Animal welfare - Scottish Government activity: Scottish Animal Welfare Commission review

Review of Scottish Government activity affecting the welfare of animals, as sentient beings, by the Scottish Animal Welfare Commission (SAWC).

2. Scottish legislation

The Scottish Government issued the 2022-2023 Programme in September 2022, setting out commitments for the coming parliamentary year. The Programme placed a good deal of emphasis on global and environmental issues, including economic pressures on government and individuals, the climate emergency and the war in Ukraine. There was no specific new proposal for animal welfare legislation but there were relevant commitments in other areas, such as food policy and aquaculture. Work also progressed during the year on animal welfare legislation commitments from the 2021-2022 Programme.

Hunting with dogs

The Hunting with Dogs (Scotland) Bill, implementing the majority of the recommendations of the independent report on the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002, and introducing further measures, such as prohibiting trail hunting, was introduced in February 2022 and passed in January 2023.

The Act provides that it is an offence to chase and/or kill a wild mammal using a dog. It also introduces new measures to:

  • Limit to two the number of dogs that can be used to search for, stalk or flush mammals from cover above ground;
  • Introduce a licensing scheme for the use of more than two dogs to search for, stalk or flush wild mammals above ground, in certain limited circumstances;
  • Limit to one the number of dogs that can be used to search for or flush foxes or mink from cover below ground;
  • Prohibit the activity known as trail hunting (the activity of directing a dog to find and follow an animal-based scent).

SAWC provided written and oral evidence to the Rural Affairs, Islands and Natural Environment (RAINE) Committee in support of the Bill. The Act gained Royal Assent in March 2023 and will come into force later in Autumn 2023.

Wildlife Management and Muirburn

The 2021-2022 Programme contained a commitment to “deliver the recommendations of the Grouse Moor Management Review Group as a matter of urgency, including the licensing of grouse moors” and this was crystallised in the 2022-2023 Programme with the announcement of a Wildlife Management (Grouse) Bill. The Bill – renamed the Wildlife Management and Muirburn (Scotland) Bill – was introduced on 21 March 2023 and at the time of writing had completed most of Stage 1 in the Rural Affairs and Islands Committee.

The main provisions of the Bill cover new licensing regimes for land used for the killing and taking of red grouse and for muirburn on any land. It also introduces measures to prohibit the use of glue traps, to regulate wildlife traps used for taking wild birds and mammals through a licensing scheme, and includes enabling powers to allow Scottish Ministers to extend the role of inspectors appointed under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 to investigate certain wildlife offences.

SAWC has supported the Bill and provided written and oral evidence regarding the animal suffering caused by wildlife traps as well as by the use of snares. On 22 August 2023 the Scottish Government launched a public consultation on a proposal to bring forward amendments at Stage 2 of the Bill to ban the use of snares in Scotland, citing among other things, the advice given by SAWC to the wider review of snaring. The consultation also asked for views on limited extensions to the power of the Scottish SPCA to investigate wildlife crimes. The SAWC welcomes both of these proposals.

Spring Traps Approval (Scotland) Amendment Order 2023

The purpose of this Order is to amend the list of approved traps and the species which they are approved to take under the Spring Traps Approval (Scotland) Order 2011, as amended by The Spring Traps Approval (Scotland) Amendment Order 2018, and The Spring Traps Approval (Scotland) Amendment Order 2020.

The Order will provide an additional type of spring trap for stoat, which complies with the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards (AIHTS), and to add several other new spring traps for non-AIHTS species. The Order is expected to come into effect on 1 January 2024.

The Order adds the following traps to the 2011 Order:

  • Quill Trap for stoats, weasels, and rats
  • Aurotrap for rats
  • Smart Pipe Long Life 300
  • Smart Catch for rats and mice
  • Smart Catch Mini for rats

The Order also amends the name of one of the trap suppliers and removes the listing of edible dormouse (Glis glis) from most of the currently approved traps.

SAWC expects that a ban on snares, if approved by the Parliament under the Wildlife Management and Muirburn (Scotland) Bill, would be followed by removal of the WCS Collarum snare from the 2011 Order. SAWC has previously queried its inclusion in the 2011 Order as anomalous.

Deer management

The Deer Management Working Group was established in 2017, following reports by NatureScot in 2016 and the Scottish Parliament's Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform (ECCLR) Committee in 2017. Its report, published in January 2020, made 99 recommendations for changes to deer management arrangements, most of which were accepted, including phasing out the use of lead ammunition to cull deer, modernising existing deer legislation, developing robust deer management plans and enhanced monitoring of deer numbers.

In 2021, the Scottish Government established a Deer Management Strategic Board that comprises senior officials from NatureScot, Forestry and Land Scotland, Scottish Forestry, CNPA and LLTNPA, and Scottish Government. The Board is established as a project under the Scottish Biodiversity Programme Board to encompass legislative and non-legislative components of ensuring effective deer management. This is intended to ensure an appropriate level of governance, while bringing deer management into consideration alongside biodiversity as the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy progresses.

In the 2021-2022 Programme, the Scottish Government progressed the Deer Management Working Group recommendations with proposals for introducing a new cull return system, to ensure proportionate deer management plans, modernising legislation, including deer close seasons and use of specialist equipment when managing deer, and designing future agricultural support schemes to encourage a reduction in grazing pressure in the uplands.

Two statutory instruments were laid at the end of June 2023, following limited stakeholder consultation. The Deer (Firearms etc.) (Scotland) Amendment Order 2023 derestricts the use of night sights when shooting deer and reduces the minimum weight of ammunition for shooting deer from 100 g. to 80 g., in order to make non-lead ammunition more accessible.

The Deer (Close Seasons) Amendment Order 2023 removes the close seasons for male deer, while retaining the existing close seasons for females. The policy note for this instrument cites the SAWC view that “Providing the normal requirements for high standards of public safety and animal welfare are adhered to – for example in terms of accurate shooting, following up on wounded deer and avoidance of harassment or excessive movement of stags after the rut – we agree that there is no need for a close season for males.”

It should be noted that, in its comments on the Deer Management Working Group report, SAWC also stressed the importance of proposed legislation, including measures to protect the welfare of deer when they are subject to management measures.

If approved, the close seasons Order will come into force in October 2023, although it had not completed parliamentary process at the time of preparing this report, and the firearms Order in November.

Welfare of Dogs (Scotland) Bill

The Welfare of Dogs (Scotland) Bill was introduced in June 2023. This Member’s Bill, lodged by Christine Grahame MSP, will require the Scottish Government to issue a statutory Code of Practice for buyers of puppies and give powers to introduce registration of all puppies born. The Scottish Government has supported the principles of the Bill and stated that it will suggest amendments. SAWC also supports the Bill subject to relevant amendments.

Licensing of activities involving animals

A consultation on legislation, to extend the framework for licensing of activities involving animals, was launched on 4 July 2023 to cover dog walking, dog grooming, canine fertility clinics, greyhound racing, animal boarding and equine establishments.

Further consultation on performing animals and other “animal experiences” is expected in 2024/25.



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