A bill to ban fox hunting with dogs was effectively killed off after the House of Lords ran out of time to debate it.
MPs and peers have fought continually over the bill
The Hunting Bill, which was turned into a complete ban by MPs in the summer, ran into trouble when peers voted by 74 to 34 to adjourn its committee stage to another day.
But Junior Environment Minister Lord Whitty warned: "I am advised that it is now impossible to complete the committee stage this session."
With MPs and peers still locked in heated debate over the measure, no-one had realistically expected the bill to become law before the start of the new session on 26 November.
Ministers now have the option to reintroduce the bill in the same form as it left the Commons - with a total ban on hunting - to allow the possibility of it being forced into law next year using the Parliament Act.
Provided it is passed again by the Commons, it would then go to the Lords in early 2004.
The Parliament Act - the rarely used instrument to enforce the will of MPs if there is deadlock with peers - could only be invoked if peers voted to block the bill for a second time.
If it was used a ban could become law by autumn of next year.
The government originally proposed a licensing system to allow some forms of hunting to continue, judged against the tests of cruelty and their use for pest control.
But this was thrown out by MPs in July who voted to turn the bill into a complete ban on fox hunting in England and Wales.
Peers voted last week, by a 212 majority, to allow fox hunting to continue under a registration scheme.
Moves to adjourn the bill on Wednesday night by Lord Roper, the Liberal Democrat's chief whip in the Lords, caused recriminations from both sides over who was at fault for the bill's failure.
Lord Whitty and anti-hunting peers blamed delaying tactics by the pro-hunting peers, who had tabled more than 100 amendments to the legislation.
The Upper House only managed to get through debating 13 amendments.
The pro-hunting peers blamed the government for not providing enough debating time for the bill and for sending it to the Lords late in the session.
Tory Lord Mancroft, a member of the board of the pro-hunting Countryside Alliance, accused Lord Whitty of trying to "lay the blame for the death of this bill at the door of this House".
And Lord Carter, the Labour former chief whip, who supports hunting, said: "Those who wish to kill the bill in this House have succeeded."
But Mike Hobday, the League Against Cruel Sports head of public affairs, said it had been "inevitable" that the Lords would block the bill.
"Their vested interests and closeness to the hunting community are far too strong," he said. "But it would be quite wrong for the government to allow the unelected house to prevent the clear will of MPs from becoming law.
"If they bring the Hunting Bill back to the Commons in November's Queen's Speech then the Hunting Bill can become law without the House of Lords having a veto."