PRO-HUNTING campaigners in the region say they accept they are unlikely to see the ban on hunting with dogs lifted in the near future.

Despite the Conservatives promising a free vote on a repeal of the Hunting Act, hunt supporters admitted yesterday that the new coalition Government had more important issues to tackle before foxhunting.

The comments come as a report by the League Against Cruel Sports suggests that the failure by the Tories to win a clear majority means the ban would not be lifted, even if a free vote was taken.

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The pressure group calculated that 328 MPs would vote against repealing the act, compared to 293 for. It said that the majority of Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs backed the ban, while most Conservatives would like to see the act repealed.

Steve Clark, North-East and Yorkshire regional director of the Countryside Alliance, said he had not “sat down and worked out the numbers” but added: “Even a majority Conservative government would still have had the same problems and the same priorities, such as the economy.”

He said: “It was a clear Conservative election policy to repeal the act, but there are any amount of far more important issues that they will have to look at first.

“I hope they will consider the repeal in the fullness of time.”

Ken Fox is joint master of the Hurworth Hunt, which is based in West Rounton, near Northallerton.

He said: “The coalition has more pressing matters to work with.

“Whether it will get the priority it was given in the Conservative manifesto now I’m not sure.”

Douglas Batchelor, chief executive of the League Against Cruel Sports, said he wanted the Hunting Act to remain off the political agenda throughout the new parliament.

He added: “The message to the new MPs and to the hunters and to those inclined to support them, should be very clear.

“The people’s answer to cruelty for sport is – no, not in our name you don’t. Not with our consent do you chase and kill for sport. Animal abuse and cruelty for sport is a crime and it should stay a crime.”