Improving the protection of wild mammals: consultation analysis

Report analysing responses to the 2017 to 2018 Improving the protection of wild mammals consultation.

12. Other comments (Q7)

12.1 The final question in the consultation invited respondents to provide any other relevant comments.

Question 7: Please use this space to provide us with any other comments you wish to submit on the use of dogs to stalk, flush or search for wild mammals.

12.2 A total of 23 organisations and 233 individuals provided additional comments at Question 7. In addition, four out of five of the campaigns (involving 16,438 respondents) included statements in their standard responses which have been analysed together with other views expressed at Question 7.

12.3 There were three main views expressed: (i) that the management / control of foxes was necessary, and legislation should continue to enable this; (ii) that although the control of foxes may be necessary, the law should be strengthened to ensure the chasing and killing of foxes by dogs did not occur; and (iii) that there should be a complete ban on fox hunting. Within these broad themes, respondents made a number of points, and these are briefly summarised below. Note that some respondents reiterated comments made previously in response to other questions (for example, calls for introducing an offence of 'intentional or reckless hunting'; requiring a sufficient number of guns to be available during flushing activities; making it illegal to put terriers or other dogs underground to force a wild animal to the surface; etc.) and such views are not repeated here.

12.4 Other more general issues for consideration – raised by a small number of respondents – are discussed at the end of this chapter.

Management / control of foxes is necessary

12.5 Respondents arguing in support of the management and control of foxes generally highlighted the importance of this activity for farming and conservation. Some in this group said they were directly involved in providing a pest control service, and these individuals highlighted the important role played by dogs in helping them do their work efficiently and effectively.

12.6 These respondents frequently reiterated Lord Bonomy's conclusions (paragraph 7.26 of the review report) that (i) 'the use of packs of hounds to flush out foxes to be shot remains a significant pest control measure'; (ii) 'searching and flushing by two dogs would not be as effective as that done by a full pack of hounds' and (iii) 'imposing such a restriction could seriously compromise effective pest control in the country'.

12.7 Respondents in this group generally thought that the current legislation was working well and did not need further clarification. Some within this group expressed the opinion that review of the 2002 Act was 'a waste of public money' and an attempt at 'ideological oppression' of practitioners of fox control and argued that the efforts of government should be directed to areas of genuine need.

Views supporting a strengthening of the law

12.8 The second main view expressed in the comments at Question 7 was that, while the recommendations of the review would result in some improvements to the 2002 Act, these changes do not go far enough. These respondents welcomed the changes that had already begun to take place ( i.e. drafting of a code of conduct for hunts; appointment of independent hunt monitors; etc.). However, they noted that the 2002 Act was intended by Parliament to put an end to hunting with dogs, and it had not delivered this aim.

12.9 While respondents in this group often said they would prefer a 'real ban' on hunting with dogs, they also made a variety of suggestions for compromise which would fall short of a complete ban. The most common suggestions, made by organisations, individuals and campaign respondents, were:

  • To amend the legislation to make mounted fox hunting with dogs illegal (this suggestion was often phrased as 'remove the 'flush to guns' exemption that mounted hunts use to continue hunting')
  • To introduce a limit of two on the number of dogs that can be used to 'flush to guns', thus bringing Scottish legislation in line with that in England and Wales and reducing the risk of a fox being killed by dogs
  • To introduce a licensing scheme for all forms of hunting
  • To require pest control services to be carried out only by registered, regulated and trained professionals.

12.10 Respondents making such suggestions often also argued that public opinion was opposed to fox hunting.

Views calling for a ban on fox hunting

12.11 Finally, the third main view expressed in the comments at Question 7 was that the current legislation should ensure a complete ban on fox hunting. These respondents expressed disappointment that the review of the 2002 Act appeared to suggest only minor amendments to the current legislation. This group called for the chasing of a wild animal on horseback with a pack of dogs to be illegal in all circumstances.

12.12 Other points made by this group included that: (i) there is no place in a civilised country for blood sports; (ii) there is little justification for regarding foxes as pests; and (iii) legislation should treat wild mammals as 'sentient' beings.

12.13 Occasionally, respondents within this group recognised the importance of controlling the numbers of certain animals for conservation / farming purposes but believed hunting should be carried out only where it has been proven necessary to combat damage to livestock or land. There was a suggestion that, in this case, records of livestock damage and local fox populations should be routinely kept and monitored (and made public) as evidence of this.

Other issues for consideration

12.14 One organisational respondent commented that a constant theme throughout Lord Bonomy's review of the 2002 Act was that there is uncertainty about whether and when exactly an offence is committed under the 2002 Act. This is compounded by difficulties in being able to obtain sufficient corroborated, reliable and admissible evidence that a crime has been committed, given the remoteness of the location of such offences and the type of evidence that may be required. This respondent agreed with Lord Bonomy's view that uncertainty in the legislation is not desirable. Furthermore, although opportunities for clarification through judicial case decisions may arise if there are problems in interpreting specific aspects of the 2002 Act, this is not the best approach to adopt, since any interpretation would be case-specific and would not help in relation to the future consideration of other (future) cases.

12.15 The following additional issues were generally raised by a relatively small number of respondents (in some cases, just one or two):

  • Some form of redress for distress and damage caused by packs of hounds running out of control should be provided.
  • The use of bagged foxes ( i.e. a fox trapped and brought to an area purely for hunting) and the rearing or feeding of cubs or foxes for hunting purposes should be banned.
  • The activity of 'coursing' (releasing and chasing an animal) should be defined and treated separately to hunting.

12.16 Some respondents also raised wider animal welfare issues. For example, it was pointed out that hunting dogs are not currently covered by the same public health requirements that cover other working dogs and that they can be fed 'fallen stock' which can lead to the spread of disease. It was also noted that the hunt season overlaps with the breeding season for foxes, meaning that pregnant foxes might be killed, or that cubs might be left orphaned.


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