Campaigners call for end to Boxing Day hunts

HoundsThe law allows foxes to be flushed out by dogs but not killed by them

Animal-rights groups want the Scottish government to make this year’s Boxing Day hunts the last to take place.

The plea by the League Against Cruel Sports and OneKind comes after a review by Lord Bonomy who said fox hunting laws should be changed.

He concluded that the current rules were “unduly complicated”.

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said Lord Bonomy’s findings were being considered “carefully” and would be responded to early in 2017.

The Scottish Countryside Alliance, which represents hunts, accused LACS of “peddling lies” about foxhunting in Scotland.

Boxing Day is a traditional time to hold hunts in the UK with the pro-hunting Countryside Alliance claiming that more than 200,000 people attend such events.

The Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002 saw fox hunting with dogs banned.

The law stated that a person who deliberately hunted a wild mammal with a dog was committing an offence.

An exception was made when dogs can be used to stalk or flush out a fox to be shot in the interests of pest control, protecting livestock or ground-nesting birds.

That prompted mounted hunts in Scotland to be offered to farmers, landowners and estate managers as a form of pest or fox control.

Roseanna CunninghamEnvironment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said a response to Lord Bonomy’s findings would be made in early 2017

Lord Bonomy’s report concluded there were grounds to suspect “there may be occasions when hunting, which does not fall within one of the exceptions, does take place” and recommended further clarification of the law as well as independent hunt monitors.

Robbie Marsland, director of the League Against Cruel Sports Scotland, believed the “ball is now firmly in the Scottish government’s court”.

He added “Public opinion in Scotland wants to see fox hunting banned, the government thought they had banned it, but as our evidence, Lord Bonomy and Police Scotland have revealed, hunts are running a coach and horses through the current legislation.

“In short, the law isn’t fit for purpose and, in keeping with the commitments made by the first minister to strengthen the law if it were necessary, we look to the government to do that by November 2017 – in time to stop next year’s hunting season.”

‘Response due’

The organisation said nearly 10,000 people had signed an online petition calling for Ms Cunningham to take speedy action.

Harry Huyton, director of OneKind, echoed Mr Marsland’s plea and asked the Scottish government to “act as early as possible in 2017”.

Ms Cunningham said the Holyrood administration recognised concerns around the current legislation and that was why Lord Bonomy was asked to carry out the review.

She added: “Back in 2002, Scotland led the way in addressing animal-welfare concerns and we remain committed to ensuring the highest levels of welfare for our wild animals.

“We will now carefully consider the findings with a view to responding early in 2017.

“Any ensuing proposals for legislative change will be subject to the normal consultation processes.”

The Scottish Countryside Alliance said the Bonomy review was “absolutely supportive” of the principle of using packs of hounds to flush to guns.

Its director, Jamie Stewart, said: “The League Against Cruel Sports team should try reading the review before commenting on it. Just because the proposals they made have been so comprehensively rejected is no excuse for so seriously misrepresenting the review.

“I find Mr Marsland’s tactics hugely disrespectful to Lord Bonomy and his team. LACS are obviously in disagreement with his recommendations to the Scottish government and have taken to paying for propaganda to try and influence the mind of the cabinet secretary and members of the Scottish parliament.

“Mr Marsland continues to peddle LACS lies over the timeline of events and the contents of his heavily edited footage, which despite drawing on hundreds of hours of secretly filmed footage, failed to show any illegal action.”

Article taken from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-38431942