As people involved in hunting in Scotland, we are writing to counter the offensive suggestion from the League Against Cruel Sport’s “exposé” filmed earlier this year that hunts have no regard for the Protection of Wild Mammals Act 2002 and are routinely flouting the law.
Just because guns can’t be seen does not mean that they are not present. It is an important element of effective flushing that individuals acting as “guns” conceal themselves and blend into their surroundings. Hence guns are not always visible. The League states that on the occasions it monitored hunts no guns were present, however in two of its clips featuring the Lauderdale Hunt quad bikes carrying the guns are clearly visible moving on in front of the huntsman and hounds.
The League’s film shows six clips (where a breach is suggested), the cumulative time of these add up to no more than 1 minute 12 seconds of footage, against a backdrop of what will have been 30+ hours of activity. Clutching at straws doesn’t come close to describing the findings.
There is another major omission, whilst the League is correct to state that hunting a fox in the open after it has left cover is an offence, it is not an offence to do so if that fox is believed to be injured or diseased during the course of being flushed. There are clear provisions for hounds to continue to track said injured/diseased fox with a view to it being dispatched quickly. The language of the act actually makes it a requirement to do so under welfare grounds.
Finally, an independent study was carried out two years ago where the feasibility (as the League states it would prefer) as opposed to using a full pack to flush to guns was tested. Two hounds took on average twice as long to locate a fox in cover compared to a full pack, and on average three times longer to get the fox into a position where it could be dispatched by a gun. In other words prolonging the chase, thus a failure on both utility and welfare grounds. What the League suggests is neither effective, nor better for the quarry.
The Scottish Hunting Act does work and enables hunts to provide a vital and appreciated service to farming communities within their respective areas. Foxes, while indeed handsome animals, cause considerable damage to livestock and livelihood in an already hard-pressed rural economy.
Ronan Brown Jedforest Hunt
Richard Holman-Baird Kincardineshire Hunt