scale land preservation efforts. Under a ban besieged farmers will be forced to turn to alternative controls such as poison and traps, which truly are cruel. There is no doubt at all that a long-term and final ban on hunting will NOT be beneficial to the foxes, who most certainly will grow in population over the years only to be culled by starvation, poison, and traps. There is no humaneness in that.
Glenye Cain, USA
The astonishing thing is that we still have a House of Lords capable of obstructing the will of elected MPs, in a country which usually likes to think of itself as a democracy.
Perhaps there should be two bills: one to abolish the House of Lords, and then a bill to abolish hunting with dogs.
As a Hunt Servant, a ban on hunting would cost me my home as well as my job. Hunting is a socially, economically and ecologically vital part of rural Britain. Hunting is not cruel, hunting is natural-even foxes do it. If it was proven that hunting was cruel, I would stop hunting, along with many others. The present government has more problems than it can cope with as it is. Criminalising a significant proportion of the rural minority, already exploited and persecuted by a government needing votes would surely be the last nail in the coffin of Tony's New Labour.
Why when crime is on the increase, drugs are an never ending problem, education and the health service to mention but a few, are in disarray, are we still giving valuable time to the hunting debate. Are the fox and hare more important than human life? Having been born and bred in the country I have a deep love of all animals and most certainly would not go coursing or hunting if I thought it was in any way cruel. When hounds hunt a fox the outcome is black and white-it is either dead or escapes, other forms of control can mean a slow and painful death for the animal.
The Government should leave hunting alone and concentrate on what really matters - creating a safe country for our children to grow up in.
Battery farming has been carrying on for decades, but an outright ban on that would be shot down by Parliament, because it's in the interests of the majority. Hunters, by contrast, are in the minority. It's a simple case of double-standards. If animal welfare is more important than human liberties and jobs, then it is more important period. It is absurd to 'pick-and-choose'.
This debate is getting on my nerves. I am against hunting with hounds as I am an animal scientist who has seen the overwhelming evidence that its cruel and barbaric. The government made a pledge to ban it, the Burns report concluded it was cruel and the house of commons voted for the ban so if the government stands by its principles they would stop messing about and ban the bloody sport.
Chris Bird, Staffs, UK
I am a horse owner who supports a ban on hunting. I have absolutely nothing against 'posh people' as Simon Moore suggests (below). What I object to is a wild animal being killed simply for man's pleasure. Whichever way you look at it, that's what it is. I understand that people hunt for many reasons and most go simply for the enjoyment of the chase. We live in the year 2003 - if this debate is about controlling fox numbers there are quicker, cheaper and more humane ways of going about it.
I live in a sheep farming area, withy a forest of over 2,500 acres. The only way we can control fox numbers is with hounds. I see the lie about no increase in fox numbers during Foot & Mouth when hunting was curtailed has reared its head again. Ask the farmers, the keepers, or anyone who works in the countryside and they will tell you that was one of the biggest lies ever put out. Our area is still struggling to get fox numbers back to an acceptable level. Hunters only hound vermin to death. This government hounds humans to death.
Bernard Robinson, U K
What's the big deal? Foxes are a nuisance and hunting them is a tradition. Just because some don't share this sport or tradition doesn't mean they have the right to take it away from those who do. Personally, I'd like to see a ban on football because of the hoodlums who participate.
The Burns Report did NOT find hunting intrinsically cruel, and it is by far the most natural way to ensure that we maintain a managed and sustainable fox and deer population in the countryside.
This is NOT a fox hunting ban... this is a ban on hunting with dogs. If I'm out with my Lurchers running off lead and someone thinks I'm working them and reports me, I will have to prove my innocence. This could affect many dog owners and nobody seems to have noticed!
This is not a question of "posh" vs "non-posh" or country vs city, it's a question of whether in the 21st century we should allow people to participate in an outdated, barbaric sport. We have banned bear baiting and other blood sports, so fox hunting with dogs should be a logical next step.
Nigel Pond, Brit living in the USA
I am against fox hunting, and believe it is a cruel sport. The countryside alliances arguments for fox hunting are flimsy to say the least. BUT, I would not ban the sport. It is not my place to dictate to others what they should do. As long as it does not affect me. I may not agree with the sport, but I respect others peoples right to fox hunt.
Maxwell Tsu-Ara˙jo, UK
I thought the MPs have voted several times to ban hunting? So why are we STILL having this debate?!
Just because you don't agree with something is no reason to support a law outlawing it. What really maddens me is the fact that Scots MP's are allowed to vote on this issue for England when their own parliament has already banned it in Scotland with no input allowed from English MP's. Where is the democracy in that? If a ban is pushed through using Scottish votes it could well lead to a major constitutional crisis in the UK. This whole issue is a can of worms that is best left alone.
A fox will be ripped apart by dogs in a very, very, short period of time. Fair enough, I can see how that could upset some people. However, when farmers put poison on their land to protect their livestock, the fox's who get poisoned die a slow and very painful death. I assume this will need to be banned by the people who love the countryside yet have no idea how it functions in reality as they only visit on the weekends? I live in West London and there are foxes all over the place. They are becoming a real and visible pest in London nevermind the countryside.
