Banning hunting with dogs could cost taxpayers up to £155million in compensation and £25million in ongoing annual costs, according to a report commissioned by the Countryside Alliance (CA).
The alliance commissioned the study after the Lords and Commons Joint Committee on Human Rights found that a ban on hunting with dogs was in breach of the Human Rights Act as there was no proviso for compensation for those whose livelihoods would be negatively affected by a ban.
The report takes as its model the Warwickshire Hunt, and looks at the loss to the hunt itself in terms of loss of profit, redundancy and hound cull. It uses the Fur Farming Compensation Scheme as the basis for its figures, working out the impact during an average fourteen-week hunting season. These figures were then used to generate an overall national picture.
The study analyses the loss to businesses which have a direct contract with the hunt, such as vets and farriers, although it does not take into consideration ancillary industries such as the livery industry, tailors and saddlers, who would also experience the financial impact of a ban.
The total figure of compensation costs is £155 million, although the report also calculates the ongoing costs which would be incurred by farmers and landowners in the absence of the hunt. For instance, thefallen stock arrangement, whereby a hunt could account for as many as 2500 beasts per annum. The figure of £25 million annually includes fox cull, a service which hunts obviously provide free of charge.
The study, which was carried out by William Patterson, an accountant from Lampeter in Wales, who produced a similar analysis for the Welsh Assembly, is likely to leave the treasury running scared.
“Hopefully this report will make the treasury and government realise what a devastating effect a ban on hunting with hounds would have on the countryside, and the huge financial loss involved,” explained an alliance spokesman.
CA Chief Executive Simon Hart explained that banning hunting would be an uphill struggle for the Government. “If they bring back the banning Bill, it will face a fierce battle in the courts and in the country, as well as this huge compensation bill”, he says. “The sensible option would be to leave well alone.”
Defra, the Government department rumoured to be earmarked to pay out any costs by Chancellor Gordon Brown, insists it does not believe any compensation costs will be payable. A spokesman said: “We remain confident that the Bill is compatible with human rights, so we maintain that we would not be liable for any compensation.”