A blanket ban on fox hunting would not solve the problem of ensuring hunts adhere to the law, MSPs have heard.
Lord Bonomy carried out a review of fox hunting laws in Scotland last year and recommended independent monitors to police hunts.
His report said some aspects of the current legislation ‘’complicate unduly’’ the detection, investigation and prosecution of offences and there were “grounds to suspect” fox hunting takes place illegally.
Giving evidence to Holyrood’s environment committee yesterday, he said he did not believe banning fox hunting and instead promoting drag hunting, where a hunt follows the artificial scent of a fox, would solve the issues with the legislation.
Fox hunting with dogs was banned in Scotland in 2002, with the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act stating a person who deliberately hunts a wild mammal with a dog is committing an offence.
An exception is made when dogs may be used to stalk or flush out a fox to be shot for purposes including the control of pest species, protecting livestock or ground-nesting birds.
Mounted hunts in Scotland have since offered farmers, landowners and estate managers a pest control service.
MSP Emma Harper asked Lord Bonomy: “Wouldn’t it just be better to promote drag hunting and ban fox hunting?”
He replied: “Judging by the experience in England and Wales, I think the answer has to be no because the number of prosecutions proportionately is more or less the same there... there’s lots of apparent breaches of the legislation by inappropriate drag hunting, which is called in fact trail hunting. A different material is used so it mimics the scent of a fox and inevitably in many instances where foxes are prevalent a fox appears on the scene. So I wasn’t convinced that just moving to that instead of other changes like monitoring, I wasn’t convinced that that would make any difference.”
Asked why his review had not recommended a reduction in the number of hounds used to flush out a fox, he said: “I can’t think of anything to suggest that reducing it to two dogs would change the situation other than to bring the whole practice of flushing to guns to an end. That change would see an end to hunting as we see it at the moment.”
He said it was “impossible to say” if the 2002 law had reduced the number of foxes killed by dogs, currently around 160 each year, as he was not aware of figures prior to the law being brought in.