Environment Minister Mairi Gougeon announces plans for new fox hunting bill

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 9 January 2019 in News

Move follows a review from Lord Bonomy, which suggested that around 800 foxes are killed by hunts every year in Scotland

Image credit: Pixabay

A new bill will be introduced to the Scottish Parliament to limit fox hunts so only two dogs can be used to flush out or find a fox, Environment Minister Mairi Gougeon has announced.

The move follows a review from Lord Bonomy, which suggested that around 800 foxes are killed by hunts every year in Scotland, with one in five foxes killed by packs of hounds, in breach of the Protection of Wild Mammals Act 2002.   

The review concluded that there are still "aspects and features of the [fox hunting] legislation which complicate unduly the detection, investigation and prosecution of alleged offences".

Bonomy recommended introducing independent monitors to police hunts, while suggesting that landowners should be held legally responsible for hunts that take place on their property.

But while announcing plans to use the bill to implement “many of the recommendations in Lord Bonomy’s report”, Gougeon also outlined proposals to consider a licensing scheme, which would permit the use of more than two dogs in a fox hunt if it was considered necessary for pest control.

The bill will also include pre-emptive measures to address the likelihood of ‘trail-hunting’ becoming established in Scotland.

Gougeon said: “The welfare of animals in Scotland, whether domestic, farmed, or wild, is one of this government’s highest priorities and so, when it became apparent that legislation introduced in 2002 to protect foxes from unnecessary hunting wasn’t having the desired effect, we wanted to take firm action.

“We asked Lord Bonomy to undertake a review into how we can provide a sufficient level of protection for foxes and other wild mammals, whilst allowing for the effective and humane control of them when absolutely necessary, and published a consultation which attracted nearly 19,000 responses. 

“After careful consideration of those responses, I’m pleased to say that we will be taking forward many of the recommendations in Lord Bonomy’s report to clarify and strengthen the Protection of Wild Mammals Act.

“However, not only do we hope to implement the vast majority of those recommendations, we will be going further. We’re going to strengthen our current legislation and plan to introduce measures that go beyond the rest of the UK in terms of protecting the welfare of our wild mammals.”

Responding, South Scotland Labour MSP Colin Smyth said: “It is clear there are loopholes in the existing legislation and hunts have gone out of their way to ride roughshod over the law in both letter and spirit”.

“The Government’s proposals on hunting are a step in the right direction but you cannot licence cruelty. Any plan to bring forward a licencing scheme that would still allow more two dogs to be used against wild animals could add another loophole that allows hunting to continue”.

“It is three years since the Government announced a review of hunting. It’s time for them to get on with consigning the practise of fox hunting to the history books once and for all, and bring forward legislation that ensures 2018 will be remembered as the last ever Boxing Day hunt.”

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