“The majority of Scots are opposed to fox hunting, and so, as the public body responsible for promoting Scotland’s land, FLS should amend its fox control policy to reflect public opinion, as it had previously planned to do.”
A Freedom of Information request (FOI) submitted by Edinburgh-based wildlife charity OneKind has revealed that Forestry Land Scotland (FLS) has continued to allow fox hunting foot packs access on its land since a previous exposé in Spring 2020 (mirroring the situation in England where Forestry England had allowed so-called ‘trail hunting’ to take place despite information that hunts were breaking the law).
The FOI also reveals that FLS have been unable to stop ongoing wildlife crime which has been taking place on Scotland’s public lands since 2016, and which FLS suspect to be committed by gamekeepers. External reports of ‘out of control’ hounds in the FOI also highlight just how weak Scotland’s fox hunting legislation is and why reform is urgently needed.
OneKind’s press-release is extremely detailed and broken down into a number of sections which clearly prove what we have all been saying for many years – that fox hunts break the law. In Scotland’s case that is the Wild Mammals Protection (Scotland) Act (2002), which is slightly different to England and Wales’s Hunting Act, but which nevertheless still outlaws hunting wild mammals with dogs for sport. Hunts are mostly using the ‘exemptions’ (usually inserted by pro-hunt politicians as legislation makes its way through Parliament and better thought of as ‘deliberate loopholes) in the legislation which need to be strengthened because – to use the Green Party Scotland‘s words – “it appears that the law is regularly ignored”.
The FOI also reveals that Forestry staff donlt appear to understand the legislation – querying whether hunters are allowed to flush hounds to guns on their land, and apparently misunderstanding the motivation of hunts: why on earth should foxes need to be ‘controlled’ on public land by hounds and hunters?
And why should a public body allow wild animals be killed in this way, anyway? Fox hunting does not attempt to consider important animal welfare concerns that have become increasingly important to the general public. It exists purely for the benfit of the hunter – who enjoys ‘the kill’ – and not the animal. Why Forestry Land Scotland feels it should support this antiquated ‘sport’ while public opinion swings against it needs to be explained.
OneKInd’s press-release ends with the following paragraphs
We are very disappointed that despite public outrage at the use of fox hunting foot packs on Scotland’s public forest estate, FLS continued to allow these packs to kill foxes and disturb wildlife in the forest. The majority of Scots are opposed to fox hunting, and so, as the public body responsible for promoting Scotland’s land, FLS should amend its fox control policy to reflect public opinion, as it had previously planned to do.
Our findings reveal just how weak Scotland’s fox hunting legislation is and demonstrate why it cannot be said that Scotland has a real fox hunting ban. So long as exemptions for ‘pest control’ exist, people will be able to hunt foxes under this guise. It is also clear that wildlife crime is an ongoing issue in Scotland and that FLS have been unable to tackle it.
The Scottish Government has committed to reforming Scotland’s fox hunting legislation in this parliamentary session to make it more effective and enforceable. While flushing by dogs will still be permitted, it proposes to restrict the number of dogs to two, except under licence. We will be urging the government not to license any packs of dogs and to end fox hunting for good. Wild animals need protection from suffering too.Eve Massie, One Kind, Revealed: Fox hunting foot packs & wildlife crime on Scotland’s public land, 05/Sept/21
OneKind are working for a total ban on fox hunting: Support our campaign to ban fox hunting for good