Down the loop-hole: Why Scotland's proposed bill fails to fully ban fox hunting

Scotland's new legislation on limiting fox hunting is discussed to evaluate why it fails to fully ban the practice.

Scarlett Welch
17th March 2022
A Fox at the British Wildlife Centre (Image Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Although Scotland banned fox hunting in 2002, loopholes in the current law have allowed the practice to continue. Now the Scottish government is proposing further legislation, but will it truly make a change to hunting practices?

The proposed bill would limit hunts to only two dogs rather than a pack of dogs - unless you have a license. This would, in theory, prevent large hunts from happening. 

Currently, over 800 foxes a year are killed in Scotland in ten yearly organised hunts. The 2002 bill has evidently done little to prevent needless deaths. Ministers claim that this new proposed bill would close loopholes and stop these hunts from happening. 

Over 800 foxes a year are killed in Scotland. The 2002 bill has evidently done little to prevent needless deaths.

This bill would also ban trail hunting. The practice of trail hunting uses an artificial scent and therefore no foxes are injured or killed, so this is at present not prohibited in the UK. However, the National Trust banned trail hunting on their land last year after they found that people were using the guise of trail hunting to secretly hold illegal fox hunts. It could therefore be very beneficial to ban this practice as well. 

In principal, it seems that this bill will ban large-scale fox hunts and make the current legislation a lot clearer and easier to enforce. But according to the Scottish Greens, this bill would not be enough to eradicate fox hunting in Scotland. They are concerned that whilst this bill may close one loophole, it opens another.

As previously mentioned, using larger packs of dogs to flush out foxes will still be allowed with a license. In these cases, permission has to be granted from land owners and dogs have to be kept under control, but effectively the practice would still be permitted. The reasoning behind this from the Scottish government is that foxes can cause harm to livestock and other wildlife. They therefore believe that it is necessary to allow farmers and landowners to have the option to ‘control’ fox populations if necessary. Gamekeepers seem to believe such controlling measures would be ineffective, however, and that disasters would ensue for wildlife and farm stock.

The Scottish Greens are concerned that whilst this bill may close one loophole, it opens another

But is it right for us to have the option to ‘control’ the population of another species? Whilst foxes may cause inconveniences to humans, that does not give us the right to kill them. Particularly when the use of dogs would still be permitted in the hunting of foxes, it still seems far more like a sport than a strictly necessary measure.

It seems as though we are no closer to a full ban on hunting in Scotland, or in the UK as a whole. Current loopholes allow the ‘sport’ to thrive and it does not appear that this proposed bill will really change that. In this day and age, we have to ask ourselves why we are still allowing this cruel practice to continue. It is inhumane and completely pointless, so why is it still allowed?

Whilst this bill may further limit fox hunting in Scotland, it is clear that much tighter legislation is needed across the UK to put an end to this terrible practice.

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