Researchers commissioned by the Middle Way Group have confirmed suspicions that shooting results in more suffering to foxes than hunting with dogs, as many are injured and left to die over long periods of time.

The study, which is printed in Animal Welfare, the journal of the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare, has shown that up to half of all foxes that are shot are wounded and not killed.

The MWG commissioned the study in 2002 and it has just been thoroughly peer reviewed. It contradicts pre-ban claims by some animal rights groups that shooting was more humane than hunting a fox using dogs.

Lembit Öpik, co-founder of the group, said: “The research proves conclusively that the pro-ban groups were plain wrong. In many cases guns don’t kill the fix outright, leading to large numbers of wounded animals.

“Many end up dying over hours, days or even weeks. We’ve long suspected that shooting does not reduce suffering. After all, with dogs its all or nothing.”

Lady Golding who is co-chairman of the group, adds: “The next government must look again at the Hunting Act and replace it with genuine animal welfare measures.”

After reading the report a League Against Cruel Sports spokesman said: “All this study shows is that people who don’t know how to shoot shouldn’t be allowed near a gun. They should be required to pass a proficiency test first.”