A former Cumbrian MP who backed the high-profile fox hunting ban back in 2004 has hit out efforts to overturn it.

However local hunt groups have praised Conservative Theresa May for offering a fresh vote on the subject in the next Parliament.

Then Carlisle MP Eric Martlew was part of the Labour Government that outlawed foxhunting with dogs, with the ban coming into force more than a decade ago. He described talk of bringing it back as "nonsensical".

"Why bring back the cruelty? It must be about winning votes, but I think they could also lose votes," he said.

But Michael Thompson, joint master of the Blencathra hunt, said the Conservatives should deliver on previous pledges.

"It isn't going away. The Tories always promised a vote in Parliament and Theresa May has agreed to offer that following the election. We would obviously abide by the result of that.

Although chasing and killing foxes is banned, hunts still operate by using an artificial scent to lay a trail.

Eric Martlew Mr Thompson said they continue to operate within the law, but still believes the law is flawed and called for "fairness".

"That law is not sustainable in my opinion. A ban that came into force 11 years ago is still being talked about as being unhealthy and unhelpful in the countryside. It's obviously still an issue," he said.

"There's a lot of disquiet about the ban. It was never to do with animal welfare in the first place. it was to do with prejudice."

Asked whether fox numbers had become out of control since the ban, as was argued at the time by pro-hunt campaigners, he said they were no longer involved in controlling populations.

However he said they were still classed as vermin and landowners were using the other methods available to them.

Joanne Charlton, secretary of the Cumberland Farmers' Foxhounds, said foxes are still a problem to farmers.

"People try shooting them but it doesn't control them effectively. Our friend up the road lost a lot of hens just the other day. It does still affect people a lot," she explained.

However Mr Martlew does not buy into the argument that is has destroyed a countryside tradition.

He said that since the cruelty was removed, hunts have actually seen an increase in membership, so there is no need to take a step back. He believes Mrs May is out to appease members of the Countryside Alliance ahead of the General Election on June 8.

"It's cruel and should be banned by law. To say we are going to legalise cruelty again is nonsensical," he added.

Mrs May said this week that she was personally in favour of foxhunting and would want to keep the Conservative party’s commitment to letting Parliament have another say on the issue.

But Stewart Young, leader of the Labour party on Cumbria County Council, said he simply couldn't understand why Mrs May and the Conservatives were bringing the issue back up in the current climate.

"If they felt that way then why haven't they done it already. They have been in Government since 2010. They could have had a free vote then. It's smacks of opportunism," he said.

"To be honest if they say that has a priority when look at what's happening to the NHS, the economy... it give an indication of where the Tories' priorities lie.They have already said that becauise of Brexit, other things will fall by the wayside. If they are going to use what little Parliamentary time they do have to bring back foxhunting, it's disgraceful. A wrong sense of priorities."