JUST before Christmas, League Against Cruel Sport fieldworkers filmed a pack of dogs running across an open field with their heads down, tails high and barking excitedly. All the classic signs of a traditional fox hunt. If 2022 is the 20th anniversary of Scotland’s so-called fox hunting ban, then why do hunts still look like they’re hunting as if the law doesn’t exist?
Over the past seven years the public, a review of the law, Police Scotland, a Sheriff and now the Scottish Government have all agreed in one way or another that the current law simply does not work and must be strengthened. The only ones who want the law to stay the same are the members and representatives of the 10 mounted fox hunts who still go out two or three times a week between September and March.
Late last year, the government held a six-week consultation to gather views on measures to strengthen the law. The results of the consultation and a draft law are expected shortly. The League Against Cruel Sports has many years of experience in foxhunting and foxhunting legislation and we will review proposed legislation to ensure there are no accidental loopholes that would allow the traditional fox hunt again.
The pro-hunting lobby often complains about all the parliamentary time devoted to its so-called “sport”. They also accuse anyone who opposes the pursuit and death of a wild animal with a pack of being “political activists”.
If the Scottish Government passes the new law correctly and the Scottish Parliament backs it, we have a good chance of actually banning fox hunting in Scotland. Parliament will no longer have any reason to devote another hour to this cruel, outmoded and repugnant activity. As for the charge of “political campaigning” – how else will social change happen?
Meanwhile, back in this area just before Christmas, the League filmed what we thought was a clear violation of the law, with a dog chasing a fox. A provision of the law allows hunters to use packs of dogs to chase foxes to waiting guns. When we filmed there was no sight or sound of a shotgun, which you would expect if it was really “flush to guns”. Police Scotland have been notified and full evidence is being sent to them. It will then be up to a sheriff court to decide if what we saw was illegal hunting. Based on past experience, there is no guarantee that well-documented problems with current law will not derail a successful prosecution.
If the new bill emerges quickly, there’s a chance the new legislation will be in place in time to stop the 2022 fox hunting season in its tracks. Twenty years after the first attempt, we can finally say that Scotland has truly banned fox hunting – for good.
Robbie Marsland is director of League Against Cruel Sports Scotland