Ten years after the ban on hunting came into force in Scotland, the man behind the legislation has called on police to enforce the law.
Lord Watson, who, as Mike Watson MSP, introduced the Protection of Wild Mammals Act (Scotland) 2002, was speaking after a Scottish newspaper reported that more foxes are being killed now than before the ban.
Lord Watson told Scotland on Sunday: “I’d be very unhappy if that’s the case and it is a matter for the police to pursue.
“I accept that it’s difficult legislation… to enforce. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be enforced. The exemption was not designed to give carte blanche to those involved in hunting to let their dogs run amok.”
Under Scottish law, an exemption allows foxes to be flushed from covert and shot -and states that no offence is committed if hounds kills a fox in the course of it being flushed towards the guns.
Duke of Buccleuch’s huntsman Trevor Adams told H&H that Lord Watson’s comments were misguided.
“Certainly there are more foxes being killed than before because we have added guns to the equation,” he said.
“Hounds are killing foxes that have been wounded by the guns – probably twice as many as previously.”
Mr Adams stressed that Scottish hunts – like their English and Welsh counterparts – were doing their utmost to operate within the law.
“Personally I feel it’s a bit rich for Lord Watson – a disgraced politician, having spent time in jail – to comment,” he added.
In September 2005, Lord Watson was sentenced to 16 months in prison after admitting setting fire to a curtain at an Edinburgh hotel, following a heavy drinking session.
Tim Bonner of the Hunting Office agreed that Lord Watson’s intervention was unwarranted.
“Given his personal difficulties and the failure of his legislation, he would be best to keep out of the debate.
“Politically, the opportunities to repeal the law in Scotland look unlikely,” he added.
“But as a piece of legislation, it does nothing for animal welfare; in fact, more foxes are being killed by methods that are less humane.”
This news story was first published in the current issue of H&H (15 December 2011)