Byline: CLIVE BETTS
THE economic effect on the countryside of a ban on hunting would be minimal, according to a report being presented to the Assembly today.
The effects would be far less than in England, according to figures contained in the report prepared for the agricultural regeneration committee.
To the fury of some fox-hunting campaigners, the report draws attention to claims made by anti-hunting campaigners that any people losing jobs would quickly find new work in other parts of the rural economy.
The report points out how few people in Wales are employed full-time by hunting packs - the figure per pack is half that for England; and the number of part-timers with each pack is similarly half the English figure.
The report also gives considerable credence to the claim from the antihunting lobby that few lambs are killed by foxes - farmers are accused of producing a figure that is likely to be six times as high as the correct one.
The report is being prepared as the Assembly's response to Westminster Minister of State Alun Michael's request for comments on how London should proceed on the hunting issue.
The summing up that it presents of the 900 written comments received by the Assembly is regarded as contentious by pro-hunting campaigners.
It seems certain that the report will have to be radically amended. Sparks are likely to fly if an attempt is made to force the report through today's committee meeting.
Senior committee members were being briefed yesterday to press for a delay - particularly in order to emphasise how different the Welsh hunting scene is to the English.
The difficulty with pursuing this tactic is that the inquiry established in 2000 was specifically intended to find out how different Wales was from England - but the vast majority of people and organisations who replied ignored that point. …