Foxes need to be controlled - with hounds the fox is either dead or has got away - with other methods - such as shooting/poison/snares etc - the fox can be left to a slow painful death. Foxes are vermin and MUST be controlled. Long live hunting and all that it stands for. All you so called "animal lovers" just think of how many hounds will have to be killed (they are pack animals before you tell me they could be rehomed) and horses that will be killed (many horse owners purely ride to hunt they do not hunt to ride). Jobs - think about the individuals whose lives depend on it - huntsmen, kennel men, terrier men, farriers, horse hire individuals and the list goes on and on and on. People should put their energy into the cruelty of children and human beings.
Every single argument for banning fox hunting could equally apply to a ban on fishing. However this government will never do that because of their completely misguided attitude. As far as they are concerned one is a vote winner and one is a vote loser - simple as that. So much for taking an unbiased moral stand.
Gary W, England
I in no way support a ban on hunting. I make a choice to support (and partake in) hunting and do not force anyone to participate or share my views. I would be very angry if my civil liberties were curtailed by a ban on hunting, I would even go so far as going hunting (something i have not done for 5 years) under a ban to register my protest - incidentally this is a protest that the Government has been deaf to despite the Marches and rallies organised to express the views of the pro-hunting lobby. Those who say hunting is cruel should wake up and see that there are far more important issues about (Education, Health, Crime) that need to be addressed. The welfare of humans is far more important.
Tricia Singleton, Hampshire
No. Foxhunting is good for the people, the horses, the hounds, tourism, and the economy.
Sometimes the fox loses, but that is the natural order of life. The fox must kill something everyday or he doesn't eat.
We call ourselves a civilised society yet as a nation we feel we have the right to inflict pain and suffering to other animals because we find the thrill of the chase entertaining. This has nothing to do with pest control and its about time this arrogant attitude of the Countryside Alliance was stopped for good on this subject and they started to behave like they have moved on from the dark ages. It's not a sport its murder.
Not liking those who participate in hunting is not a strong enough argument to ban it - regulation to prevent cruelty is better than abolition to satisfy a political agenda or a personal abhorrence.
Jeremy Sweeney, UK
Every fox hunter in the land can convince themselves that what they are doing is helping keep control of a pest problem but the reality is simple: fox hunting is a cruel, barbaric sport that can never be justified. Put yourself in place of the fox for one minute and you will see what i mean. Imagine being terrified, running for your life, afraid that if you stop for a second you'll be torn to pieces. And you will be because a hound is a wild animal and its instinct is to kill when it catches a meal. How can that be entertainment?
I think the idea and picture of the 'hunt' is just wonderful - but not at the expense of a little animal - if they could devise a way to save the fox, I would be delighted if the tradition would continue.
Judith Lee Beaudoin, USA
If the government succeeds in banning hunting it will be yet further evidence (if any is needed) of this government's desire to control how we run our lives. There is nothing to be gained from this piece of ill-conceived emotive legislation. Regulated hunting should be allowed to continue; otherwise this matter will go on and on.
The foot and mouth epidemic showed up the lies of the Countryside Alliance - fox hunting was stopped, yet strangely we were not overrun by a plague of foxes. So clearly we do not need to keep on hunting.
Andrew, London, UK
Fox hunting should not be banned unless a case can be made that it is a nuisance and will interfere with the rights and enjoyment of others. A ban should not be effected simply because some people find it distasteful or, heavens, cruel. As if we don't tolerate enough cruelty, from the disgusting manner we treat the animals we eat to the way we treat each other.
I know that fox hunting is cruel, but it's not a big enough deal to support a ban. It's too small an issue to warrant new legislation. The class-war aspect doesn't impress me either - the irony is that if it was a proletariat sport, this poll-obsessed government wouldn't even dare suggest a ban, even though there would be much more widespread cruelty.
Hunting is an ecologically friendly method of pest control and conservation. All the reports that have been done on hunting with hounds have agreed it's NOT cruel: the quarry is caught or gets away - simple. It's also the most natural ritual/sport/human activity, which if it were being banned in Africa (the Bush men hunt with horses and hounds) our liberal middle classes would be up in arms to stop it. The Commons is motivated by pure bigotry and prejudice - they've not read the reports, that's obvious, and if hunting were banned then say goodbye to fishing, shooting, and even horse racing.
Dr Alex Moseley, England
What's there to debate? Fox hunting is cruel and barbaric and serves only as a form of entertainment for a small number of people who should know better. It has no more moral validity than bullfighting.
I am baffled by the hunters' arguments. If hunting is an effective, humane pest control (which I doubt), then why does it only account for 4% of all fox deaths? If it is a sport, then it should be banned. No one should be allowed to take pleasure from killing. Why don't the Countryside Alliance channel their energies into real countryside issues such as the lack of affordable housing?
Steve F, England
This debate is taking up a lot of time, which could be better spent on other issues. However, let's finish the job and ban this barbaric blood sport. This is the 21st century and about time for such idiotic 'enjoyment' to be consigned the way of cock fighting and bear baiting.
Never in the field of British politics has so much time been wasted by so many for the benefit of so few.
I have no interest whatsoever in fox hunting, but I do not support a ban simply because of the mindset that lays behind it.
The people who support a ban are not in the slightest bit interested in animal cruelty, they are simply in favour of it because they have a big grudge against "posh people". That is a disgusting reason for making any sort of legislation.
If you're that worried about cruelty, why not ban boxing? Isn't two humans bashing the daylights out of each other just as barbaric?