A fresh attempt was launched yesterday to have the Government's ban on hunting with dogs declared unlawful.
The Countryside Alliance and other pro-hunt campaigners asked the Court of Appeal to rule that the ban breaches the European Convention on Human Rights and infringes EU trading and employment laws.
The courts have already dismissed the constitutional challenge to the 2004 Hunting Act, which prohibits fox hunting, deer hunting and hare coursing with dogs in England and Wales.
The Alliance has branded the legislation "a divisive sectarian measure" which could ruin the livelihoods of thousands who earn their living from hunting.
Richard Gordon QC, appearing for the Alliance, argued it would cause more suffering to many animals, not less, and have very serious economic consequences.
The QC was asking Sir Anthony Clarke (Master of the Rolls), Lord Justice Brooke and Lord Justice Buxton to overturn a High Court ruling last July which upheld the legality of the Hunting Act.
The High Court ruled the legislation had a legitimate aim, was necessary and was proportionate. But Mr Gordon argued the evidence before the High Court "was not capable of demonstrating that it was necessary in a democratic society to introduce this ban".
There had been material showing that the complete ban would, in an unknown number of cases, cause more suffering, with animals like foxes being shot and wounded, rather than killed outright by hunters with dogs.
It also breached Article 8 of the human rights convention, which protected the right to private and family life, and Article 11, relating to the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of association.
The High Court judges, Lord Justice May and Mr Justice Moses, had stated that the aim of the ban was to prevent or reduce unnecessary suffering to wild mammals, said Mr Gordon.
They had said that aim was "overlaid by a moral viewpoint that causing suffering to animals for sport is unethical and should, so far as is practical or proportionate, be stopped".
But the "ethical overlay" which the High Court identified as dominating the banning of hunting for sport for moral reasons had not been demonstrated and was not a legitimate aim. ..SUPL: