Scots ban hunting with dogs
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2002:
EDINBURGH, Scotland–After six-and-a-half hours of debate,
including votes on 107 proposed amendments, the Scottish Parliament
on February 13 gave final approval to the Protection of Wild Mammals
Act, which seeks to ban hunting with dogs, 83-36 with five
“There will not be another [pack] hunting season in
Scotland,” exulted Tricia Marwick, a co-sponsor of the Act. “This
is a momentous day for the Parliament.”
Agreed Les Ward, chair of the Scottish Campaign Against
Hunting With Dogs, “It is a historic day. Scotland has led the way.
It will send a signal to the world that Scotland is a civilised and
Added Lord Watson of Invergowrie, who presented the first
draft of the ban on hunting with dogs in 1999, “We are proud that
Holyrood has become the first legislature to say that suffering in
the name of human pleasure is unacceptable. The British House of
Commons will follow this in due course, and it is an example of what
the Scottish Parliament can do.”
A backbencher in 1999, Watson was warned that promoting a
ban on hunting with dogs might end his political career. Instead,
he is now Scottish minister for culture, tourism, and sport–a key
ministry in a nation economically heavily dependent upon cultural
cachet and tourist income, with the reputed birthplace of organized
golf at St. Andrews the leading tourist attraction.
“The legislation will make it an offense to use dogs to hunt
wild mammals, effectively ruling out mounted fox hunting, hare
coursing, and fox-baiting, carrying a penalty of heavy fines or a
six-month prison term,” summarized Hamish MacDonell, Scottish
political editor for The Scotsman, of Edinburgh. “But the passing
of the ban into law was marred by confusion about what it actually
means. The groundbreaking vote was overshadowed by confusion and
legal wrangles as pro-hunt campaigners warned that the fight was not
over,” MacDonell wrote.
“The Scottish Countryside Alliance said it would challenge
the legislation under the European Convention on Human Rights. Legal
action will begin as soon as the Act receives Royal Assent, in about
four weeks’ time,” reported Tom Peterkin, Scotland political
correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph.
Scottish Countryside Alliance director Allan Murray told
MacDonell that his organization plans to challenge the Protection of
Wild Mammals Act under Article 1 of the Convention on Human Rights,
which states that no one should be unjustly deprived of property and
livelihood, and Article 8, which guarantees freedom of lifestyle.
Murray contended that a precedent for the case exists in the
Fur Farming Bill expected to be passed imminently by the Scottish
Parliament, which unlike the Protection of Wild Animals Act provides
compensation to anyone put out of work.
However, that point in the Fur Farming Bill is moot–except
possibly as a precedent for other legislation–since the last fur
farm in Scotland went out of business in 1993. The purpose of the
Fur Farming Bill is to prevent English or Welsh fur farmers from
relocating to Scotland when a recently adopted British ban on fur
farming takes effect in 2004.
An ironic twist, in view of the upper crust image cultivated
by fox hunters, is that another grounds for appeal against the
Protection of Wild Mammals Act is reportedly that it does not allow
homeless persons to hunt rabbits for their dinner, since they may
not use dogs now and–having no fixed address–cannot obtain a
license to use firearms.
Aberdeen University law professor Christopher Gane told
Stephan Khan, Scotland editor for the London Observer, that the
arguments to be made under Article 1 of the Convention on Human
Rights seem to him, “Rather tenuous.”
As to Article 8, Gane said, it “would seem to me to largely
protect people’s right with regard to sexual orientation. I’m not
sure it could help protect people’s perceived right to dress up and
charge about after foxes.”
But Paul Kelbie, Scotland correspondent for The Independent,
indicated that the Duke of Buccleuch, host of the 176-year-old
Buccleuch Hunt, saw a connection.
“Some people think adultery is barbaric,” the Duke fumed,
“so will they make that a criminal offense as well, or anything else
that offends their pious sensibilities?”
What the ban does
The Protection of Wild Mammals Act is to take effect on
August 1, unless delayed in some manner by judicial order.
Claimed Alex Fergusson, a Conservative pro-hunt Member of
the Scottish Parliament, to MacDonell of The Scotsman, “There is
severe doubt that this Act actually bans mounted fox hunts. It does
not say you cannot be on horseback, it does not say you cannot wear
a red coat, it does not say you cannot use a pack of hounds to do
Added pro-hunt campaigner Clarissa Dickson Wright, “People
will just go on hunting. I do not think the police will enforce it.”
Countered Phyllis Campbell-McRae, United Kingdom country
director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, “Even though
the bill has been passed intact, with all wrecking amendments and
loopholes removed, hunt supporters still cannot accept the will of
the people and the Parliament, and are falsely contending that the
bill will still allow mounted hunting.”
Most other observers suspect some significant loopholes remain.
Peterkin and Charles Clover of the Daily Telegraph on
February 16 published a list of alleged loopholes described to them
by Donald Findley, Q.C., a pro-hunting attorney.
According to Findley, as paraphrased by Peterkin and Clover,
“Traditional foxhunting cannot continue but a hunt on horseback in
which the fox is eventually shot is probably legal. Nothing in the
Bill proscribes the use of horses or mounted followers in connection
with pest control. As long as a hunt intends to shoot foxes flushed
from cover, or if hounds pursue and kill the fox in the cover or
just outside it, it could be argued in court that an offense was not
Findley identified allegedly contradictory language
concerning the use of dogs to search for wild mammals.
