The law on fox hunting should be changed to make it easier to prosecute hunts who break the law, according to a report published today by Lord Bonomy, who was asked to examine the issue by the Scottish Government.
The judge says that Scotland’s laws are “complicated” and he has recommended change to make prosecutions easier.
The hunting of foxes with hounds was banned in Scotland under the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act in 2002 but mounting allegations that hunts regularly flout the law led to the Scottish Government ordering a review from Lord Bonomy.
Since the law was changed in 2002 there have not been any successful prosecutions with police branding the legislation “unworkable”.
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”.
He recommended the introduction of independent monitors to randomly check on the activities of hunts.
Robbie Marsland, the Director of the League Against Cruel Sports, Scotland, welcomed the report and said: “This review set out to evaluate whether the current law banning hunting in Scotland works. Lord Bonomy’s robust and detailed examination clearly shows that it doesn’t, and that he agrees with us and Police Scotland that improvements are essential if it is to stand any chance of fulfilling its purpose of protecting wild animals.”
“Lord Bonomy has come up with a set of new recommendations that we believe could severely limit the opportunity of mounted hunts to encourage packs of hounds to chase and kill wild mammals across the Scottish Countryside.
“Lord Bonomy and Police Scotland agree there is abuse and exploitation of the current law, which the review proposes to address with robust new legislation and stronger enforcement. This will not only change the face of hunting in Scotland – it sends a powerful signal to Westminster how illegal hunting can be tackled forcefully.
“The ball is now firmly in the Scottish Government’s court. Public opinion in Scotland wants to see fox hunting banned, the Government thought they had banned it and now Lord Bonomy and Police Scotland reveal that the hunts are running a coach and horses through the legislation.
“In short, the law isn’t fit for purpose and, in keeping with the commitments made by the First Minister to strengthen the law if it were necessary, we look to the Government to strengthen the law before the end of the current fox hunting season in March 2017.”
The Countryside Alliance also welcomed the publication of Lord Bonomy’s report.
Scottish Countryside Alliance Director Jamie Stewart, said: “We are pleased that the inquiry has recognised the importance of gun packs for fox control and has rejected unjustified calls for further restrictions.
“In particular, we are pleased that Lord Bonomy, makes so clear the important role that gun packs play in managing the fox population and that any restriction on their activity could “seriously compromise effective pest control in the country”.
“Whilst we do not agree that there is a significant problem with the enforcement of the current legislation, and note that as recently as 13th January 2016 Police Scotland confirmed to MSPs that there ‘is no evidence to suggest that the mounted fox hunts that exist are acting outwith the legislation that is in place at the moment’, gun packs have always been very happy to work closely with the authorities.
“We therefore look forward to working with statutory bodies in the development of a separate code of practice for hunting activities as recommend by the inquiry. Given the recognition in the report of the importance of the use of gun packs in fox control it is vitally important that any changes to the legislation should not undermine their operation.
“Any such changes to the law should facilitate a return to the settled and agreed position that had been in place since the Act was passed in 2002.”