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Animal welfare groups warn of loopholes in fox hunting legislation

The Bill is designed to close fox hunting loopholes (Martin Keene/PA)
The Bill is designed to close fox hunting loopholes (Martin Keene/PA)

Animal welfare groups have welcomed new legislation which tightens rules on fox hunting in Scotland but warned it may introduce a loophole which could allow the practice to continue.

The proposed Hunting with Dogs (Scotland) Bill aims to close existing loopholes on the use of dogs for hunting.

The law would limit the number of dogs allowed to be used to flush animals for them to be shot to two whereas an unlimited number can currently be used.

A number of animal welfare groups spoke to Holyrood’s Rural Affairs Committee on Wednesday during its scrutiny of the Bill.

Robbie Marsland, Scotland director of the League Against Cruel Sports, said the new law would redress failures of fox hunting legislation introduced 20 years ago.

He said: “It’s just too easy to get around the existing law. This Bill will close loopholes in the existing legislation.

“My worry is that there may be some new loopholes introduced in this legislation.”

He said there were groups of people who were determined to use packs of hounds to kill, voicing concerns around a proposed licensing system which would allow more than two dogs.

Kirsty Jenkins, policy officer at OneKind, said her organisation welcomed the Bill, adding: “We do have some concerns around some of the exceptions and the licensing scheme.

Boxing Day hunts
The legislation would introduce a licensing system (Danny Lawson/PA)

“We would also like to question the assumptions behind those exceptions, which is that foxes need to be killed routinely and dogs need to be used.”

Jim Fairlie, SNP MSP for Perthshire South and Kinross-shire, asked Ms Jenkins about the circumstances under which foxes could be killed.

He said: “I have had 30 years in sheep farming, I can assure you every year foxes will kill lambs.”

Ms Jenkins said she agreed there was a need for animal control but she said the evidence for lamb losses caused by foxes is a “small number overall”.