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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 July, 2003, 11:42 GMT 12:42 UK
Rural anger at 'roughshod' treatment
A pro-hunt protester takes shelter from the rain
Some pro-hunt protesters camped overnight outside Parliament
Countryside figures have hailed the overwhelming 362 to 154 vote for an outright ban on hunting as the death knell for the Hunting Bill rather than the sport itself.

Shocked but defiant, the pro-hunting lobby said MPs "ran roughshod" over rural people, voting for a ban after the government removed its amendment on regulation.

But there is still disbelief that a ban would ever have any impact on their lives - the bill faces further hurdles when it gets to the House of Lords.

Head of the Countryside Alliance's Darren Hughes told News Online he was "absolutely shocked to the core" by the result and the government had "totally caved in to backbenchers".

'Bunch of toffs'

"Six months of evidence and [Rural Affairs Minister] Alun Michael has given up on his principles and been bullied by a few nutcases like Tony Banks and Gerald Kaufman into allowing a vote for a total ban to take place.

"I'm amazed that Labour backbenchers have shown through as being against what they see as a bunch of toffs on horseback going out and hunting foxes."

1997: Labour's election manifesto promises free vote on a hunting ban
1999: Countryside Alliance marches in support of hunting at Labour Party conference
2000: Burns inquiry shows a maximum of 4,300 jobs would be lost by a ban, not the 16,000 claimed by supporters
2001: Lords votes against Hunting Bill
2002: Six month consultation announced to produce new bill
2003: MPs vote by 362 to 154 to ban fox-hunting with dog

He described the resulting bill as an "absolute shambles" which did nothing for animal welfare.

"If this was really about animal welfare the legislation would be looking at all other methods of control, looking at the welfare negatives and positives of each and coming up with a sensible way forward.

"This has just singled out hunting for no other reason than prejudice and bigotry.

The government's amendment to the Hunting Bill would have banned hare coursing and stag hunting outright and allowed foxhunting to continue under license.

'Tampered with'

The Alliance did not support what it saw as "overly bureaucratic" legislation.

Pro-hunt supporters in body paint fox hunting outfits
Protesters made sure their message was noticed

But Mr Hughes said the situation had worsened in the Commons on Monday night when MPs "tampered with, fiddled with and wrecked" the amendment, instead supporting a total ban.

He urged the government to come forward with a sensible regulatory system.

"More importantly than anything else, there are thousands of people whose jobs depend on hunting. Farmers rely on hunting as a very important tool in their pest control armoury.

"We are determined to keep on fighting this. This is more likely to be the death of the hunting bill rather than the death of hunting.

Georgina Worsley is joint master of The Old Surrey and Burstow with West Kent Foxhounds.

We are the best form of fox control available
Georgina Worsley
She hunts "as a family" with her husband and two small children, on a hunt that carries 500 supporters and 40 riders.

It employs four professional staff and a has a kennel of hounds. All 100 dogs would be destroyed if a ban came into force, she said.

Mrs Worsley said the government was "riding roughshod" over hunters but it would be business as usual in the wake of the vote.

"We shall be continuing to breed hound puppies, we shall be continuing to hunt and we are not gloomy about the future.

"Prejudice will not win this battle. We have the support of the country now. Recent polls show we have 59% support.

We have been suffering from years of propaganda from the other side. People are beginning to listen to us and find out the true facts about what goes on.

"We are the best form of fox control available."

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