The following is a guest blog written by the guys over at Glasgow Hunt Sabs.
For those who wish to quickly fill out the consultation, we recommend answering as follows:
7. Rabbits included All species of rodent included
12. (Your comments)
For those who wish to understand the background of the legislation:
On February 2002, after decades of tireless work from Hunt Saboteurs and animal rights groups, the Scottish Parliament voted by eighty three to thirty six to pass the ‘Protection of Wild Mammals Act’ which has since been commonly referred to as the “hunting ban”. The Act was introduced toParliament amid calls from the public who overwhelmingly support an end to fox-hunting. The Act came into effect on 1 August 2002 and at that time there were 10 fox-hunts operating in Scotland. Of those 10, only 2 now cease to operate, neither of which being as a result of the Act itself but rather for “personal reasons associated with their huntsmen”. There has however been 2 new fox-hunts established since the so-called “ban” came into effect.
Quite clearly the Protection of Wild Mammals Act (2002) has had no bearing whatsoever on fox-hunting in Scotland. The reason for this is caused by a magnificent loophole in the legislation, known as “flushing to guns”. What this means is that fox-hunts are allowed to operate as normal providing their hounds are only used to flush a mammal from cover, such as from gorse or woodland, provided the animal is then shot “as soon as possible” as opposed to being ripped limb from limb by hounds. It also prohibits hounds from “deliberately” chasing a fox over open ground once it has been flushed from its cover. Though it should be noted that these hounds have been bred and trained for several generations to hunt and kill foxes, so trying to call a pack hounds off a fox once they have the scent, is a bit like asking a Tory to declare their earnings. You might get lucky with one.
As a result illegal hunting is pretty commonplace, saboteurs witness illegal activity on a weekly basis however catching this on film, in order for it to be held up in court, is much more difficult. Police Scotland have commented that their officers are “unable to establish the high threshold of evidence required to prove and, ultimately, report cases”. In fact, despite the mountain of evidence since the Act was brought in, there has only been one prosecution and it resulted in a Not Guilty verdict. Due to the nature of the legislation, going down the route of trying to prosecute the hunt is a dead-end.
Ultimately it was to take over a decade for the Scottish Government to be forced into some form of action. The anti-hunt movement had to rebuild over this period, from (re)forming sab groups to building huge campaigns online.The Scottish Government could no longer ignore the calls and ordered a review into the legislation in 2015. The review undertaken by Lord Bonomy was to “ascertain whether it (the Act) is providing a sufficient level of protection for wild mammals”. In his review, Lord Bonomy concluded with some proposals to the Scottish Government which, for the most part, was meaningless tinkering with the exception of limiting the number of hounds on a hunt to 2.
After the review, we endured almost 3 years of silence and inaction from theScottish Government before they decided to undertake a public consultation. The Government wished to gather views on Lord Bonomy’s suggested reforms and this took place between 6 October 2017 and 31January 2018. The consultation found that between 94 - 98% of respondents supported implementing Lord Bonomy’s suggestions including limiting hounds to 2.
Yet another year passed and in January 2019 (4 years after Lord Bonomy’s review), the Scottish Government took the review and the public consultation and presented their own proposals to the Scottish Parliament. Mairi Gougeon, the then Minister for Rural Affairs, presented a statement proposing to implement Lord Bonomy’s recommendations including limiting hounds to 2 as well as the consideration of a licensing scheme. This statement was precisely that, a mere statement.
Since then we have had more inaction from the Scottish Government until now. You might be thinking “we’ve been in a pandemic” but we should point out that 14 months passed between Mairi Gougeon’s statement and the start of UK lockdown. Alas, on the 29 Oct 2021 the Scottish Government finally took some action! ... with yet another public consultation.
So here we are two decades since the original Act of 2002, several hundred years of hunting wildlife for sport and the Government is yet again asking foryour opinion, hurray for democracy!
This consultation closes on the 15 Dec 2021 so we’d like to present you with a general guide to the questions:
1. In situations where the use of dogs is permitted, including searching for or flushing a wild mammal to waiting guns, do you think the Scottish Government should limit the number of dogs that can be used to two?
YES - Although we believe abolishing the use of hounds altogether, we cannot provide this answer. Therefore we have to answer Yes.
2. If a two dog limit were to be introduced, should the Scottish Government introduce licensing arrangements to allow the use of more than two dogs in certain circumstances?
NO - We answered No, we do not believe any circumstance exist in which one would need to hunt an animal with hounds. We left no comment on this question.
3. If licensing arrangements to permit more than two dogs in certain circumstances were to be introduced, should there be a limit to the number of dogs that could be used? E.g. no more than four dogs, six dogs etc.
Max. Number: 0 - Due to the framing of this question, we simply answered 0
4. Do you agree that the Scottish Government should ban trail hunting?
YES - Simple answer (see: England & Wales)
5. Other than for the purpose of laying a trail for sport as outlined in question 4, are you aware of any other activities or circumstances which may necessitate the setting of an animal-based or artificial scent for dogs to follow?
