THE GOVERNMENTS case for banning deer hunting outright has been branded "scientifically illiterate" by the Cambridge academic who produced evidence that the sport is cruel.
In 1997 a contentious report by Prof Patrick Bateson for the National Trust found "clear-cut" evidence that deer hunting with hounds was cruel.
But Prof Bateson has rejected the Government's conclusion that the evidence against deer hunting, based on his research, was "incontrovertible". He called for further scientific tests to establish how much deer suffer before a case is made for a ban.
Prof Bateson, who is Provost of King's College and a zoologist, has written to Alun Michael, the minister responsible for the hunting Bill. He called on the Government to put forward a "political solution" that took into account the economic effect of a ban on hunt areas.
His devastating assessment of Mr Michael's argument was seized on by the Countryside Alliance as a potentially fatal blow to the anti-hunting case.
The Hunting Bill will ban deer hunting and hare coursing outright. Fox hunting will be allowed to continue but under strict regulation.
In an e-mail last month to Douglas Wise, a pro-hunting vet, Prof Bateson wrote: "Only somebody who is scientifically illiterate could argue that evidence from a new area of research was incontrovertible."
In his letter to Mr Michael, Prof Bateson said: "A political solution should involve some kind of cost-benefit analysis."
James Gray, the shadow countryside minister, tabled an amendment to have the clause in the legislation banning deer hunting dropped.
The Countryside Alliance said: "Prof Bateson has destroyed any pretence that Alun Michael's decision to single out deer hunting for a ban is logical or defensible."