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Green MSP plans to consult on tougher fox-hunting ban

Alison Johnstone believes the current ban has ‘failed’.

A hunt in the Borders, pre-ban (Owen Humphreys/PA)
A hunt in the Borders, pre-ban (Owen Humphreys/PA)

A Green MSP has plans to launch a consultation on a strengthened ban on fox hunting as annual Boxing Day hunts take place.

Alison Johnstone believes the events are cruel and claims the current ban on hunting the animals in Scotland has “failed”.

She will launch a consultation on plans to bring in a tougher ban in the new year.

Fox hunting with dogs was banned in Scotland through the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act in 2002, with an exemption for using dogs to flush out foxes for pest control or protecting livestock or ground-nesting birds.

Mounted hunts in Scotland have since offered farmers, landowners and estate managers a pest control service but a review by Lord Bonomy published in 2016 found there were “grounds to suspect” fox hunting takes place illegally and he recommended having independent monitors to police hunts.

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Green MSP Alison Johnstone plans to consult on updated legislation to ban fox hunting (Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament/PA)

The Scottish Government published the results to its public consultation on the recommendations in his review in June.

Ms Johnstone observed a hunt in the Borders with investigators from the animal charity the League Against Cruel Sports.

She said: “Last month I watched in horror as a fox was chased by hunting dogs through the open countryside.

“Today the Boxing day hunts will go out much like they always have.

“There is no doubt in my mind that the so-called ban has failed and urgent action is needed to close the loopholes that allow foxes to be chased and even killed by hunts.”

She urged cross-party co-operation to bring in an updated ban, adding: “Recently I have been taking advice from parliament officials and I will publish a consultation on my proposal in the new year.”

Labour also backs strengthened legislation to deliver an outright ban and end current loopholes.

The party’s MSP Colin Smyth said: “Action from the SNP is long overdue.

“They need to make this Boxing Day the last tally-ho for fox hunting by delivering a proper ban.”

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Anti fox-hunting march in Edinburgh organised by animal charities including the League Against Cruel Sports (Jane Barlow/PA)

League Against Cruel Sports Scotland director Robbie Marsland said the current law on fox hunting is “weak and ineffective”.

He said: “In our view the Scottish Government has no option but to let common sense prevail and make significant changes to the law to make it fit for purpose and really ban fox hunting in Scotland.

“Under the current law, hunts are continuing to go out two or three times a week over the hunting season and continuing with the charade of the traditional Boxing Day meet.

“During this time they are hunting in a way which is almost identical to pre-ban hunting making the law a complete waste of time.”

A Scottish Government spokesman added: “We are absolutely committed to protecting the welfare standards of all animals and we will be updating parliament on our response in the early new year.”

PA

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