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The Middle Way Group (MWG) has made a renewed call for the government and animal welfare groups to re-consider the animal welfare implications of a ban on hunting with dogs, and to consider the wording of the Hunting Act itself.

With the date for a ban fast approaching, the MWG said that their original academic study into shooting foxes has now been peer reviewed, and is to be published in the Journal of Animal Welfare in May. The study found that shooting animals can cause more suffering than hunting, if people do not stick to the shooting code of practice.

Jim Barrington of the MWG says: “The study examines the wounding rates in varied shooting regimes. It does show that when codes of practice are followed, wounding is kept to a minimum, but it also shows that when such standards are ignored high levels of wounding do occur.”

However, the British Assoication of Shooting and Conservation refutes these findings, arguing that its own study found that shooting resulted in clean kill rates of around 90%, but it does remain to be seen whether all new shooters will stick to the code. It also remains to be seen whether their study is to be peer reviewed.

The MWG also argued today that the Hunting Act, crucially, does not just affect traditional hunting communities, but every dog owner in England and Wales. The amount of clarity within the legislation itself is something which remains to be seen, argues the MWG, but their members claim there is bound to be confusion amongst police, dog owners, and ex-hunters alike.

Lembit Öpik from the MWG has been in correspondence with Alun Michael in an attempt to clear up some questions as to what will and will not be allowed under the new Act, for instance where does the law stand on three or more dogs hunting a drag, and catching a fox by accident?

For a full list of what the MWG considers to be questionable situations, click here.

However, Mr Michael remains adamant that the Hunting Act is a well-formed piece of legislation, and told Mr Opik he was confident the courts would not tolerate people who, having been charged with illegal hunting, sought to get off on technicalities.

Meanwhile the Countryside Alliance is awaiting the outcome of a ruling from the Court of Appeal on their challenge to the validity of the Parliament Act. The ban on hunting with dogs is due to come into force on 18 February.