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Wednesday, 4 September, 2002, 18:58 GMT 19:58 UK
Disease fox numbers disputed
Fox hunting
There are conflicting views on fox hunting
Claims that the ban on hunting during last year's foot-and-mouth outbreak had no affect on fox numbers are being challenged.

The Mammal Society used volunteers and paid staff to survey 160 randomly-selected one-kilometre square areas throughout the UK for fox faeces comparing the results before and after the ban.


This shows quite clearly that hunting plays no role in regulating fox numbers

Prof Stephen Harris, The Mammal Society

The study was funded by the RSPCA and the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

But the results have been condemned by countryside organisations and farming unions.

The disease outbreak started in February 2001 and hunting was banned for 10 months and severely curtailed for a further two months.

Professor Stephen Harris, chairman of the Mammal Society, said: "This is the first scientific study into the impact of hunting on fox numbers, and it shows quite clearly that hunting plays no role in regulating fox numbers.

"In fact these results add weight to the argument that foxes regulate their own numbers and that all forms of fox culling are less important than hitherto believed."

But the Countryside Alliance is vigorously disputing the figures and questions the method of counting.

Adrian Simpson
Adrian Simpson: Questions survey figures

Adrian Simpson, director for Wales, said: "Every land-based organisation says that there has been a large increase in fox numbers during the past 12 months.

"I take issue with the methodology they use and the fact they paid people with anti-hunting views to conduct the research."

Keith Jones, master of the Paxton hunt in the Tywi valley, also questions the validity of the study.

He said: "We would expect to catch in the region of 300 foxes in a normal six-month season.

"During last year's shorter season because of foot and mouth disease we still caught 220 in three months.

Numbers up

"If we had hunted for the full season the figure would have been around 500."

The study's findings have also been challenged by the Farmers Union of Wales.

Rhian Nowell-Phillips, the union's senior policy officer said: "The FUW received reports of increased lamb losses to foxes throughout Wales during the suspension of hunting.

"Some farmers reported lamb losses five to six times greater than normal."


Where I Live, South West Wales
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