NO - We answered No and therefore left no comment.
6. For the purposes of this Bill do you agree with the current definition of wild mammal?
“The 2002 Act defines a wild mammal as including ‘a wild mammal which has escaped, or been released, from captivity, and any mammal which is living wild’.However, rabbits and rodents are excluded from this definition. This means that this Act does not prohibit the use of a dog or dogs to hunt and kill a rabbit/s or rodent/s”
NO - We do not agree with the current definition. We would argue that the category of Wild Mammal should be extended to protect all species including rabbits and rodents.
7. If you answered no to question 6, do you think that:
✅ Rabbits should be included in this definition.
✅ All species of rodent should be included in this definition.
We checked both of the options above to extend protection to all mammals.
8. For the purposes of this Bill, do you agree that a person should be allowed to use dogs to stalk, search and flush wild mammals for the purpose of controlling the number of a ‘pest’ species?
9. For the purposes of this Bill do you agree with this definition of pest species?“The 2002 Act defines “pest species” as foxes, hares, mink, stoats and weasels.”
10. If you answered no to question 9, do you think that:
✅ None of the mammals listed should be included in the definition of pest species
Here we comment that we disagree with the definition of “pest species”. We answered that none of the animals listed should be included in the definition of pest. We suggest that there is no justification for the category of pest and there is no evidence to suggest that hunting with hounds is a valid way to deter pests. We suggest the onus should be on the accuser to prove that a wild mammal can be categorised as a pest and that there is sufficient evidence to prove that hunting the so-called pest is the most effective solution from an ecological standpoint rather than a financial one.
11. Do you think the current legislation provides sufficient protection in order to tackle hare coursing in Scotland?
NO - Here we ask what use is a piece of legislation if officers are not trained in identifying whether the law has been broken let alone being able to physically police it. Tougher fines and tinkering with legislation will have no effect on hare coursing. We suggest our Government take a step back and evaluate the picture of hunting as whole. Question 11 is premised on the understanding that Foxes, like Hares, will continue to be hunted whether they are listed as a protected species or not. Another approach must be considered. A blanket ban on firearms and hounds trained to kill makes much more sense from every perspective including a legislative and policing.The onus should be on landowners to protect their property without indiscriminately slaughtering wildlife. Other options must be exhausted and tried over time before reissuing licenses to kill.
12. If you have any other comments on the proposals we have set out in sections one to four of this consultation or if there are any further measures relating to the hunting of wild mammals with dogs that you think we should consider please provide them here (max 350 words).
In this section we are asked to give our own comments which we suggest you do so in your own words. We firstly re-emphasised that we believe there is no evidence to justify hunting animals with or without hounds. We are concerned that there has been no research, monitoring or consideration into the long-term effects of allowing an elite class of people to indiscriminately hunt wildlife. As with the extinction of wolves, there may be catastrophic affects of which we are not yet aware. We ask why the Scottish Government has not yet, in the two decades of dilly-dallying, invited experts such as ecologists and naturalists to study the effects of hunting on our environment.We ask why the only approach to this question has been an economical one. Additionally we took this opportunity to challenge the consultation itself as it is based on a false-premise of “pest control”.
This next section is beyond the scope of the consultation but may help readers to better understand our point of view. Firstly, let us explore the notion of “pest-control”.
The idea that hunting foxes with hounds is a valid means of pest-control has been inexplicably accepted by the Scottish Government. The reality, seemingly obvious to everyone except our Government, is that hunting is a profitable business which is reliant on controlling fox populations to suit their business model. Fox hunts operate a lot like a sports team; with board-members, an owner, a manager, a team and of course supporters. It is the job of the team (the hunt), led by the manager (the huntsman) to put on as how for their paying customers (support and riders). This is how every fox-hunt operates and it is certainly unlike any other pest-control business.
If a regular member of the public has an issue with foxes in their neighbourhood, would they be able to call the local hunt and have them tear through our streets with horse and hounds? We can all agree how ridiculous that sounds, not least for how dangerous it would be. One might argue the countryside doesn't present the same dangers, that it’s not as heavily populated etc. But what this argument negates is that the countryside is home to many species of flora and fauna which, over the course of a few centuries, have been decimated to make way for hunting. The reality is, when regular people encounter an issue with a wild animal, we tend to simply learn to live alongside it and find ways mitigate any danger they cause.
Yet, in some rural areas, the ruling class have come to the conclusion that the best form of “pest control” is to dress up like it’s 1690, ride around on horseback, accompanied by a pack of dogs, and tear through the countryside hoping to slaughter wildlife. Clearly the situation today has nothing to do with pest-control but where does this notion actually come from? In order for us to properly understand this situation, we must do something which our Government has failed to do over the last two decades and that is to take a look at the root of problem.
