ROMSEY MP Sandra Gidley has spoken out against hunting with dogs as the House of Commons voted in favour of banning the sport on Wednesday.

She said she had always been very conscious that she did not like hunting but had had to think long and hard about the issue.

"I have been open to persuasion but, finally, am not convinced that there is any justification in allowing this barbaric practice.

"The numbers do not stack up. Far more foxes are shot than killed by the hunt. In the New Forest last season, 12 foxes were killed by the hunt but Forestry Commission keepers shot 77 foxes. This gives lie to the belief that hunting is the only efficient form of fox control. I will accept that this is not yet the case in some moorland areas and might have been persuaded to vote for an option that dealt with this issue. However, such an option is not available."

Mrs Gidley said she could understand the views of people who claim that they hunt because it offers the best riding.

"It is regrettable that many regard drag hunting as an unsuitable alternative. I have heard the argument expressed that the drag hunt is too predictable and not as exciting. Surely we are capable of providing better entertainment than that offered by the pursuit of a fox.

"There is no evidence that a change in the law will force horses and hounds to be put down. Drag hunting is an alternative which can fulfil all of their needs."

The issue had received a lot of attention and was important but Mrs Gidley agreed with the many who say that there are other, more important issues.

"In the rural community this is certainly true and the government should first be addressing many of the real problems experienced by our farming community," she said.