WELSH FARMERS are losing livestock and money as a result of the Hunting Act, it was claimed at the Royal Welsh Show this week.
Nerys Evans, a farmer from Llanbrynmair, in Powys, used the first day of the four-day show in Powys, to call on the Welsh Assembly to amend the Hunting Act 2004 in Wales, to combat the suffering faced by farmers and their animals.
She launched a petition, which has the support of the all-party Parliamentary Middle Way group, which favours the continuation of foxhunting under licence, and has already been endorsed by all major farming organisations in Wales.
Mrs Evans claims the Act has caused unnecessary suffering to wild animals, increased fox predation on farm livestock and wildlife, thus causing serious problems for Welsh farmers, who have been hit harder and sooner by the Act than their English counterparts.
Group members say they are among many farmers in Wales who have lost an average of 15 lambs this season, at an average price of £40 each, resulting in financial losses of around £600.
The group called on all show visitors to sign its petition at the stands of the main political parties on the showground and at several others, including the Countryside Alliance.
Mrs Evans, who has a 30- acre farm at Talerddig, said, "Foxes breed every year and we don't get all of them. They have taken chickens and even kittens from my farm.
"Hunting helps us to monitor foxes. Forget lamping and snares - let the hounds do their job."
Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Wales, Lembit Opik, MP, chairman of the Middle Way group, said the Act had made it even harder for farmers to control pests.
He said, "Wales is at the forefront of the Act and it is feeling its effects first. We need to see proper animal welfare and we want the Act to be amended to allow the use of dogs to flush out foxes under licence. We are not looking for victory, but we want solutions."
Group member Brynle Williams, Conservative AM for North Wales, said, "It's going to be a long and hard task but there is no reason to outlaw hunting one animal and not another.
"Maybe we could all take our cats out on a mouse-hunting day. The Act is more about class than animal welfare. It has increased animal suffering and made it harder for farmers to do their job.
He said, "The fox population is exploding and it looks as though we will be facing even more problems next winter than we experienced this winter."
Helen Mary Jones, Mid and West Wales Plaid Cymru AM, said it made sense for Wales to have a Welsh solution to the hunting issue because all other animal welfare matters were devolved.
Montgomeryshire Lib-Dem AM Mick Bates, called on as many people as possible in Wales to add their name to the petition and to lobby the Assembly and Westminster on the issue.
He said, "This spring I lost 14 lambs, it was the worst loss I've ever suffered and it has affected my son's business.
"We in Wales have suffered over the years because of a lack of power, so we need to keep the pressure on now. I am a member of a hunt, I have a hound, hunting is a way of life, it's part of our culture."
Adrian Simpson, a director of the Countryside Alliance, added, "Welsh farmers have had to watch helplessly as they suffered heavy lamb losses.
"The fact that terriers can be used below ground to control foxes to protect game birds for shooting, but cannot be used in the same way to protect newly-born lambs is an insult to the whole of the Welsh farming industry."