AT LEAST 17,000 hounds would have to be destroyed if a ban on hunting came into effect, hunt organisations have estimated. The horse market, which is underpinned by demand for hunters, would also collapse.
Hunt supporters criticised MPs who portrayed themselves as animal welfare enthusiasts for their apparent willingness to pass sentence on so many dogs. Breeders dismissed the notion that more than a handful could be rehoused, as their pack-animal instincts and need for exercise make them unsuitable pets. Hounds last five or six seasons before they are put down.
Oliver Hill, the joint master of hounds for the United Pack in Shropshire, has bred and hunted foxhounds for 25 years. At present he and his wife Lindsay keep 81 dogs at their kennels in Bishops Castle, Shropshire, all of which would have to be destroyed if a ban were enforced.
They would also lose the tied farmhouse where they live with their two young children because it is owned by the hunt.
Mrs Hill said: "The prospect of a ban has been like a shadow hanging over us. If it came to it, my husband would put the dogs down himself, but it would almost be like asking him to shoot his own children. I couldnt guarantee he wouldnt save the last bullet for himself."
A ban could also trigger the collapse of the horse market. If a horse does not make it as a competition horse or eventer, it can currently be sold for £9,000 to £10,000 as a hunter.
The British Equestrian Trades Association estimates that in the four years after a ban, the industry would lose £50 million in turnover. Claire Williams, its chief executive, said: "This would have a serious impact on saddlers, feed merchants, vets and livery yards."