This is the first time a carcass has been recovered from a fox hunt and post-mortemed since hunting was ‘banned’ in Scotland back in 2002. Here is what it concluded:
“The shot gun pellets appear to have missed the vital organs so in my opinion the shot was not instantly fatal and death will have been due to a combination of respiratory failure, blood loss and shock. This will have caused significant unnecessary suffering to the fox.”
The fox carcass was handed into Hessilhead Wildlife Hospital in Ayreshire on the 5th of November. The fox had extensive injuries and Hessilhead were keen to establish the cause of death, so they contacted OneKind and we arranged for a post-mortem to be carried out by SAC Consulting Veterinary Services. As far as we know, this is the first time the carcass of a fox killed in this way has had a post mortem. It is therefore highly significant, particularly as the Scottish hunting law is under review.
The Protection of Wild Mammals Act (2002) makes hunting foxes and other mammals an offence. However, it provides a number of exemptions to this offence that now act as loopholes, allowing fox hunting to continue in a similar way as it was practiced before the ‘ban’. The main loophole is that hunts can use packs of hounds to ‘flush’ a fox out of cover. Once it emerges, the fox should be shot dead.
The fate of this fox shows what this means for animal welfare. The fox carcass was found to have a number of shotgun pellets in it that had penetrated deeply into the body. They missed the vital organs, however, leading to the conclusion that “in my opinion the shot was not instantly fatal”.The tears and puncture wounds on both sides of the body that were so severe that part of the lung and the bladder were exposed were therefore most likely made whilst the fox was still alive.
The fact that the fox was shot is interesting in itself.Over the past two years extensive monitoring by the League Against Cruel Sports of the Scottish hunts has consistently shown packs of hounds in use without guns present. On this occasion, a gun was present and the fox was shot. However, it appears to have been shot from a distance and it thus exarcabated the poor animal’s suffering. This will have to be considered carefully when the Act is reviewed over the coming year.
Back when the Protection of Wild Mammals Act was passed 14 years ago the symbolism and importance of the moment was obvious. It was in the early days of the new Scottish Parliament and it laid the way to the Hunting Act in Westminster, which followed two years later. On the day it was passed, SNP MSP Richard Lochhead declared that “the Parliament was elected to drag Scotland into the 21st century. That is what we will be doing by—I hope—passing the bill today. I urge Parliament to pass the bill so that when people wake up in Scotland tomorrow, the country will be a little bit more civilised.”
Sixteen years on and we’re still waiting for this to happen.
Allowing this suffering to continue was surely not the vision of the Scottish Parliament when they passed this Bill. In the Summer of 2015, when the SNP blocked attempts to weaken the Hunting Act so that it was on par with the Scottish ban, Angus Robertson MP, the SNP leader in Westminster and now deputy party leader said: “We totally oppose foxhunting and, when there are moves in the Scottish parliament to review whether the existing Scottish ban is strong enough, it is in the Scottish interest to maintain the existing ban in England and Wales”. A review of the Act by Lord Bonomy was subsequently commissioned and is due for imminent publication. Once it has reported, the responsibility for closing these loopholes and ensuring the will of the Scottish Parliament is finally delivered will fall upon the Scottish Government and, ultimately, MSPs. Whatever the Bonomy report says, we hope that the Scottish Government will rise to the challenge and ban fox hunting once and for all.
Image Credit – SAC Veterinary Consulting Services