Anti-bloodsport campaigners have today condemned what they described as a “back door” attempt to reintroduce hunting.

Farmers will be able to use a pack of hounds to kill foxes in England and Wales under a relaxation of the Hunting Act being considered by Government ministers.

Under the proposals the law banning farmers from using more than two dogs to flush out foxes would be scrapped, allowing a full pack to be used.

The move is likely to be welcomed by foxhunting supporters in rural areas, including the New Forest.

But Joe Duckworth, chief executive of the League Against Cruel Sports, said: “This is nothing but an attempt at repeal by the back door as the pro-hunt lobby know they can't get a majority to repeal the Act overall.”

The potential relaxation of the rules follows claims that more lambs are being killed by foxes.

Mr Duckworth said: “While foxes may take lambs in certain circumstances, lambs by no means make up the majority of their diet and we fundamentally question the need to control foxes in this way.”