SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT MOVES TO STRENGTHEN LEGISLATION

SNP MSP for Cunninghame South, Ruth Maguire, has welcomed the Scottish Government’s announcement of a wide consultation as it moves to strengthen the operation and enforcement of the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002 – which was intended to ban fox-hunting in Scotland.

The consultation follows the publication in November 2016 of the independent Bonomy review, which was commissioned in 2015 following concerns of widespread illegal hunting.

The review undertaken by Lord Bonomy made clear that these concerns were well-founded, concluding that there was evidence to suggest that the “flushing from cover for pest control exception is a decoy for the continuation of some traditional hunting practices.” Bonomy also questioned the hunts’ claims to be undertaking pest control, noting that “among mounted hunts pest control can appear incidental to the primary purpose of exercising horse and hounds.”

The Bonomy review included several recommendations, such as the appointment of independent hunt monitors, the development of a voluntary Code of Practice, and making the landowner who permits hunting on his land guilty of an offence, i.e. introducing vicarious liability.

Though positive, however, these recommendations do not go far enough to ensure that fox-hunting is really banned.

As such, along with many others, Ruth has welcomed the news that the Scottish Government’s consultation on Lord Bonomy’s recommendations also includes the opportunity to suggest further changes. This will allow concerned individuals and organisations, such as the League Against Cruel Sports and OneKind, to suggest measures that go further in order to ensure that fox hunting is really banned in Scotland.

Commenting, Ruth said:

“The Scottish Government’s evidence based review has concluded that the widespread concerns about the current functioning of the 2002 legislation, intended to ban fox-hunting, are well-founded.

I am pleased that the recent Programme for Government announced that Lord Bonomy’s recommendations are to be progressed. I am also glad, however, that the Scottish Government is to undertake a wider consultation on strengthening the Act.

Whilst the Bonomy recommendations would go some way towards strengthening the legislation, they would not in my opinion prevent determined individuals and groups from continuing to use the flushing to guns exemption as a decoy for the illegal hunting of foxes with dogs.

Rather, it would continue to be the case that whenever a mounted hunt takes out a full pack of hounds, there would be always be the possibility of illegal hunting in the traditional manner – and that it would remain very difficult to prosecute.

As such, I would like to see due consideration given to the case for an outright ban on mounted hunting with dogs by removing the flushing to guns exemption for mounted hunts – as well as to the case for limiting of the number of dogs allowed to be used in any exemption to two.

I have already written to the Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Roseanna Cunninghame, to raise these issues, and I now look forward to engaging with the consultation.

I would encourage anyone who is concerned about ongoing illegal fox-hunting to make their voices heard and contribute to the consultation to strengthen the law.”

The consultation, which is open until 31 January 2018, can be accessed here.