North East hunts have welcomed calls for the rules on fox hunting to be loosened.
MPs and campaigners are pushing the Government to scrap the ban on using more than two dogs to flush out foxes so they can be shot.
Farmers say attacks on lambs have increased, and argue that limited pest control measures permitted under the 2004 Hunting Act are not working.
They point out that the change - likely to require a vote in Parliament but not a fresh Bill - would bring the law in England and Wales into line with that in Scotland.
Any move to ease the restrictions on hunting introduced by the Labour government would be highly controversial, but potentially popular in Tory heartlands.
Charlie Shirley-Bevan, who is master of the Tynedale Hunt, says he is still aiming for a full repeal on the ban, but welcomed loosening the restrictions
“Anything we can do to help the farmers is important,” he said. “We wouldn’t survive without them and it seems, they need us too. However, it’s just a change in the law – it’s not actually repealing the act.”
Hill farmers, who suffered devastating losses last spring as a result of the late snow, say a change in the law is desperately needed to fend off a growing threat to their livelihood.
Rules already in place allow farmers to flush foxes out of their dens and shoot them in order to protect flocks but it is a criminal offence to use more than two dogs.
The Countryside Alliance has repeatedly made the case for a repeal of the ban on hunting.
Tim Bonner, director of campaigns for the Countryside Alliance said: “The Countryside Alliance does not believe that it is possible to amend or adapt a law as flawed as the Hunting Act into any workable form.
“The alliance does, however, understand the urgent need for the only effective method of fox control in many upland areas to be reinstated and so supports the call for the removal of the two dog limit for flushing and shooting foxes.”
However, the League Against Cruel Sports, argues that the act should not be weakened under any circumstances.
A spokeswoman for the organisation said: “The Hunting Act is a successful piece of legislation and it works – ultimately we do not want to see it weakened.
“If farmers’ unions are supporting this, do they not have anything better to do with their time?
“This would ultimately be changing the legislation quite considerably.”
The hunting ban was passed by the last Labour Government after a long and bitter campaign on both sides.