Did you know that fox hunting continues in Scotland despite the 2002 fox hunting ban?
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 moments for the animal welfare movement 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.
How can fox hunting continue?
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 so long as the intention is to shoot the fox once it emerges. Unlike England, there is no limit to the number of dogs that can be used to flush out a fox and so hunting parties in Scotland can take as many dogs on hunts as they like.
As only intentional hunting is banned, ‘accidental’ killing of the fox by hounds is also permitted under the Act and can be used as a defence by those accused of fox hunting.
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”. There is also evidence of hunts claiming to be flushing to guns – but without having any guns present in the right place.
According to the hunts themselves, they kill around 800 foxes a year in Scotland.
Recent cases of fox hunting
Duke of Buccleuch Hunt, Jedburgh
Recent film footage obtained by supporters of The League Against Cruel Sports shows a recent fox hunt in Jedburgh. An exhausted fox is shown being chased by hounds, while another is chased out of its hiding place to be killed by hounds.
Footage gathered at a second hunt, the Duke of Buccleuch hunt near Eccles, shows a huntsman throwing a dead fox to a pack of hounds.
The footage can be viewed here.
Fox hunting foot packs on Forestry Land Scotland public land
Late last year, we revealed that Forestry and Land Scotland was allowing foot packs onto its land to control foxes using dogs. FLS confirmed that despite the rationale that foot packs operated a fox control service no foxes were killed by the foot packs on its land between 2017-2019. If no foxes were killed by the foot packs, it must be asked how the activities qualified as one of the permitted exceptions – “pest control” – under the 2002 Act.
Have there been any fox hunting convictions in Scotland?
Prosecuting those that fox hunt can be very difficult because of the legislation, and even Police Scotland themselves have admitted that the legislation to convict for fox hunting is ‘unworkable’, commenting that:
“Exceptions to the offence to ‘deliberately hunt a wild animal with a dog’ are multiple and provide opportunities for exploitation by those who continually and deliberately offend.”
For that reason, there has only been a few successful fox hunting convictions.
2017 was a landmark year which saw the first successful conviction of an offence under the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act since it was introduced in 2002. Jedforest Hunt members Johnathan Riley, 24, and 66-year old John Clive Richardson were found guilty of hunting a fox with dogs on farmland near Jedburgh in February 2016 following a trial at Jedburgh Sheriff Court.
Will stronger legislation be introduced to prevent fox hunting?
The Scottish Government has committed to reforming Scotland’s fox hunting legislation to make it more effective and enforceable. While flushing by dogs will still be permitted, it proposes to restrict the number of dogs to two, except under licence. We will be urging the government not to license any packs of dogs- wild animals need protection from unnecessary suffering. Unfortunately, although a consultation on the new measures was imminent, it was announced on 1 April that the planned bill has now been halted, as a consequence of focusing government resources on efforts to deal with the COVID-19 virus.
OneKind has been campaigning for a real ban on fox hunting in Scotland for decades. Read more about our most recent work on this issue here.