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Fox research challenged

Research on fox populations used by anti-hunt campaigners as the basis for their case for a ban on fox hunting has been challenged in the scientific journal 'Nature'.

Professor Stephen Harris and colleagues from the University of Bristol, whose work was used by anti-hunt groups to justify a ban during public hearings on hunting, had claimed that the suspension of hunting during the foot and mouth epidemic had "no measurable impact on fox numbers". But researchers from Oxford University and the Game Conservancy Trust have questioned the statistical analysis of the research and alleged that it fails to represent areas where previous research had shown hunting to play a major part of an effective cull.

Simon Hart, Director of the Campaign for Hunting, said: "Professor Harris has had millions of pounds of funding from anti-hunting organisations but is no closer to producing a convincing case against hunting. Rural Affairs Minister Alun Michael should urgently review evidence based on this research brought forward during the public hearings on hunting.

"We have, anyway, never claimed that hunting is only about suppressing fox numbers - it's about managing populations at a level that is acceptable to farmers and land managers. And where hunting does suppress fox populations it is clear that other methods of control were used during the suspension of hunting".