For those who wish to understand where it all came from:
Roughly 50,000 years ago before the formation of the seas that separateBritain from the continent, right up until the 18th century, wolves were part of the natural wild fauna of what is now called Scotland. Scotland’s landscape used to be covered in dense woodlands, interspersed with bogs, heaths and sparse, savanna-like terrain with bears, lynx and wolves populating the land.
In cultures that continued to practice a hunter-gatherer way of life right up until recently, the wolf was respected as a fellow-hunter and revered as a creature of powerful magic and spiritual properties. For the longest time imaginable, nature has always flourished on this island. Indeed humans and nature have alway coexisted here, but in the last few centuries something changed.
Historians note that there “was a change of attitude” around the 13th Century, when wolves suddenly became a “nuisance”. In large part this was down to the fact that wolves started to become a threat to livestock and in some cases, humans. The reason wolves suddenly became a threat, after many centuries of co-existing with humans, is that its habitat was getting increasingly smaller and its prey increasingly rare. This is the point where we start to see wildlife being referred to as “pests”.
King James the 1st of Scotland passed the first Act for the destruction of wolves in the 15th Century. The wolf hunts were to be conducted three times a year, between April 25th and August 1st for, as the Act states, “that is the time of their quhelpes” (whelps or puppies). Incidentally this not too dissimilar to the manner of fox-hunting we still see today. Further Acts ordering the destruction of wolves were passed in 1457, 1527 and 1577.Hunting simply to kill quickly became a trend for the ruling classes. In the mid 15th century Lady Margaret Lyon is said to have purged Mount Caplach of wolves. The Earl of Athol in 1528 organised a hunt for James V killing wolves, foxes and wildcats. A later Earl of Athol in 1563 provided a hunt forMary, Queen of Scots, killing 5 wolves and numerous deer.
Wolves were all but driven to extinction by the 17th Century with a combination of this incessant hunting and large scale felling and burning of native woodland. The effects of this can still be seen today in Scotland’s barren landscape. Without a natural predator, the deer population rose exponentially and stripped the land of its vegetation. Similarly the red fox population increased with the absence of wolves and just like the wolf, the fox was soon branded a “pest” for the same reasons, by the same people.
It is important to understand that under a Monarchy land is treated as a mere economic resource from which wealth is to be extracted. This wealth in turn, then pays for the expansion of the empire and the defence of its borders.When King James I of Scotland ordered all Lairds (landlords) to hunt wolves he done so to protect his own wealth, that of his lairds and ultimately his own position. When he ordered the forests to be felled, leaving wolves with nowhere to go and nothing to eat, is it any wonder they started to become a threat to livestock? Does any reasonable person honestly believe that the wolf is the “pest” in this story?
Hunting for sport intensified after the battle of Culloden, a land once teaming with wildlife and humans living side by side, was to have the final nail its coffin with what is commonly referred to as the ‘Highland Clearances’. As if the Scottish Monarchy weren't dreadful enough, the British turned this land into a vast playground for the ruling classes and very little has changed since then. In fact, Scotland’s land is still owned by the ancestors of the people who helped create the desert we refer to as our countryside. The Duke of Buccleuch, for example, inherited 277,000 acres of land because he is the10th descendant of the illegitimate child of King Charles II, that's inheritance from the 1660s. You will not be surprised to learn that the Duke operates a fox-hunt on this land. What forests we have left are, for the most part, mere imitations of wilderness manipulated for shooting and hunting. For the privileged few, you can even pay to execute a deer safe in the knowledge that your kill goes towards “managing the deer population” and of course, lining the pockets of the very people who created this situation.
What we know then, is that wolves and foxes have been hunted for the same trivial reasons and only by a very specific class of people. It was under the institution of Monarchy that this form of so-called “hunting” began and it was not us, the people, who took up hunting in this manner. It was and always has been a minority of land owners who value private property above all else.
What then, can we say about today’s situation? Clearly the ScottishGovernment, like the British Government, still holds the same values as theMonarchs that preceded them. If the Scottish Government is to accept the premise that a wild-mammal can be labelled a “pest”, simply for trying to adapt to the encroaching human civilisation, then what does that say about their priorities? Well we would point out that they are no different from that ofKing James I and his successors. In that, up until this point, the ScottishGovernment has prioritised retaining their position in power and ensuring the continued wealth of their landlords over the preservation and restoration of the natural world.
"Chi mi Sgorr-eild 'air bruaich a 'ghlinn
An goir a’ chuthag gu-binn an dos.
‘Us gorm mheall-aild’ nam mile guibhas Nan lub, nan earba, 's nan lon."
"I see the ridge of hinds, the steep of the sloping glen The wood of cuckoos at its foot,
The blue height of a thousand pines,
Of wolves, and roes, and elks."
ancient Gaelic lay, author unknown
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