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Study shows Welsh ‘gun packs’ have ‘no impact’ on fox numbers

NEW RESEARCH commissioned by an animal rights organisation has "exploded the myth" that hunting with gun-packs controlled foxes in Wales.

The assertion by pro-hunters that fox hunting with gun-packs in Wales controlled fox numbers prior to the ban on hunting has been blown apart by a new scientific study, which shows that they had no impact on fox numbers.

The study, commissioned by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) before the ban on hunting, is the first of its kind and puts an "end to the myths and misinformation" that have dominated previous debates on the issue. According to IFAW.

Scientists from the University of Bristol recorded fox numbers in forests owned by the Forestry Commission Wales. The Commission allowed gun-packs to operate at the request of their farming neighbours who believed they reduced fox numbers. Welsh farming organisations had said they believe fox numbers will be "spiralling out of control" since the ban.

The aim of the research was to examine claims that gun-packs deserved a special exemption from the Hunting Act, on the grounds that they were concerned purely with pest control and were far more effective than traditional methods of fox hunting. Lord Burns, chair of the Government Inquiry into Hunting With Dogs which took place in 2000, thought that gun-packs may deserve special consideration on the grounds that there was a "greater perceived need for control" in upland areas and "fewer alternatives available to the use of dogs". Lord Burns’ observations have been used ever since by the pro-hunt lobby in its bid to overturn the ban in Wales.

However, the study reveals conclusively that Welsh gun-packs had absolutely no impact on fox numbers. Not only did the researchers fail to find any reduction in fox numbers, they found that numbers actually increased slightly in areas where gun-packs operated. The increase was most likely due to more foxes moving in to contest the vacant spaces in that area.

Josey Sharrad, campaigner for IFAW, one of the foremost and most vociferous organisations that campaigned for a ban on hunting with dogs, said: "Gun-packs had absolutely no effect on keeping fox numbers down so there can be no justification for decriminalising them."

Chris Bryant, Labour MP for Rhondda, well known for his opposition to hunting said: "Hunting with dogs was banned because it was a cruel and unnecessary sport. This study confirms once and for all that gun-packs deserve no special exemption and should not be legalised."