On Tuesday October 3rd 2023, the new Hunting with Dogs (Scotland) Act became law. This replaces the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002 and closes the loopholes which have allowed hunts to continue to brutally kill wildlife. It should – finally – see the end of hunting with dogs in Scotland.
As well as stopping Scotland’s twelve fox hunts, the Act should bring to an end the illegal ‘hunting holidays’ regularly enjoyed by several English beagle packs. Many of these groups – which hunt hares on foot – like to take their hounds to the Scottish Borders around this time of year. The vast, open country and larger hares are seen as a good ‘test’ for the hounds as they are prepared for the season ahead. The fact that these are some of the most sparsely populated parts of the country can only be another appeal for the criminal hare hunters.
For example, the HSA is aware that the fanatical Downland Beagles visit the Jedforest Foxhounds in late September or early October for a week to ten days of hare hunting. In September, the Stoke Hill & North Dartmoor travel hundreds of miles to hunt hares across a large area south of Hawth. Gloucester’s Royal Agricultural College Beagles frequently visit Scotland, often to hunt the private family estates owned by their privileged students. The Chilmark & Clifton Foot Beagles do a week in the Borders, usually linking this to their attendance at the nearby hunting events known as Alston Hare Week and the Northumberland Beagling Festival.
The HSA’s Intelligence Officer commented,
“This is a busy time for beagle packs as they get their hounds fit and ready for a season of illegal hare hunting. While we hope that the new law will at least curtail their visits to Scotland, we know that some packs continue to visit remote areas of Northumberland. Any information on hare hunters travelling to Northumberland or Cumbria would therefore be appreciated – perhaps you have heard about a hunt meet at a remote farm, a gathering at a pub, or even a hotel they are staying in? All information will be treated in the strictest confidence and used with caution. Please contact the HSA tipoff line on 07443 148 426 – thank you.”