ANIMAL welfare campaigners have hit out at proposals that could see the fox hunting ban scrapped.

Lawrie Payne, who represents Harwich on Tendring Council, is also national secretary of the League Against Cruel Sports.

He has hit back at the Conservative party after leader, David Cameron, promised MPs a free vote on the issue if his party wins the next election.

The promise came after shadow justice minister Edward Garnier said support is growing for the ban to be scrapped.

Mr Payne said: “Our opinion is this is a retrograde step to reintroduce animal abuse in our countryside.

“There is no excuse for the brutality of hunting to be reintroduced. If there is a problem with the law, it should be made better not scrapped.

“It is my, and the league’s belief, this is a good law, but it is not always policed and enforced the way we want to see it.”

Hunting foxes with dogs was banned four years ago, but dogs are still allowed to follow a scent as long as they do not kill the fox.

Former Harwich MP Ivan Henderson sat on the committee which scrutinised a report on the issue.

He said: “Throughout my time as the local MP, my mailbag on hunting was overwhelmingly greater than on any other issue.

“This is a subject that people feel strongly about and they want to know where their elected representatives stand on it.

“I voted to ban hunting with dogs and I would vote against reintroducing it.”

Clacton and Harwich MP Douglas Carswell said the current law is not working. He said: “I believe pretty strongly in animal welfare, but I don’t think anyone can honestly admit the current law is working. Whether people are for or against a ban they can’t be in favour of the law as it stands.”