Fox hunting law ‘unworkable’ according to Police Scotland

The law on fox hunting in Scotland is “unworkable” according to a submission by Police Scotland to Lord Bonomy’s review of the current legislation.

The hunting of foxes with hounds was banned in Scotland in 2002 under the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act which was passed in an attempt to prevent cruelty to animals.

But hunts are still allowed to use dogs to flush out foxes and chase them toward guns and there have been allegations that illegal hunting regularly takes place with packs of hounds still killing foxes.

Animal charities such as the League Against Cruel Sports and OneKind argued that the legislation left too many “loopholes” and did nothing to dent the popularity of hunting in Scotland or stop cruelty.

Scotland’s hunts have insisted that they always act within the law and there have been no successful prosecutions against mounted hunts, with Police Scotland often criticised in the past for alleged indifference and inaction.

Amid mounting claims of illegal hunting, senior judge Lord Bonomy was asked by the Scottish Government to review whether the current law gives enough protection to foxes and other wild mammals.

Written evidence was accepted from February until the end of March, with submissions published today by the Scottish Government.

Police Scotland said in its conclusion: “The current legislation has become somewhat unworkable due to the exceptions available, the lack of clarity over key terminology and the lack of individual accountability.

“It is therefore suggested that the Review takes cognisance of the above in any subsequent recommendations made to the Scottish Parliament recognising that change must provide clarity to those undertaking legitimate pest control as well as those engaged in investigating illegal hunting.

“However, the aim of any amendments to existing legislation must be the absolute necessity to ensure that the welfare of the mammal involved is the primary concern on all occasions. Through clear explanation and direction of what can and cannot be undertaken by this legislation the welfare aspect will hopefully be secured.”

Robbie Marsland, the Director of the League Against Cruel Sports, Scotland told The Ferret: “Our two year investigation into the activities of Scottish fox hunts convinced us that they were driving a coach and horses through the present legislation. We agree with Police Scotland that the law as it stands is “unworkable”.

“The Scottish Parliament thought it had banned fox hunting in 2002.  Now is the time for the law to be strengthened and for fox hunting in Scotland to be really banned, for good.”

The Scottish Countryside Alliance said in the summary of its submission to the review: “The changes being proposed (by the League Against Cruel Sports and others) to limit the number of dogs to two goes against all the evidence put before the Scottish Parliament by those who promoted the ban and would render effective fox control in Scotland impossible.

“If the purpose of the legislation was to ban the chase and kill by hounds but to allow the effective and humane control of foxes then the legislation is fit for purpose and has been shown to be so both in legal terms and in terms of enforceability.”

Lord Bonomy’s report is due out any day.

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