Close loopholes on fox hunting, says official report to Scottish Government
THE Protection of Wild Mammals Act 2002, which governs rules on fox hunting, should be strengthened to close loopholes currently exploited by hunting groups, according to the advisor tasked with reviewing the legislation.
Iain Bonomy QC’s recommendations have been welcomed by hunt-reform campaigners, who now want the Scottish Government to move sharply to strengthen the legislation so that it can be properly enforced.
The review was launched after footage published by the League Against Cruel Sports found evidence that the law was not being following where fox-hunting still takes places. Limited police resources and the challenges of evidence gathering make fox hunting laws difficult to enforce.
“Lord Bonomy has come up with a set of new recommendations that we believe could severely limit the opportunity of mounted hunts to encourage packs of hounds to chase and kill wild mammals across the Scottish countryside.” Robbie Marsland, League Against Cruel Sports
Robbie Marsland, the director of the League Against Cruel Sports, Scotland said: “This review set out to evaluate whether the current law banning hunting in Scotland works. Lord Bonomy’s robust and detailed examination clearly shows that it doesn’t and that he agrees with us and Police Scotland that improvements are essential if it is to stand any chance of fulfilling its purpose of protecting wild animals.
“Lord Bonomy has come up with a set of new recommendations that we believe could severely limit the opportunity of mounted hunts to encourage packs of hounds to chase and kill wild mammals across the Scottish countryside.
“Lord Bonomy and Police Scotland agree there is abuse and exploitation of the current law, which the review proposes to address with robust new legislation and stronger enforcement. This will not only change the face of hunting in Scotland – it sends a powerful signal to Westminster how illegal hunting can be tackled forcefully.
“The ball is now firmly in the Scottish Government’s court. Public opinion in Scotland wants to see fox hunting banned, the government thought they had banned it and now Lord Bonomy and Police Scotland reveal that the hunts are running a coach and horses through the legislation.
“In short, the law isn’t fit for purpose and, in keeping with the commitments made by the first minister to strengthen the law if it were necessary, we look to the government to strengthen the law before the end of the current fox hunting season in March 2017.”
“Current legislation has never been fit for purpose and those who value barbaric tradition over animal welfare and rule of law have found many loopholes to exploit.” Mark Ruskell
The Scottish Government has said it will reply in full to the report in 2017, which could then lead to proposed changes in the law.
Roseanna Cunningham, the Scottish Government minister responsible, said: “The Scottish Government recognised concerns about whether the legislation on fox-hunting is working properly – that is why we asked Lord Bonomy to carry out this detailed work.
“Back in 2002, Scotland led the way in addressing animal welfare concerns and we remain committed to ensuring the highest levels of welfare for our wild animals.
“We will now carefully consider the findings, with a view to responding in 2017. Any ensuing proposals for legislative change will be subject to the proper consultation processes.”
Scottish Green MSP Mark Ruskell said his party would support changes in the law: “Current legislation has never been fit for purpose and those who value barbaric tradition over animal welfare and rule of law have found many loopholes to exploit.
“Lord Bonomy’s report is clear that changes are needed to introduce greater restriction and monitoring of hunting and that landowners should also be liable for breaches of the law. The Scottish Government must act fast to bring amending legislation to parliament and prevent further animal cruelty from taking place.”
Picture courtesy of Jarkko Jarvinen
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