LOVERS of country sports, still seething over the ban on fox hunting, were today facing new threats which could criminalise shooting and fishing.
The vague wording of another draft Animal Welfare Bill going through the early stages of Parliamentary scrutiny could make shooters, anglers and fishermen - even commercial fishermen - liable to prosecution for cruelty to birds or fish.
A House of Commons environment committee which has examined the draft proposals is recommending no less than 101 changes because it fears that it could criminalise virtually the whole range of country sports.
This would cause even more controversy than the anti-hunting bill - forced through by emergency powers - for angling, with more than three million club-registered members, is Britain's biggest participatory sport.
And an attack on shooting would be an economic disaster for scores of country estates in North Yorkshire and Cumbria, which would be bankrupted without the income it brings in.
The Government is trying to reassure MPs that the new bill would not be used against country sports but countryside observers, shocked by the militancy of many Left Wing MPs in the anti-hunting debates, fear that if it ever got onto the statute books in its present form, it could be used by animal rights activists to drag even more country folk into the courts.