THE Hunting Act has failed both foxes and farmers, claims Evesham MP Peter Luff.

Mr Luff, joint chairman of the all-party Middle Way group, said: "That is the inescapable conclusion of the most extensive survey of farming across England and Wales since the Hunting Act came into force."

More than 600 sheep farmers were interviewed to give first-hand evidence of the effects of the Act in relation to methods of fox control, wounding, stock losses and added costs.

More farmers stated that they exercise the same level of control with roughly the same number of foxes being killed.

So, numerically, the group claimed, no foxes' lives had been saved, as is often alleged by anti-hunting groups.

The use of snares has increased, as has the use of rifles and shotguns.

Shotguns are used by 68 per cent of farmers, with over a quarter of foxes shot only being wounded. On the 49 per cent of farms where rifles are used, an eighth of foxes are only wounded. In traditional hunting, the wounding level is none.

Nationally, 44 per cent of farmers reported that stock losses had increased, with the figure rising to 62 per cent in Wales where the Hunting Act has made fox control virtually impossible in some areas.

Mr Luff, the Conservative MP for Mid-Worcestershire, said: "The findings of this survey cannot be disputed, as they come from the very people dealing with the day-to-day realities of farming and wildlife management.

"They confirm what the Middle Way group said to Parliament in debates leading up to the Hunting Act - that welfare would be worsened by such an unprincipled approach.

"Now we have the firm proof that this is the case."

He said that the only way for opponents of fox-hunting to react would be to seek a welfare-based solution to the fox control issue.