One year after the Scottish Parliament banned hunting north of the Border, the nine remaining mounted packs — the Dumfriesshire sadly folded at the end of last year — are fighting for their survival, and farmers are facing increased livestock losses, despite the high kill rates of the new pest control regime.
Allan Murray, chairman of the Duke of Buccleuch’s and director of the Scottish Countryside Alliance, explains: “Mounted followers have decreased by more than half since the new legislation came in. Packs are continuing to offer a pest control service to farmers, using hounds to flush foxes to a line of guns, but as there is no chase, there is less to attract a mounted field.”
Farmers remain supportive of hunting and mounted followers are welcomed, with the chance of some good riding and a few fences in many of the countries, but Murray notes that it is mainly the older subscribers who have remained loyal.
Foot followers, by contrast, seem keener than ever, and are also backing hunts financially.
“The Jedforest, for example, has a strong hunt supporters’ club, which is determined to keep the enthusiasm up and the hunt going. And at Monday meets, the Buccleuch has been inundated with foot and car followers.”
But with less money coming in, hunts have been forced to make economies. While there were once 30 full-time hunt staff employed in Scotland, there are now just eight; the Buccleuch has reduced its horse numbers from 14 to five.
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