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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 November, 2004, 14:28 GMT
Hunt licence MP fears for animals
Hunting with dogs
Hunts may have to disband within three months
A Welsh Labour MP who proposed a compromise to the Hunting Bill to allow hunts to be licensed has voiced concerns over animal welfare.

Ogmore MP Huw Irranca-Davies' amendment to the bill was rejected by a Commons vote on Tuesday.

He said he was worried about how a quick ban would affect animals.

UK Rural Affairs Minister Alun Michael said an 18-month delay in implementing the ban would be "sensible" and allow hunts to adapt.

As MPs and peers continued to argue, hunt supporters in Wales said they feared for their livelihoods and pastime.
There aren't many jobs where you get put out of your job and you lose your home
Huntsman Alex Ford

Alex Ford, huntsman for Llangeinor Hunt near Bridgend for 18 years, said: "I don't know any other job. I'm the wrong side of 50.

"If I'm retrained and go for a job against a bloke of 35, who's going to employ me?" he told BBC Radio Wales.

"There aren't many jobs where you get put out of your job and you lose your home.

"I'll lose my home. I don't think the government have taken this on board."

Hunt member Eirlys Thomas said: "I've never known any other pastime.

"We wait every every for the start of hunting, everything that's connected with it, the social life, the lot. There will be a big gap in my life."

The delay proposal has not yet been put to the House of Lords, where some pro-hunt peers prefer a "kamikaze" option of rejecting any delay so a ban would come into force within three months.

Mr Irranca-Davies described this possible fast change as "regrettable", saying he had concerns about the impact speed would have on both hounds and foxes.

The speed at which we are heading towards a ban is going to be regrettable
Huw Irranca-Davies
"Certainly the amendment that had been put forward in a previous debate that we should actually delay (the ban) for 18 months was, in fact, sensible," he told BBC Wales.

"It was to allow hunts to disband, to get rid of their hounds, to try and find other ways of livelihood as well.

"What I'm worried about is the implication of a ban within three months, if it does happen, on hunts, and also I'm concerned about the animal welfare implications about so rapid a ban," said Mr Irranca-Davies.

'Common sense'

"What's actually going to happen in terms of the management of the habitats that these animals (foxes) are within? Is it just going to be thrown to the winds?

"There are serious considerations so I think the speed at which we are heading towards a ban is going to be regrettable."

The UK government is now likely to use the Parliament Act to force the law through, meaning hunting could be banned by February.

If the Parliament Act is invoked to override an expected Lords rejection of the Hunting Bill, the ban could come into force as early as February.
Hunting with dogs
Hunt supporters may defy the ban and keep hunting

MPs have suggested a ban be delayed until July 2006 to allow hunts to adapt, an approach supported by UK rural affairs minister Alun Michael.

"That delay would allow people to change the sort of activities they are involved in and avoid the sort of animal welfare issues that could come up," said Mr Michael, MP for Cardif South and Penarth.

"It is a common sense approach, I hope the House of Lords will accept it."

The Hunting Bill is back before peers on Wednesday.

If there is no agreement before this session of Parliament ends on Thursday, the Commons speaker is expected to say the conditions needed for the Parliament Act to be used have been met.

The BBC has learned the pro-hunting Countryside Alliance has already written to Attorney General Lord Goldsmith giving notice it will challenge the legality of the 1949 Parliament Act if it is invoked.

Labour peer Baroness Mallalieu, who is president of the Countryside Alliance, said the Lords would reject the ban again and a legal challenge could begin by Friday.

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