I write to address concerns about the issue of fox hunting and the implications which the
proposed new legislation by the Scottish Government might have on rural communities.
The welfare of animals in Scotland, whether domestic, farmed or wild, is one of the Scottish
Government’s highest priorities. In keeping with this, the Scottish Government will be taking
forward legislation to close potential loopholes which might currently allow for practices which
put wild mammals including foxes at risk of undue cruelty and harm.The government will in fact be taking forward many of the recommendations from Lord Bonomy’s report, in-order to strengthen and clarify the protections which presently exist for the welfare of our wild animals.
I confirm that the associated bill will take forward the clear majority of Lord Bonomy’s recommendations, but it will also seek to limit the number of hounds which can be deployed against wild animals to two. This is already the case in England and Wales and is a measurewhich is designed to limit the potential risks of unnecessary cruelty being inflicted on wildmammals, and to combat against the establishment of ‘trail hunting’ activities which could go awry, causing unwarranted harm on the natural environment.
The Scottish Government will of course consult on the draft bill in due course, where the shape of what a potential licencing scheme might look like will become clearer based on reasoned debate and consultation. We are at a very early stage with this, and it isn’t yet set in stone what the licencing scheme will or will not entail, but it is acknowledged that there are specific pest
control issues which need to be considered particularly (but not exclusively) in relation to upland areas of Scotland. I would like to emphasise that taking this legislation forward is about closing existing loopholes,
not about creating new ones.
The Scottish Government understands the legitimate need for pest control in Scotland’s rural communities, including in Southern parts of Scotland like the Scottish borders. I have spoken to a number of farmers across south Scotland who find shooting foxes to be the most humane and efficient method of pest control.