Animal activists hail Holyrood move to firm up anti-hunting laws


Animal welfare campaigners have hailed the decision by the Holyrood parliament to toughen anti-hunting laws as a wake-up call to Westminster.

Màiri McAllan, the Scottish government’s environment minister, said chasing and killing a wild mammal with a dog had “no place in modern Scotland”, as MSPs voted 90 to 30 for the hunting with dogs bill, which aims to close loopholes 20 years after a ban on foxhunting was first put in place, in 2002.

It means hunters will no longer be able to use packs of hounds to flush out wild mammals unless they have a licence, and also pre-emptively prohibits trail hunting, where dogs follow an animal-based scent, and which campaigners say has been used as a smokescreen for illegal foxhunting in England and Wales since hunting was banned there in 2004.

McAllan said: “Deficiencies in the existing legislation have led to ongoing public concern about the persistence of illegal hunting in Scotland. This bill seeks to close loopholes in the former law as well as prevent others from opening. It does so in pursuit of the highest possible animal welfare standards, while recognising the need for farmers, land managers and environmental organisations to undertake legitimate wildlife management.

“The hunting with dogs bill modernises the law and I hope will finally mark the end of illegal foxhunting, hare coursing and other forms of unlawful hunting with dogs in Scotland.”

The League Against Cruel Sports said the legislation had resulted in the most robust anti-hunt laws across the UK and increased pressure on England and Wales to revisit their own legislation.

Two years ago, the National Trust, one of the UK’s largest landowners, banned trail hunting amid concern from critics that the practice was masking illegal foxhunting.

Robbie Marsland, the director of the League Against Cruel Sports Scotland, said: “As of today, Scotland has the most robust law anywhere in the UK to prevent the cruelty of chasing and killing wild mammals for sport – and this is something to celebrate. Despite a persistent campaign from those resolute to keep hunting alive in the Scottish countryside, the Scottish government has been determined to end the sport of hunting, a sentiment which has today been supported by the parliament.

“The passing of the hunting with dogs (Scotland) bill now provides an opportunity to right the wrongs of the last two decades and close the loopholes which allowed hunters to continue with hunting as though the law didn’t exist.

“The inclusion of a ban on trail hunting is a significant victory for Scotland, meaning hunts will not be able to use this so-called sport as a smokescreen for traditional hunting.”

The bill also includes a licensing system that will allow for a full pack of hounds to be used in certain circumstances. The detail of the scheme has yet to be developed but animal welfare campaigners have concerns this has the potential to be exploited.

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