Jennifer Dunn: Scotland has a chance to lead by example on stopping foxhunting

Jennifer Dunn, senior public affairs officer for League Against Cruel Sports Scotland, invites others to join the campaign against foxhunting

THERE used to always be fox hunting campaigns on the go. As a teenager, just under 20 years ago, I visited Glasgow on a shopping trip, saw some activists with leaflets depicting gruesome images of dead foxes, and signed their petition.

A couple of years later, the Scottish Parliament was established. One of its first acts – in fact, the first private members’ bill – was the Protection of Wild Mammals Act 2002, which sought to ban fox hunting. 

The efforts of those campaigners, and many more like them, finally paid off. And there, for many people, the battle was won and the story ended.

There have been rumours for years that the hunts were shooting into the air as cover, while using dogs to kill foxes in the traditional manner.

Except things haven’t worked out like that. There have been rumours for years that the hunts were shooting into the air as cover, while using dogs to kill foxes in the traditional manner. 

When the League Against Cruel Sports sent investigators to monitor the hunts last year, we discovered they weren’t even making any token effort with the guns; in fact, the investigative team didn’t see any guns at all.

One of the questions we normally get asked is, "why are they still allowed to do this?" The reason is that the Protection of Wild Mammals Act is full of loopholes. The legislation makes it very difficult for hunts to be successfully prosecuted. 

Although there is a case ongoing at the moment in the Borders, for the most part it’s not worth attempting a prosecution because of the extremely low chance of success.

The other thing we hear a lot of is, "they still do this, wearing their red jackets?" One of the things that the public finds most repugnant is the ritualisation of cruelty. Hunting isn’t a form of pest control rather an activity that a small minority actively seek to participate in and enjoy, while most of us find just the idea of hunting and killing a fox with a pack of hounds sickening. 

When we sent investigators to monitor the hunts last year, we discovered they weren’t even making any token effort with the guns; in fact, the investigative team didn’t see any guns at all.

Hunts in England have been repeatedly caught raising foxes in barns, solely so that fox can be hunted later. Hardly the act of a group of concerned pest controllers.

Although the 2015 footage of hunts gathered some publicity when it was released, it was, ironically, the Westminster Government which really brought it to prominence. Last year it attempted to weaken the English and Welsh Hunting Act to, broadly speaking, bring it into line with the Protection of Wild Mammals Act. 

In reality, the government attempted to adopt the weaker aspects of the legislation, while ignoring the areas, such as penalties, where it is stronger. 

The SNP MPs stated they would vote to prevent this from happening to protect animal welfare, and the Scottish Government commissioned an independent review of our legislation.

The review, by Lord Bonomy, was published recently and it calls for the law to be clarified and tightened. It also suggests that prosecutors should be given longer to gather evidence, and that landowners should face vicarious liability prosecutions if the law is broken on their holdings. 

The Scottish Government commissioned an independent review of our legislation, which calls for the law to be clarified and tightened.

Bonomy also recommends that independent monitors scrutinise the activities of the hunts.

The ball is now very firmly in the Scottish Government’s court. Its statement on the publication of the Bonomy report was that it would "carefully consider the findings with a view to responding in 2017".

We want the Scottish Government to promise that it’ll legislate to stop the needless suffering of animals like a fox killed in Renfrewshire recently. The dogs had ripped through its flanks, exposing its lungs, in what must have been a terrifying last few moments.

We’ve come a long way since the last time this issue was debated in Scotland. Then, we were only just getting to grips with having our own accessible, professional parliament.

We want the Scottish Government to promise that it’ll legislate to stop the needless suffering of animals like a fox killed in Renfrewshire recently.

Now, we rightly expect that the Scottish Parliament will listen and will pass effective, enforceable laws. But we also need to make sure that we keep campaigning to make sure change comes, and to make sure fox hunting is properly consigned to the history books as quickly as possible.

We’ve got the evidence that cruelty is ongoing, the SNP has a precedent for promising action on hunting, and the majority of Scots oppose this repugnant 'sport'.

Please support the campaign by signing the petition.

Picture courtesy of tailsandfur

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