IT IS all banter and barking as feeding time gets underway at Liz Hall's kennels. On the long worktop sit 30 stainless steel bowls filled with individually measured portions of food mix and brown bread. Steven Bishop, 36, who looks after the day-to-day running of the kennels lifts the lid on the greyhounds' dinner - a heady soup-like mix of tripe and other beef bits.

"Come and have a look," he beckons with a grin, unleashing a smell of nauseating proportions. "The dogs love it and it makes their jackets shine like silk. I've been to some restaurants and seen worse than that."

The greyhounds' "head chef", 18-year-old Rachel Wheeler, rolls her eyes in amusement and continues preparing the meals.

"It's a bit of a madhouse around here, as you can see," laughs Liz.

Greyhounds have been in the Hall family for decades, and Liz and her mother Audrey have trained hare coursing hounds for other owners since 1966. The kennels are on her brother-in-law Peter Walton's farm (her sister Kate trains racehorses) in Middleham, North Yorkshire.

Liz is one of only a handful of female trainers in the country licensed by the National Coursing Club, the sport's governing body. She has 30 dogs under her wing. She also breeds greyhounds - the latest a litter of ten last May.

"I can't even remember a time when they haven't been around," she says.

Now there's a threat to their livelihood, but they intend to fight it all the way. On Wednesday, the Countryside Alliance will be launching a legal challenge in the High Court in London against the Government's ban on hunting with dogs, which includes hare coursing.

The Hunting Act was passed in November after the Government invoked the Parliament Act in the face of opposition from the House of Lords. The ban is due to take effect from February 18 - but the Countryside Alliance will argue this week that the Parliament Act 1949 is illegal. Lawyers will point out that the act, which amended the original Parliament Act of 1911, was never approved by the Lords and is, therefore, invalid.

Not surprisingly, given the imminent General Election, the Government has indicated that it is unlikely to oppose any application by the Countryside Alliance for an injunction to halt the ban coming into play while it mounts a legal challenge. It means the sport could remain legal for another 18 months as the various challenges work their way through the courts. With this in mind, it's easy to see why Liz, Steven and Rachel are unsure when the ban will come into force.

Looking after the greyhounds is Rachel's first job since leaving college, although she's come to the kennels to help out since she was small. Now aged 18, she says she will probably go back to college to study animal management if the kennels have to close.

Geordie Steve has worked with dogs all his life, with both coursing greyhounds and in hunt kennels. He's up at Middleham from 6am to 6pm, feeding and galloping the greyhounds.

"I work them really hard," he says. "The harder you work them, the fewer injuries you seem to get. The kennels seem to be flying at the minute."

What will he do if the ban comes into effect on February 18?

"Marry a wealthy reporter," he quips.

If the ban does come in to force, it will mean the end of a tradition stretching back more than 200 years.

Under coursing rules, two dogs are "slipped" or released at a time. As the hare enters the running ground, the dogs are held by the 'slipper' and are released only when the hare is at least 100 yards in front of them and is in a fit enough condition to run away. A judge on horseback awards each dog points for speed and ability. Once the hare escapes the field, the course is over.

The season lasts from October 1 to the end of February and the highlight is the annual Waterloo Cup held at Altcar in Lancashire. This historic prize is considered to be the ultimate test of the greyhounds and is a cup Liz and Audrey have won twice - once in 1990 and again in 2000.

"It's wonderful when it happens. It's your ultimate aim and a dream come true," says Liz. "The whole sport of hare coursing is so enjoyable and it's a very small, friendly community. It's so natural for the dogs to do it and they don't go out to kill hares. We just test them on their speed and agility. It's a country way of life."

With that, she opens the kennel of Teddy Bear, who bounds out, tail wagging and face smiling, before leaping onto a kind of doggy treadmill. It's used for exercising the greyhounds and is a bizarre sight. But Teddy Bear appears to be enjoying his workout, trotting along happily as the treadmill whirrs away.

"We only got them this year but the dogs love them," says Liz, who works part-time as a secretary at a stud farm near Ripon, and admits she's trying not to think about the ban.

"If we do get a reprieve, I think it's all for the Government's own ends and because they don't want any problems before the General Election," she says. "But in the end, I think they'll probably get us."

Most of the dogs, she says, will go back to their owners if the ban comes into force. A few may be advertised on the Internet as pets. As for the training, she says, she's not really into track racing, but she may have to give it a go.

"We do rear puppies for greyhound racing, so I may expand into that," she says.

It is the end of the day, and two of the dogs are curled up, looking cosy on their beds of shredded disposable nappies. Liz waits for a third greyhound to finish eating before closing the door on them for the night.

If the ban is enforced, it could mean the sport goes underground. Asked whether she would meet secretly and flout a ban, Liz says she is unsure.

"We're a very small minority compared to the hunting lobby," she says.

"I don't think we've any right to upset the general public - but I don't mind upsetting the politicians."