HUNT supporters look set to flout the law after the House of Commons was yesterday expected to make hunting illegal, possibly as early as next February.
And it appears that some hunt followers may seek to cause chaos by holding demonstrations which would hit the Government as MPs prepared to enforce their will, as The Chronuicle went to press.
The House of Lords had voted for allowing hunting to continue under a licensed system but this was rejected. At the earliest, the ban will start in February but it could be delayed until 2006.
Tom Fell, regional director of the Countryside Alliance, said: 'I think what you will find is people will find a way whereby they can continue hunting because there will be ambiguity in the wording of the law, so it will be interesting to see if the police are prepared to enforce the law.
'I'm not saying I am about to go out and break the law but I think it's inevitable some people will. More importantly, we will explore every avenue to continue hunting while staying within the law.
'Yesterday we were not law-breakers and tomorrow we would be, just by the stroke of a pen.'
Mr Fell, who hunts, says the Countryside Alliance will mount a legal challenge if the Parliament Act is invoked in defiance of the Lords.
He added: 'Probably some people will take part in civil disobedience but we have not decided what this will be. It won't inconvenience the general public but it would probably inconvenience the administration.'
Mr Fell says the impact of a ban on rural communities will be devastating.
He said it had been estimated that 8,000 full-time jobs would be lost throughout the country, including those who work directly for the hunts and also the farriers who shoe the horses, the companies which supply the saddles and tackle as well as the foodstuff plus medicines for the animals.
'The ramifications are enormous,' he said. 'One of the things this Government espouses is keeping people in the community - working in their community.
'If you take those working at kennels and the hunt stables, there's a fair chance it will be younger people who probably have children at the village school, they won't be commuting 30 miles. They will be living and working there; using the village shop, there's a fair chance they will be using the village pub.'
Mr Fell said the majority of hounds from the hunts, which can keep up to 80, would have to be destroyed because they were notoriously difficult to re-home as domestic pets.
'It's not out of malice, but they are boisterous and they could chew things,' explained Mr Fell. He says drag-hunting, in which a hunt follows an artificial scent, was not an alternative for him because he is fascinated by the skills of the hounds in a real chase.
Nancy Shepherd, a secretary for the Sir Watkin Williams Wynn hunt, which covers Cheshire, Flintshire and Shropshire, said a ban on hunting would not mean the fox would be saved.
Miss Shepherd, of Chorlton Hall, Malpas, said: 'For one thing, if they stop fox-hunting, foxes will have it much worse. They will be shot and you can't guarantee you kill him. They will be poisoned or put into traps and the people who put those traps down never go back to check them very quickly. The death is much longer and more agonising than if they are caught by hounds and killed instantly.'
She said the Wynnstay Hunt had about 60 hounds which would have to be put down if a ban came into force. She claimed not many people in the rural area were against hunting as indicated by the public support in Malpas each Boxing Day.
John McBlain, of North West League Against Cruel Sports, said if pro-hunters decided to break the law they would have to 'face the consequences'. He said converting to drag-hunting would ensure there was no impact on the rural way of life. Mr McBlain believes the fox population is self-regulating with no need for pest control. He dismissed the argument that fox-hunting was the least cruel way of dealing with the animal.
He said: 'Hunting with a pack of dogs is certainly not cruelty free. The fox does not die quickly. That's well proven. I have a fox buried in my front garden whose insides were ripped out by fox hounds. That's not a quick death.'