by Tim Bonner

The Scottish Government has published its Hunting with Dogs (Scotland) Bill today. As we have been predicting for some time, the Bill contradicts the findings of the Scottish Government’s own review, carried out by Lord Bonomy, by restricting the number of dogs that can be used in fox control to two. It also bans trail hunting (which does not happen in Scotland) by prohibiting the use of animal-based scents, but it does include provisions for licensing the use of more than two hounds for the control of foxes and other mammals for purposes including protecting livestock and environmental benefit.

As you are probably aware it is currently legal in Scotland to use a pack of dogs to flush out foxes so that they can be shot. Peer reviewed research has shown that using a pack of dogs is both more efficient and humane than using just two. In his review Lord Bonomy rejected placing a restriction on the number of hounds used in fox control by saying this would "seriously compromise effective pest control in the country”. Lord Bonomy also found 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”.

In choosing to legislate in this way, without necessity or justification, the Scottish Government is in danger of compromising both the livelihoods of farmers and the ability of land managers to protect threatened wildlife. The only way the damage done by these proposals can be mitigated is by ensuring that the proposed licensing scheme is workable, practical and open to all farmers and land managers who use packs of dogs as part of their fox control measures.

Standing back for a moment from the detail of the Bill, it is quite extraordinary that the Scottish Government is putting this issue at the top of its rural priorities. This is a Bill that does not address a problem, given that the current legislation has worked with almost no concerns for 20 years. And even if anyone really believed that further legislation was necessary, this proposal is only negative whether from the perspective of the fox, the farmer or the conservationist. Yet for the next 12 months the Scottish parliament will wrestle over the pointless Bill.

If you live in Scotland please contact your MSPs immediately to tell them exactly what you think of the new Hunting with Dogs Bill and help the Scottish Countryside Alliance’s campaign. Click here to take action now. 

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