Anger as hunt forced to disband

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ONE of Scotland’s oldest and most historic hunts has become the first victim of the Scottish parliament’s legislation against hunting foxes with dogs.

The Dumfriesshire Hunt, which has been in existence for 150 years, has disbanded its pack of 80 dogs after being told it can no longer use land in the Borders owned by Sir Rupert Buchanan-Jardine.

Sir Rupert told organisers that he fears prosecution under the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act if he allows them to continue to hunt over his 20,000 acres.

The landowner said yesterday the famous hunt, supported by Prince Charles and the Princess Royal, was now doomed.

"I regret having to do this, but the decision is not mine. It has been forced on me by the Scottish parliament," said Buchanan-Jardine at his Lockerbie home. "The hunt is finished."

The ban on hunting foxes with dogs became law earlier this year after a two-and-a-half-year campaign by Lord Watson to push his bill through parliament.

Riders, hunt followers and farmers are bitter that they have been forced to give up a countryside tradition. They say it will have a devastating effect on the rural economy and their way of life, in an area stretching from Lockerbie to Dumfries.

The unique Black and Tan Dumfriesshire hounds have been sold to other hunts in France, Ireland and England.

Last week, kennelman John Carruthers was close to tears as he surveyed the empty kennels that have been the focus of his work for nearly 25 years.

Carruthers, his wife Isobel and 10-year-old son Andrew now face a bleak future. "The end of my hunt is an end of a way of life in this part of the world. I’m bitter and angry."

Nicky Birkbeck, the 39-year-old hunt master, said Buchanan-Jardine had insisted there could be no more foxhunting on his land. "He said he thought it far too risky to try and get around the law by shooting the fox instead of letting the hounds kill it."

Without the hunt, there would be a huge loss of income for those who sold horse feed, clothing and everything else that went with hunting, Birkbeck said.

Losing Buchanan-Jardine’s land was something all the hunt members dreaded. "It’s not his fault," Birkbeck said. "It’s the Scottish parliament who have ruined our way of life and our sport."

The Scottish Countryside Alliance blamed the legislation for the fate of the hunt. "People’s livelihoods have been badly hit," said director Allan Murray. "Hounds that have been lovingly bred over generations have had to be dispersed - and all this misery caused because of legislation that does nothing for animal welfare."