SUPPORTERS of a ban on hunting are entitled to point to the majority of MPs and, possibly, still of the public, who believe that this step should now be taken.

But how validly grounded are their beliefs? Are they based on objection to those who hunt (which would seem an unsatisfactory footing for legislation) or on the issue of perceived cruelty to the fox?

References in your letters column (September 24) to "dressing up" and "killing animals for fun" suggest the former. And it is not appreciated that (so far as I who, admittedly, have never hunted have been able to establish) few of those involved in a hunt actually see the fox caught or are even much concerned to know whether it has been.

Their enjoyment is in seeing hounds work to pick up a scent, and in riding across country with friends. It is the job of the hunt staff often, a field or so ahead to catch the fox, if they can, and so satisfy the keepers of lambs and poultry, in the locality.

On the issue of "cruelty" it is necessary, I think, to bear in mind that the independent Burns Inquiry did not find cruelty and commented that it was necessary to look at hunting on a relative, rather than an absolute basis.

It concluded that, if hunting were banned, there would be more frequent resort to other methods of killing foxes, "none of which is without difficulty from an animal welfare perspective. Both snaring and shooting can have serious adverse welfare implications."

Does all this add up to a case, of the sort of strength it ought to be, to justify preventing, by law, people's freedom to engage, if they wish, in an activity which has been part of rural life and, in many cases, livelihood for centuries? In my view, the answer has to be "No"."

Michael Wilson Sprigs Holly Lane Radnage