AN animal rights campaigner has warned of the “atrocities” that will be inflicted on animals if the hunting ban is repealed.

NEW Forest MP Desmond Swayne vowed to vote for a repeal of the hunting ban if the Tories won the election.

His comments come after Labour's Environment Secretary, Hilary Benn, called on Conservative leader, David Cameron, to rule out a repeal of the Act.

The Tories have said they will give MPs a free vote over the issue in the next parliament.

But Ken James, chairman of the New Forest Animal Protection League, has said that what people are forgetting is lifting the ban would allow the hunting of otters, hares and deer as well as foxes.

He said: "Lifting the hunting ban will have terrible consequences for many animals, not just foxes. The ban protects otters and deer and bans hare coursing, which would all be made legal if it were to be repealed.

"We worked tirelessly to provide video evidence of the atrocities inflicted on the animals and the abject cruelty committed purely for people's entertainment.

"The law should be strengthened so animals get greater protection. People who live in the countryside should embrace the wildlife. It sickens me."

Mr James said: "Personally I think David Cameron is on a sticky wicket. Most of Labour would vote against lifting the ban and I am sure that there will be a percentage of Tories and Lib Dems who would not want to see it repealed."

Senior members of the New Forest Hounds urged hundreds of followers at the Boxing Day meet last year to vote Conservative after the party promised to give MPs a free vote in the House of Commons if it won the General Election.

But now hunt supporters are facing uncertainty over whether the Conservative manifesto pledge to vote on repealing the hunting ban will survive the coalition with the Liberal Democrats.

Chairman of the New Forest Hounds Mike Squibb said that the election had been a "disappointment" in some ways.

However, he added: "In the current circumstances we didn't really know what to expect but I can understand why they are going to do it that way."

New Forest West MP Desmond Swayne said that he was still in favour of repealing the ban.

"The Lib Dems treat this as a free vote in the same way as the Tories. The Tory manifesto pledge was a bill in government on a free vote.

"I suspect that we will now only get that if it is preceded by a paving motion to determine if there is majority support in the house to find out first if there is a majority to get it through before possibly wasting time on the bill itself."

But a spokesman for the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said: "We will bring forward a motion on a free vote enabling the House of Commons to express its view on the repeal of the Hunting Act."

A spokesman for the National Park Authority said: "The National Park Authority is not a landowner in the New Forest and, as such, has never had the need to debate fox-hunting. The issue is a matter for Government to decide."