Scotland has introduced new legislation intended to crack down on illegal fox hunting.
The “sport” was banned 20 years ago, but hunts had continued to operate due to a loophole in the law.
The Hunting with Dogs Bill is intended to make the law clearer. It would outlaw killing of wild animals, including foxes, with a pack of dogs.
The bill replaces the 2002 Protection of Wild Mammals Act, which allowed dogs to flush foxes out from cover (but only if the animal was then shot, and if the hunt was carried out to prevent the spread of disease, or protect livestock or ground-nesting birds). Animal rights groups long argued that the law was exploited.
MSPs (Members of Scottish Parliament) voted 90-30 in favor of the new bill last Tuesday (January 24).
“The chasing and killing of a wild mammal with a dog, for sport, or otherwise, has no place in modern Scotland,” Environment Minister Màiri McAllan told BBC Scotland. “It’s been illegal for 20 years, but deficiencies in the previous legislation have led to concerns that it persists.
“This bill is about closing those loopholes, preventing others from opening and finally ending illegal hunting with dogs in Scotland.”
The bill will make it illegal to stalk and flush out wild animals with more than two dogs, unless a license is obtained. Trail hunting (where dogs follow the scent of an animal) will also be prohibited.
The fox hunting debate
Fox hunting is deemed by many to be cruel, and the majority of Brits are against it. Mimi Bekhechi Vice President PETA UK, Europe, and Australia told Plant Based News: “From the terrifying chase, in which foxes sometimes rupture internal organs as they flee for their lives, to the moment the exhausted and petrified animals are surrounded, torn limb from limb, and disembowelled by dogs, often while still conscious, fox hunts represent unspeakable cruelty, which is why they were banned in the first place.”
Proponents of fox hunting often argue that it’s essential for conservation and preservation of livestock. Many animal rights groups dispute this claim, and have praised the new legislation
“The overwhelming majority of Scots agree that hunting of any kind has no place in our society, so PETA is delighted at the passage of the new Hunting With Dogs (Scotland) Bill,” said Bekhechi.
There have been concerns, however, that a new loophole could arise due to licenses being possible for larger hunts.
“It is imperative that the new licensing scheme be robust and deny anyone the right to torment and kill foxes for pleasure,” Bekhechi added.