Police Scotland join calls for tightening of fox hunting ban
Current fox hunting legislation ‘unworkable’ and needs simplified, warns Police Scotland
Fox hunting dogs - credit Bethany Egan
Scotland’s ban on fox hunting is “unworkable” because there are too many exceptions and loopholes, Police Scotland has said.
In a submission to a review of the 2002 law by Lord Bonomy, the national police force called for more clarity to be added to the law to allow officers to prosecute where illegal hunting was taking place..
The force also suggested the law be strengthened by removing the word ‘deliberately’ from the section which states hunting a wild animal is an offence.
Under the current law, hunts are still allowed when dogs are used to “flush out” animals regarded as pests so they can be shot. Listed exceptions “provide opportunities for exploitation by those who continually and deliberately offend”, according to Police Scotland.
“The current lack of clarity in the legislation can lead to allegations by those opposed to this form of pest control that 'guns were not in place' and this presents significant issues for those undertaking a lawful act, as well as those investigating alleged illegal activity.”
The submission was welcomed by anti-fox hunting activists.
Robbie Marsland, the Director of the League Against Cruel Sports, Scotland said:
“We agree with Police Scotland that the law as it stands is “unworkable”, we know this from our two year investigation into the activities of Scottish fox hunts.
“The Scottish Parliament thought it had banned fox hunting in 2002. We also know the vast majority of Scottish people want fox hunting banned. Now is the time for the law to be strengthened and for fox hunting in Scotland to be really banned, for good.”
the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s expert on hunting with dogs Jordi Casamitjana said he had reviewed Scottish hunts operating since 2002.
“In each and every case that I reviewed concerning these hunts I believe the use of the exemption was illegitimate and the evidence was more consistent with illegal hunting than with exempt hunting,” he said.
However, the Scottish Association for Country Sports defended the current exceptions in its submission.
“Clearly there is a great deal of misunderstanding around the control of foxes using dogs, as well as a significant amount of prejudice and discrimination against rural interests,” it said.
In his submission, Joe Scott Plummer, chairman of the Committee of the Duke of Buccleuch’s Foxhounds, said hunts provided a pest control service free of charge for 100 days every year.
“All but a very few farmers have not made us welcome, a handful of complaints have been raised by the general public and dealt with directly by the police or ourselves,” he said, “and no charges have been brought by Police Scotland (or their predecessors) since 2003. Our activities take place in a totally open, public and transparent manner.”
Lord Bonomy is expected to deliver the review’s findings in a few weeks.
The Scottish Government is under pressure to tighten the law after SNP MPs at Westminster opposed an attempt to relax fox hunting laws in England in 2015, even though the amendments would have more closely resembled the Scottish law.
While the overall number of recorded crimes fell from 284 instances in 2014/15 to 261 in 2015/16, the number of crimes involving hunting with dogs rose to its highest in five years
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