Thought fox hunting was banned in Scotland? Think again. There are still ten hunts in Scotland, killing over 800 foxes a year. OneKind is campaigning for a full ban on fox hunting in Scotland.
One of OneKind’s proudest moments was back in 2002 when we played a key role in persuading the Scottish Parliament to introduce a law which would ban fox hunting with hounds for sport. The Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002, as it is now known, also paved the way to the 2004 Hunting Act, which banned hunting with dogs in England and Wales.
These were landmark animal welfare successes in the UK, and they left many of us hoping that we were on the beginning of a journey to a changed relationship with wild animals in this country.
Fox hunting still takes place in Scotland
However, while the Act has had some success in controlling hare coursing, sadly fox hunting continues much as it did.
Before the ‘ban’ was introduced in 2002 there were ten operational mounted fox hunts in Scotland. There are still ten today. According to the hunts themselves, they kill about 800 foxes every year.
There has only been one successful conviction of a mounted hunt in Scotland. In 2018, a judge cleared two members of the Buccleuch Hunt in the Borders of deliberately hunting a wild mammal with dogs, with one case being impossible to convict due to difficulties with the current legislation.
Why does fox hunting continue in Scotland?
Fox hunting continues because exemption clauses that were introduced during the Bill’s passage effectively undermined the legislation, acting as loopholes that allows hunts to continue under the guise of pest control.
The law bans intentional hunting, but it does permit the use of packs of dogs to ‘flush’ – chase out of cover – foxes as long as the intention is to shoot the fox once it emerges. ‘Accidental’ killing of the fox by hounds is also permitted.
The hunts are very honest about what’s going on. The Buccleuch Hunt observes that “all Scottish packs use the exemption allowing foxes to be flushed to guns”. You can see what this means in practice in the hours and hours of footage of Scottish hunts taken by the League Against Cruel Sports’ investigation that appear to show hunts pursuing foxes as they used to. In this footage guns are a rare sight.
What is the Scottish Government doing?
Following campaigning by OneKind and the investigative work by the League Against Cruel Sports Scotland, the Scottish Government commissioned a review of the law that was meant to have banned fox hunting, the Protection of Wild Mammals Act. Lord Bonomy carried out the review, and OneKind and the League inputted into the review alongside pro-hunt organisations. Lord Bonomy’s review put forward some very welcome recommendations that would tighten the regulation around fox hunting by both mounted hunts and foot packs. You can read more about the review and our response to it here.
In 2017, we were delighted to welcome the following statement by the First Minister when she was quizzed on the Scottish Government’s approach to fox hunting:
“I have always been an opponent of fox hunting and remain an opponent of fox hunting… Be under no doubt at all this government opposes fox hunting and that’s the position we have long taken and the position we continue to take.”
In January 2019, the Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment, Mairi Gougeon MSP announced a series of animal welfare commitments from the Scottish Government. On the issue of fox hunting, the Scottish Government responded to calls from animal welfare organisations including OneKind to reduce the maximum number of dogs that may be used to flush a wild mammal towards guns for shooting to two. It also intends to discourage trail hunting, which is used as a pretext for hunting foxes. Disappointingly, however, the Scottish Government also plans to explore a new licensing scheme to permit the use of more than two dogs in upland areas “where necessary for legitimate predator control”. You can read the full announcement and our reaction here.
While these changes will make the legislation more effective and enforceable, we continue to tirelessly campaign for a full ban on fox hunting.
What is OneKind doing?
OneKind has been campaigning on hunting with dogs in Scotland for decades. Here is some of the most recent work we’ve been doing on the issue:
- In 2017, the Scottish Government announced a consultation on the future of fox hunting in Scotland. OneKind and the League Against Cruel Sports supporters answered the consultation with 98% of the 18,787 respondents supporting a real and effective fox hunting ban.
- We also held a fox hunting rally in 2017 on the lead up the General Election following comments Prime Minister Theresa May that she would give Parliament a free vote on fox hunting.
- In 2018, thousands of OneKind supporters who took part in the Scottish Government’s consultation contacted their MSPs and/or the Cabinet Secretary asking for clarification on the Scottish Government’s plans on fox hunting.
- In March 2018, we held a fox hunting march and rally with the League Against Cruel Sports and IFAW. Around 1000 people came together to call for a real fox hunting ban. The campaign was also supported by Ricky Gervais, Bill Oddie, Chris Packham and Peter Egan.
- In September 2019, OneKind and our supporters supported the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Bill.
- In March 2020, we uncovered that Forestry Land Scotland was granting permission to fox hunting foot packs to hunt on public land and secured media coverage. Read more about how we did it here.