Countryside Alliance Chief Executive Tim Bonner writes:
Yesterday Tim Allan and Shaun Anderson, huntsman and whipper-in of the Buccleuch Hunt were cleared of charges brought under the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act . The allegations which led to their prosecution were made by paid animal rights activists and have a lot more to do with the ridiculous politics of hunting than they do with the reality of fox control. Sheriff Paterson conducted the most thorough examination of the Act since its introduction in 2002. The judgement however was very simple, the COPFS were unable to offer any evidence to support allegations of illegal hunting.
The Buccleuch has been operating in its current form, flushing foxes to guns, since the law was changed in 2002. In 2004 a previous Buccleuch huntsman, Trevor Adams, was cleared of similar charges having shown, in the words of that judgment, that he had “taken care to comply” with the conditions in the law that require foxes to be shot. In the 14 years between these two cases the Buccleuch, like most of the packs in Scotland, have quietly got on with the business of fox control which the law allows in Scotland without court cases or controversy.
The reason the hunt was back in court has little to do with their activity, or the strength of any evidence against them, but was fundamentally about a political campaign to make the law in Scotland even more ridiculous and restrictive. That campaign is not going well for the animal rights movement. An independent review set up by the Scottish Government under Lord Bonomy very clearly rejected the argument for a limit on the number of dogs that can be used to flush to guns, and highlighted the importance of using packs of dogs for fox control. Subsequently the Scottish hunts have signed up to a Code of Practice as recommended by Lord Bonomy and endorsed by Police Scotland, the SSPCA and other interested parties.
The anti-hunt movement has therefore retreated to lurking in the bushes to film hunts and make vexatious allegations. Yesterday this tactic failed too. Their last throw of the dice seems to be to persuade the Green Party MSP Alison Johnstone to bring a Members Bill (equivalent to a Private Members Bill in Westminster). If, as seems certain, that Bill seeks to restrict the number of dogs that can be used to flush to two it will directly contradict the findings of Lord Bonomy and the peer-reviewed research published this year which shows that using packs of dogs is both more effective, and reduces the period of pursuit before foxes can be shot. Proposing, let alone passing, legislation in direct opposition to evidence and logic should be unthinkable. Unfortunately, however, as we have seen all too often it is prejudice, not principle which drives debates over hunting.
Follow me at @CA_TimB