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Scottish hunts to continue - thanks to loophole


HUNTS in Scotland are to shoot foxes after the chase in an attempt to exploit a loophole in the ban imposed by the Scottish Parliament. The plan was discussed last week by masters of Scotland’s 10 hunts which are determined to keep the tradition alive and to prevent up to 800 pedigree foxhounds having to be shot through ‘redundancy’ now that the sport has been banned.

Under their plan, riders will continue to pursue foxes with a pack of hounds but instead of the dogs killing the fox they will drive it towards a line of guns.

Jeremy Whaley, the master of the Berwickshire Hunt, said that the new method of hunting would be more cruel as more foxes would escape wounded than be killed outright. However, he said, the Scottish Parliament’s decision last month to ban hunting left little choice.

“Apparently we have now got to shoot at foxes at the same time as we are hunting them, which is clearly more cruel,” said Mr Whaley, a farrier. “If that is the way that the Scottish Parliament says things must be, it is not for us to complain.”

Trevor James, the joint master and huntsman of the Duke of Buccleuch’s Hunt, said he was prepared to be prosecuted over the new arrangement, believing that in a test case the courts would support the hunt.

“The hounds are my main priority and I intend to exploit any loophole to give them a future,” said Mr James.

The Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Bill was passed to prevent hunting with dogs, on the disputed grounds that being killed by dogs is more cruel than being shot, and that fox-hunting is a sport rather than pest control.

An estimated 540 foxes are killed in Scotland each year by hunts while 18,000 are shot by farmers. Supporters of the bill inserted an exemption to allow foxes to continue to be killed for pest control by being driven towards a line of shooters by packs of dogs pursued by huntsmen.

This practice is used in certain mountainous areas of Scotland where the huntsman normally go on foot.

Amendments

Libby Anderson, of the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said the hunts’ plan would be opposed because chasing the fox was bad for it and stray shots could endanger dogs and riders.

“If there was a loophole that allowed this to happen I think it would be closed by the Parliament quickly,” she said.

However, the Scottish Parliament failed to close the loophole during their marathon discussion of the Bill last month, allowing scores of amendments to go through “on the nod”, making the bill self-contradictory in parts.

The Scottish Countryside Alliance is currently planning legal action against the Bill, and also against the Scottish Parliament for voting down two amendments which would have allowed compensation to be paid to any hunt workers who made redundant as a result of the ban.