Each year during the lambing season, dog walkers and owners are told that they need to take great care and are reminded that it is an offence to allow a dog to worry sheep.
Police Scotland and the farming community rightly remind the public that even the sight of a loose dog in a field can be so traumatic to a pregnant ewe that it can lose its unborn lamb.
Although sheep worrying is an offence in Scotland, however, the law provides an exemption for hunting hounds to be at large if they are hunting legally.
The ten Scottish fox hunts are out three or four times a week from November until the end of March – a period that covers most of the time that ewes are pregnant as well as the lambing season.
Hours of undercover footage obtained by the League Against Cruel Sports shows Scottish hunts riding with packs of hounds through the countryside, scattering flocks in panic and distress.
A clip from the Lauderdale Hunt shows a pregnant ewe falling heavily as hounds run nearby. Other footage shows flocks of sheep running away from dogs in terror and desperately trying to leap over walls and fences.
SNP MSP for Cunninghame South, Ruth Maguire, has been a vocal opponent of fox hunting since her election and is at the forefront of the campaign for the Scottish Government to strengthen the current fox-hunting ban – including by reducing the number of dogs that a hunt can use to two. Currently the number is unlimited.
Commenting, Ruth said:
“Sheep worrying is a huge issue for farmers, particularly at this time of year when pregnant ewes are preparing to lamb so it is deeply concerning that hunts are routinely causing so much chaos to flocks of sheep with no regard whatsoever for their welfare.
“I fully support the League is raising this issue which I hope will form part of the wider campaign to reduce sheep worrying at this sensitive time of year.”
Robbie Marsland, director of The League Against Cruel Sports Scotland, added:
“The League recently reviewed footage obtained over past hunting seasons for evidence of sheep worrying and was shocked and alarmed by what we saw. If the sight of one dog can devastate a pregnant ewe we can only stagger at the prospect of what a pack of over 30 dogs in full cry must have.”
Harry Huyton, director at animal welfare charity OneKind, said:
“This appears to be a case of one rule for the hunts, another for everyone else. Yet for the sheep being terrified by packs of dogs, the fact that they are part of a fox hunt is completely irrelevant. The list of reasons why the Scottish Government needs to get on with it and introduce a complete ban on fox hunting just keeps on growing.”
A ‘For the Foxes’ rally is planned to take place in Edinburgh on 24th March to call for a real fox hunting ban. Ruth Maguire MSP will be one of the speakers at the event which is being organised by The League Against Cruel Sports, OneKind, and IFAW.
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