“Dog walkers could be prosecuted if they let hunting dogs,
such as lurchers, off lead in places they know to be populated with
wild animals,” the Daily Telegraph said. But dogs may still be used
to track and dispatch foxes wounded by gunfire. In addition, “One
or more dogs may be used to flush a fox or mink from below ground” to
be shot,” Peterkin and Clover reported.
“It is unclear whether the killing of a fox below ground by a
terrier would constitute an offense, as this would be hard to
classify as hunting,” they continued.
But allowing dogs to kill foxes underground is a succinct
description of “cubbing,” the practice of training hounds by letting
them to tear fox cubs to pieces in their dens–and presumably is
“The dispatch of an orphaned fox too young to survive would
appear to be allowed by any means, provided it is killed by a single
dog or is otherwise killed as humanely as possible,” the Daily
Telegraph analysts claimed.
The Protection of Wild Mammals Act includes an exemption for
the use of dogs to flush out wild mammals during the practice of
falconry, but “requires that the flushed wild mammal is shot or
killed by a bird of prey,” Peterkin and Clover noted. “When birds
such as goshawks are flown at hares, they often do not kill the
hares, but instead hold them to the ground until dispatched by the
falconer. This would constitute an offense,” Peterkin and Clover
As many as 150 pack hunters, many of them up from Britain
for the day, displayed symbolic defiance of the Act by riding with
the Buccleuch Hunt on the grounds of Floors Castle at Kelso on
Valentine’s Day. Another 1,350 hunt supporters reportedly cheered
them on–but no foxes were seen, said Kelbie of The Independent.
Wrote Kelbie, “It is estimated that the total number of
mounted hunt members in Scotland is about 815.”
Blair waffles on
Robin Cook, the British Leader of the Commons, refused to
commit the Labor government headed by Tony Blair to any specific
timetable for pursuing a British ban on hunting with dogs–which
Blair promised to deliver both in 1996 and in 2001.
Each promise brought substantial contributions to the Labor
campaign fund from anti-hunting organizations, but neither was
followed up with an official government bill to end pack hunting.
Instead, Blair has procrastinated on the pretext of not
wishing to delay the rest of the Labor legislative agenda in a
protracted confrontation with the pro-hunting House of Lords. Blair
could invoke the Parliament Act to override the House of Lords, but
at risk of political retaliation.
In November 1997 the House of Commons supported a private
member’s bill seeking to outlaw the pursuit of foxes, stags, hares,
and mink, 411-151, and in December 2000 the House of Commons
supported an outright ban on hunting with dogs, 373-158, but
neither bill advanced past the Lords, whose seats are hereditary and
whose political role is largely symbolic yet still influential.
As the Scottish fox hunting ban loomed and the British debate
reignited, Paul Harris of The Observer reported on January 6 that
farmers were claiming the national fox population doubled from about
500,000 to more than a million in 2001, when fox hunting was
restricted to prevent the spread of hoof-and-mouth disease, and
culls of more than six million animals on nearly 10,000 farms left
buried carrion abundant.
On February 17, however, Harris revealed that, “Hunts
across the country are breeding foxes in specially made dens to
ensure an adequate supply of the animals, undermining claims that
they are killed only in the name of pest control.”
Harris described evidence presented by the League Against
Cruel Sports that fox propagation was underway “on the territory of
more than 50 hunts, including some of Britain’s most prestigious.”
The League believes more than 200 hunts are breeding foxes in
all, but is still gathering evidence about the other 150.
Evidence of U.S. pack hunters artificially boosting fox and
coyote populations for pursuit with hounds surfaced five days later,
when the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources announced the
arrests of 21 people from 11 counties for illegal possession of
coyotes, who may not be kept in private captivity in South Carolina,
and foxes, who may be kept only after the purchase of a
Eighteen South Carolinians hold permits to keep foxes for
pursuit in enclosed chase pens, from which the foxes cannot escape.
The list of charges indicates that the arrestees were caught
with 28 coyotes and eight foxes. The maximum penalty for possession
of coyotes is a fine of $425 apiece or up to 30 days in jail per
violation. The maximum possession for illegally dealing in either
coyotes or foxes is a fine of $2,025 or up to 60 days in jail per
The last bastion of pack hunting in Europe is likely to be
Ireland, where hare-coursing–releasing captive hares in an enclosed
area and sending hounds after them–is still a common pastime,
nominally regulated by the Department of Agriculture. The Irish
Council Against Cruel Sports on Valentine’s Day released details of
coursing events gleaned from the official regulatory reports over the
past two years which demonstrate in the alleged regulators’ own words
“that clubs up and down the country are not only breaching their
license conditions, but expecting” the inspectors “to turn a blind
eye,” a Council press release said.
In Northern Ireland, however, one of the few topics uniting
the Protestant royalist political leader Ian Paisley and the Irish
nationalist party Sinn Fein is an abhorence of hare-coursing.
Paisley and Sinn Fein have recently worked together to pass
legislation to further restrict hare-coursing, under a hare
conservation law which some wildlife experts believe will amount to a