The Scottish government’s decision to tighten its hunting laws has been called “illogical” and an “unwarranted attack on rural Scotland” by campaigners.
The Hunting with Dogs Bill was introduced in the Scottish Parliament on February 24, following a public consultation which ended in December 2021. This consultation garnered over 11,000 responses, but the results and in-depth analysis have not yet been made public. These are expected later this year.
Scottish Environment Minister Màiri McAllan said her aim was to close existing gaps and “stop others from opening up”.
Hunting in Scotland is governed by different laws than in England and Wales. At present in Scotland more than two dogs can still be used to hunt foxes with guns. But this new bill aims to change that.
It would also make trail hunting illegal and add significant bureaucracy for packs. Provision is made for the use of dogs to seek, track or flush out a wild mammal under “specified circumstances”. For example, preventing serious damage to livestock, wood or crops, protecting human health or preventing the spread of disease.
A license must be obtained for more than two dogs to be used, and applicants will need to demonstrate that there are no other satisfactory methods of control available.
The Scottish Countryside Alliance (SCA) has warned that any licensing system must be “workable and practical”.
“Farmers and land managers in rural Scotland will naturally ask why the Scottish Government intends to jeopardize their livelihoods in direct contradiction to science and its own study. [carried out by Lord Bonomy]said SCA Director Jake Swindells.
Lord Bonomy’s review, published in 2016, found that using packs of dogs to chase foxes to a gun remained “an important pest control measure”. It also found that restricting the number of dogs would “not be as effective as that carried out by a full pack of dogs” and that imposing a restriction could “seriously compromise the effectiveness of pest control in the country” (news , December 1, 2016; December 4, 2017).
In his report, Lord Bonomy concluded that there were “aspects and features of the legislation which unduly complicate the detection, investigation and prosecution of alleged offences”.
Mr Swindells added: “This legislation is an unnecessary and unwarranted attack on rural Scotland. Depriving farmers of the ability to protect their livestock and their livelihoods would be a direct attack on their rights.
“Restricting the ability of land managers to protect endangered species like curlews and capercaillies is equally illogical. The only way to mitigate the damage caused by these proposals is to ensure that the proposed licensing system is workable, practical and open to all farmers and land managers who use dog packs as part of their conservation measures. fox control.
A spokesperson for the National Farmers Union of Scotland stressed the need to maintain “effective, practical and pragmatic control of wild mammals, including foxes in a farming and microfarming context”.
He added that this was aimed at preventing damage to livestock, crops, plants and habitats, limiting the spread of disease and reducing predation on protected wildlife species.
Ms McAllan said she wanted to ‘clarify that hunting and killing a mammal with a dog, for sport or otherwise, has no place in modern Scotland – indeed it has been illegal for 20 years’.
“I seek to close the loopholes that have allowed this already illegal activity to persist, and my goal is to do so in a way that ensures the greatest possible animal welfare while facilitating legitimate predator control,” he said. she said, adding that she also planned to take “preventive action to prevent trail hunting from becoming established in Scotland to reduce the risk of wild mammals being killed by dogs”.
“However, I would like to be clear that foxes can cause significant harm to livestock, as well as other wildlife such as ground-nesting birds – so it is important that farmers and land managers have access to effective and humane control measures, and this law provides for that.
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