The recent passing of the Hunting with Dogs Scotland Bill has been a huge victory for wildlife and a long awaited improvement on the deeply flawed Protection of Wild Mammals Scotland Act that was introduced in 2002. Although the new BiIl is far from perfect it is still a significant step forward and the cracks within the hunting community are already starting to show.
The new Bill has banned the use of more than 2 dogs for hunting wild mammals, including foxes, mink, hares and rabbits. However, it states that a licence can be applied for in exceptional circumstances enabling hunts to be able to go out with more than two hounds. A hunt can only obtain a licence when every avenue has been exhausted including humane control measures and they will be restricted to just one piece of land. Also, hunts can forget about terrorising wildlife multiple times a week for months on end. If they do secure a licence, they can only be out for 14 days over a 6 month period and will be closely monitored.
After just one week of the Bill being passed we have begun to see casualties. The Fife Foxhounds, a pack with over 200 years of murderous history behind them have confirmed that they will be folding by the end of the season due to ‘financial constraints’. The Bill will certainly be a catalyst for that decision. Due to a limit on land that hunts can now use, there becomes no need for their field of riders who would previously gallop behind the huntsman for miles on end. This slashes the revenue brought in by subscriptions which provides a financial backbone for every hunt. Put simply, no riders means no money.
The Fife Foxhounds shutting down will bring smiles to many hunt saboteurs who spent years exposing the barbaric practices of the hunt. Sabs were often met with aggression from the hunt who regularly lashed out at them and even on one occasion pointed a shotgun at an activist who was successfully stopping a dig out. Sabs also found themselves subjected to online smear campaigns, often finding pictures of themselves, their vehicles and personal information being shared across a large number of pro-hunt pages with lots of unnerving and worrying comments.
Despite the passing of the Bill, our work is far from over. As ever, hunt sabs will be on the front line, disrupting hunts and advocating for the rights of wildlife. Now, with this new law in place, we can focus on supporting the enforcement of this ban and raising awareness about the importance of protecting wildlife from cruel and inhumane practices. We will continue to effectively sabotage hunts that try to exploit any potential loopholes.
Currently, there are just 9 hunts left in Scotland and all are facing an uncertain future. Myles O’Connor of The Buccleuch Hunt will find himself in court on the 14th of February for illegal hunting. The Bill is casting a dark cloud over the others as we approach the end of the current season. By the time the new season begins in September under the new Bill, we wonder how many hunts will still be around?