‘Unnecessary and unjustified’: proposal to strengthen Scottish hunting law

  • The Scottish Government is seeking a “pre-emptive” ban on trail-hunting amid plans to strengthen the law in a move blasted by the Scottish Countryside Alliance as “unnecessary and unjustified”.

    The Government launched a consultation on 29 October on a handful of proposed measures that would significantly affect how Scottish packs operate.

    Hunting in Scotland falls under different laws to the Hunting Act 2004, which is the legislation under which packs in England and Wales operate. It is covered under the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002.

    At present in Scotland, more than two hounds may still be used for flushing foxes to guns. This is one of the areas the Scottish Government is seeking to change.

    The proposals include limiting the number of dogs allowed to flush foxes, and other wild mammals, from covert to waiting guns and a licensing scheme for the use of more than two dogs “where no other method of control would be effective”.

    The detail in the proposed licensing scheme suggests a model that could mean licences are only granted for “a specific purpose” and if there “was no satisfactory alternative method of control available”.

    “Any scheme would also consider details such as the period of validity of a licence granted, the geographical area that it covers and any reporting duties on the licence holder (number of foxes culled),” it adds. “Any licensed operations would be subject to monitoring to ensure compliance with the law and with licence conditions. Licences could be withdrawn for non-compliance with monitoring or breaches of conditions.”

    The Government is also consulting on “pre-emptive action to prevent trail-hunting becoming established in Scotland…to avoid it being used as a cover for illegal hunting, following the introduction of a two-dog limit”.

    “This could be by banning the use of animal-based scents or any other scent that seeks to mimic the scent of wild mammals for the purpose of providing a trail for dogs to follow,” it states, clarifying that this does not extend to draghunting.

    The consultation also seeks views on how the Government could strengthen the law to tackle hare coursing.

    Scottish Countryside Alliance director Jake Swindells described the proposals as “unnecessary and unjustified”.

    “[They] directly contradict the conclusions of the independent review carried out by Lord Bonomy,” he added.

    “It is difficult to imagine a more pointless or illogical consultation, but if the Government is determined to push ahead, it must ensure that farmers can continue to protect their livestock and wildlife.

    “Any licensing scheme must be fair, equitable and accessible so the livelihoods of farmers and land managers are not compromised.”

    A statement from the organisation added that it is consulting with stakeholder organisations, its members and interested parties before responding to the consultation and remains engaged with members of the Scottish parliament.

    “We will also be urging those who live and work in the countryside to respond directly and lobby at local level, to ensure that unnecessary and ill-thought-out legislation is not responsible for the loss of effective and humane working practices throughout Scotland,” it added.

    The background

    The direct build-up to this consultation dates back to 2015, when Lord Bonomy was asked by Scottish Government to examine whether the existing law gave adequate protection to wild mammals, while allowing effective control where necessary.

    This review, which is cited numerous times in the consultation, was published in 2016. It found using packs of hounds to flush foxes to a gun remained “a significant pest control measure”. Lord Bonomy also found restricting the number of dogs would “not be as effective as that done by a full pack of hounds” and imposing a restriction could “seriously compromise effective pest control in the country” (news, 1 December, 2016; 4 December, 2017).

    In his report, Lord Bonomy concluded that there were “aspects and features of the legislation which complicate unduly the detection, investigation and prosecution of alleged offences”.

    In January 2019, the then Scottish parliamentary minister for rural affairs and the natural environment Mairi Gougeon (now cabinet secretary for rural affairs and islands) announced the Government’s intention to act on and “go further” than Lord Bonomy’s recommendations. The proposals seen in the current consultation can be linked back to this 2019 announcement.

    • What do you think about the proposals? Send your thoughts to hhletters@futurenet.com, including your name, nearest town and country, and you could win a bottle of Champagne Taittinger

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