If you asked most people if fox hunting was banned in Scotland, they’d say yes it is. A piece of legislation was passed sixteen years ago by the Scottish Parliament called The Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002. Most MSPs and members of the public thought this would mark an end to the barbaric practice of fox hunting in Scotland. We were first with the smoking ban and also this. Scotland was paving the way for progressive legislation in the UK! Or was it..?
Well, the trouble is that the Act has so many loopholes in it, that it’s simply not fit for purpose. Trail hunting is allowed (where horses and hounds are supposed to follow a scent trail only.) This is completely stupid, as trails of fox urine are laid (how do they even collect that?) and the hunts take place in areas where there are foxes running around. You can’t blame the hounds for following a trail of fox scent only to eventually find a real fox. It’s all a complete con. There’s an alternative to trail hunting called drag hunting, where non-animal scent is used in areas where there are no foxes. Doing drag hunting would lead to far fewer ‘accidental’ fox killings, but it seems the hunts are more than happy for these ‘accidents’ to happen pretty regularly.
Another type of hunting that’s allowed in Scotland is called ‘flushing to guns.’ This means that hounds are allowed to flush out a fox from cover, so the huntsmen can shoot the fox ‘humanely’. Give me a break. If Scotland likes to think of itself as so progressive, the government may have trouble explaining why only two dogs are allowed for this type of hunting in England and Wales, but a whole pack are allowed under Scottish law.
There were ten hunts in Scotland, mainly in the Borders, when the Act came into force. Today there are, erm, ten. So essentially it seems that the hunts are doing as they please and getting away with breaking the law on a weekly basis. The reason so much is known about the illegal activities of hunts in Scotland and elsewhere is because of the quite fearless Hunt Saboteurs. The hunt sabs are absolute heroes in my eyes. They literally (and I mean literally) risk life and limb to expose illegal hunts, document what they find on film and stop foxes from being killed.
Hunt sabs are regularly verbally and physically abused by those participating in illegal hunts, many of whom are members of the establishment who presumably feel they should be above the law. I could go on and on about how wonderful the sabs are, but I’ll let you read more about their relentless bravery on their website. They save hounds who have got themselves into accidents though running across roads or getting caught in fences when the hunt doesn’t care. They trek miles on foot across uneven fields for hours on end to protect the lives of the foxes. They endure abuse from the hunts and apathy from the police at every turn and still go back for more.
And so, it was on Saturday 24th March that over five hundred people, including me, took part in a protest march in Edinburgh. We marched from St. Giles cathedral, down the Royal Mile, to the Scottish Parliament building. There were people dressed as foxes, people blowing hunting horns and everyone was there to spread the message that the hunt should be banned. An overwhelming majority – 80% of our fellow Scots – want to see an end to fox hunting in Scotland. There were representatives from Scottish Labour, the Scottish Greens and the SNP. Also speaking were IFAW, The League Against Cruel Sports and the main organiser, One Kind – an Edinburgh based charity that opposes animal cruelty.
We will get this done. It’s only a matter of time.