THE RSPCA and other so-called animal rights groups are once again claiming that hunting is cruel and unnecessary. Far from being cruel, hunting is the natural and most humane method of controlling the four quarry species in the countryside, and is necessary for a number of reasons: 1) Wild animals are used to hunting or being hunted. They are adapted to it by evolution. What might be a devastating experience for man or even a domestic animal is part of normal daily life in the wild.

2) Wild animals almost certainly lack the complex brain and mental abilities to perceive the human concepts of fear and death.

3) For the major part of any hunt the quarry is under no abnormal stress.

4) Stress in the short final stage of a hunt is equivalent to no more than strenuous exercise.

5) The kill is almost instantaneous and above all certain.

6) Stress-induced analgesia will mitigate any pain.

7) Hunting leaves no wounded survivors.

8) Quarry that evade hounds rapidly return to normal behaviour.

9) Hunting performs a vital search and dispatch function for the weak and sick.

This last reason is perhaps the single most important welfare argument in favour of hunting and is overwhelming justification for the retention of hunting.

No other method of culling performs this unique function and were hunting to be banned the welfare implications for all hunted species, in the absence of natural predators, would be profound. Wounded and sick animals would be condemned to a lingering "natural" death, through disease, injury and starvation.

But not only are the weak and the sick culled, they are caught up during the pursuit phase and dispatched in direct relation to their debility. Hunting is thus uniquely selective in maintaining the health and vigour of the quarry species.

Over 530 of our veterinary colleagues now support the irrefutable arguments that substantiate this professional opinion.

Dr.L.H.Thomas & Professor W.R.Allen Vets for Hunting Newbury Berks