Scottish politicians are celebrating a ban on trail-hunting north of the border – but there are fears hunters will exploit a loophole.
The Scottish parliament in Holyrood has voted to tighten the law on chasing and killing wild animals for sport, hailing it as the tightest legislation in UK.
The new Hunting with Dogs (Scotland) Act outlaws trail-hunting, which hunts invented after the 2005 foxhunting ban took effect in England and Wales.
Opponents of hunting insist trail-hunting does not exist but the term is used as a smokescreen for the chasing and killing of foxes.
In a now-famous webinar meeting by hunters, Mark Hankinson, 61, then director of the Masters of Foxhounds Association, talked of “creating a smokescreen”.
The League Against Cruel Sports wants the Westminster government to introduce a ban on trail-hunting in England, similar to that in Scotland.
Scotland’s new Act also reduces numbers of dogs allowed to flush out a fox from cover to two.
More than two dogs may be used under a new scheme of licences that will last up to two weeks.
But according to the Hunt Saboteurs Association, licences will be “almost useless” to traditional packs of hounds, so the new law effectively spells the end for traditional fox, hare and mink hunting in Scotland.
However, one hunting opponent, using the Twitter handle @Acruelpastime, said the new licensing scheme was “unnecessary and open to exploitation”. “The new licensing scheme is another glaring loophole. Farmers do not need to protect their ‘livestock’ from foxes by chasing them with packs of dogs.”
It’s also feared Scottish hunts could travel into England to continue hunting, using exemptions.
Hundreds of suspected cases of illegal fox hunting are recorded across the UK every year.
RSPCA head of public affairs David Bowles urged the UK government to follow Scotland’s lead for England and Wales, adding: “Until a full ban on trail-hunting has been introduced in England and Wales, the RSPCA would welcome amendments to the Hunting Act that include: introducing an offence relating to negligence, a tighter definition of what hunting is, a repeal of exemptions which can act as loopholes, increased sentencing to include custodial sentences as well as fines, and for any convictions to be recorded on the Police National Computer.”
The King, who used to hunt with the Quorn, will have to give royal assent to Scotland’s new law.
He lobbied Tony Blair in 2002 to drop the planned ban on foxhunting, as letters later revealed, and he told a private gathering: “If the Labour government ever gets around to banning fox hunting, I might as well leave this country and spend the rest of my life skiing.”