Plans to protect foxes and ban the use of dogs in fox control have been branded completely illogical and totally unworkable by the Scottish Countryside Alliance.
The proposals from Green MSP Alison Johnstone include protection for foxes which would only be able to be culled under licence as an “emergency action by an authorised person if a fox was found attacking livestock”.
Even the lowest estimates suggest 36,000 new-born and infant lambs are killed by foxes in Scotland every year at a cost of millions of pounds to the rural economy. Foxes are culled throughout Scotland by various methods to protect livestock, game and ground nesting birds, including by using dogs to find and flush them so that they can be shot.
Ms Johnstone’s proposals directly contradict the findings of the Scottish Government’s review into hunting legislation carried out by Lord Bonomy. He concluded that further restrictions on the use of dogs in fox control “could seriously compromise effective pest control in the country”.
Lord Bonomy also concluded that “the use of packs of hounds to flush out foxes to be shot remains a significant pest control measure, both to control the general level of foxes in an area as well as to address particular problems affecting a farm or estate”.
A peer reviewed scientific study carried out in Scotland has proved conclusively that using packs of dogs to find foxes so that they can be shot is both more effective and much quicker than using two dogs.
Scottish Countryside Alliance Director Jamie Stewart said: “Ms Johnstone is ignoring all the available evidence on fox management and welfare, and she knows it.
“The protection of foxes is a ludicrous idea which is a slap in the face to every sheep and free range poultry farmer in the country. Fox control has always been focussed on lowering the population to a level that makes attacks on livestock less likely. Ms Johnstone is now proposing that farmers will have to wait until a fox has killed a lamb before it will be legal to shoot it.
“Her proposed legislation jumps on every available bandwagon and has no justification on the basis of evidence or principle. The proposals would remove the rights of farmers across Scotland to control foxes effectively and protect their livelihoods, with no evidential justification whatsoever. An MSP can introduce a Bill, but they cannot ignore the rights of people in rural Scotland.
“We remain committed to working with the Scottish Government and to the humane and effective management of wild mammals. The Bonomy review did not support any further restrictions on the practice of using dogs in fox control. We have been clear, however, that we will work with the Government if it wishes to develop operational protocols for the necessary management of foxes and other wild mammals.”