Scottish government moves towards total ban on fox hunting

Scots are being asked to give their views on proposed new laws that would completely ban fox hunting and end the mass slaughter of wild hares.
Alison Johnstone. Picture: PAAlison Johnstone. Picture: PA
Alison Johnstone. Picture: PA

Alison Johnstone, co-leader of the Scottish Green Party, is tomorrow unveiling plans for a member’s bill aimed at closing “loopholes” in existing legislation, which has failed to effectively stamp out hunting of foxes and allows unlimited numbers of native mountain hares and brown hares to be killed at certain times of the year.

The Lothian MSP is launching a public consultation on the draft bill, seeking feedback on measures aimed at protecting the three species and stopping them being killed for sport.

The consultation will run until mid-September.

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In the consultation document, Johnstone states: “Wild mammals belong to no-one while they are free-living, but UK legislation has long held that animal welfare is a public good and that animals should therefore be protected in the public interest.

“The aim of the proposed bill is, therefore, to improve the protection of some wild mammals in Scotland, specifically by ending the use of dogs in the hunting of wild mammals and improving the protection of certain wild mammals.”

The Scottish Government outlined intentions to tighten up laws after commissioning a review of the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002 by Lord Bonomy, but has so far failed to take action.

Johnstone said: “Foxes and hares are iconic species that are widely celebrated in popular culture and valued by rural and urban Scots alike.

“They deserve our compassion and respect, yet they are routinely slaughtered across the country in huge numbers.”

Existing rules ban the use of packs of dogs to chase and catch foxes, but permit the use of dogs to flush a fox into the open.

The proposed new bill has been welcomed by animal welfare campaigners, who have said it could be “game-changing”.

But a spokesman for the Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: “We hope to engage with Scottish Government on its intentions, particularly any licensing scheme to allow vital pest control.”