Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham announces new code of practice of fox hunting
The Scottish Government is to strengthen the legislation around hunting following the Lord Bonomy review
Fox - Image credit: gingiber via Flickr
A new code of practice for hunts is to be introduced by the Scottish Government to strengthen the current legislation on fox hunting in Scotland.
Key groups involved in the issue will be invited to work together to develop the new code, and the possibility of a monitoring scheme will also be looked at, the Environment Secretary, Roseanna Cunningham, has announced.
The decision follows recommendations of Lord Bonomy, who led the inquiry into the effectiveness of the current fox hunting legislation under the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002.
As well as the code of practice, the Scottish Government will also consult on Lord Bonomy’s proposed changes to the law.
The retired judge’s recommendations included introducing vicarious liability to make landowners responsible for hunts taking place on their property; bringing in reverse burden of proof, so anyone who appears to be breaking the law has to prove they were operating according to one of the exemptions; and extending the time limit for bringing prosecutions.
He also suggested the improvement of definitions and removal of some inconsistencies in the legislation.
Cunningham said: “I am determined to ensure the highest possible levels of animal welfare and Lord Bonomy’s recommendations will help us build on the advances already achieved.
“This package of measures will substantially improve the language used in the existing legislation, address inconsistencies in the law, and strengthen the scrutiny and accountability of hunts."
The announcement has been welcomed by those opposed to fox hunting.
Robbie Marsland, Director of the League Against Cruel Sports in Scotland, said: “This is a good first step in making the law which prevents wild mammals being hunted, chased and killed for sport clearer and more suited to its intended purpose.
“We agree with Lord Bonomy that hunts are using exemptions within the current legislation as a decoy for continuing with traditional hunting practices and that their activities are incidental to pest control.
“We all thought the act would put a stop to hunting but sadly this wasn’t the case and we now look to the Government to keep the momentum going, following Lord Bonomy’s review, to progress towards a situation where hunting in Scotland is really banned.”
The Countryside Alliance has also responded positively to the announcement.
Countryside Alliance Scotland director James Stewart said: “We welcome the ministers endorsement of Lord Bonomy’s findings, particularly that the searching and flushing of foxes by two dogs would not be as effective as that done by a full pack of hounds, and also that imposing such a restriction would seriously compromise effective pest control in the country.
“Those using dogs to flush foxes and other wild mammals to guns under the law have always been open and transparent and therefore have nothing to fear.
“They have been subject to hundreds of hours of covert monitoring and filming, none of which has produced evidence of law breaking.
“We welcome the opportunity to work with the Scottish Government, Police Scotland and stakeholders on a Code of Practice to strengthen the scrutiny and accountability of practitioners in the management of wild mammals.
“We will look at the consultation and respond in detail but remain of the view that, despite any technical shortcomings in the original drafting, the existing law is capable of being enforced by the Police Scotland and the courts, as can be seen from the fact that it has been used successfully used on many occasions.”
Lord Bonomy was appointed to review the 2002 act in December 2015, with a remit to evaluate whether the act was providing enough protection for wild mammals, while allowing for effective and humane control where necessary.
Almost 300 submissions were received following a call for responses in February and March last year, with the results of the review published in November.
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