Improving the protection of wild mammals: consultation analysis

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

1. Introduction

1.1 Between 6 October 2017 and 31 January 2018, the Scottish Government carried out a public consultation on proposed reforms to the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002. This report presents findings from an analysis of the written responses to the consultation.

Policy background

1.2 The Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002 (the Act) primarily concerns the use of dogs to hunt wild mammals. The main purpose of the 2002 Act is to ban the deployment of dogs to chase and kill wild mammals such as foxes, hares, mink, etc. (Rabbits and rodents are excluded from the definition of 'wild mammals' for the purposes of the Act.) However, the Act also provides a number of exceptions which allow the limited use of dogs for certain situations – specifically:

  • Pest control for specific purposes so long as target animals are shot (or killed by a bird of prey) as soon as possible once the target animal has been flushed from cover (section 2)
  • Sport ( i.e. falconry and shooting) (section 3)
  • Searching by an authorised person with no intention of harming a wild animal (section 4)
  • The retrieval and location of shot hares and escaped, released, seriously injured or orphaned mammals (section 5).

1.3 Thus the legislation does not entirely ban hunting with dogs, but places significant restrictions on doing so. [1]

1.4 However, ongoing concerns about the effectiveness of the legislation, and about the use of packs of dogs for flushing foxes, led the Scottish Government to appoint the Right Honourable Lord Bonomy to undertake a review of the operation of the legislation. The review was announced on Boxing Day 2015, and the review report was published in November 2016. [2]

1.5 The review concluded, first, that 'there are aspects and features of the legislation which complicate unduly the detection, investigation and prosecution of alleged offences' under the Act; and, second, that there are reasons to believe 'there may be occasions when hunting, which does not fall within one of the exceptions, does take place and that the grounds for that suspicion should be addressed'. [3]

1.6 The review contained several recommendations, namely that:

  • The language of the Act should be improved and certain inconsistencies in language should be removed (including specific changes recommended to the wording of section 1 of the Act)
  • Consideration should be given to appointing a part-time independent monitor to observe, on a random basis, the activities of hunts using packs of hounds
  • The existing Scottish Mounted Foxhound Packs Fox Control Protocol should be used as the starting point to develop a separate code of practice for the conduct of hunt activities
  • Consideration should be given to introducing the concept of 'vicarious liability' into the legislation – this would allow for the prosecution of landowners who have permitted a hunt to take place on their land if someone involved in that hunt commits an offence
  • The burden of proof for establishing that hunting activities constitute one of the exceptions should lay with the person accused of an offence
  • The time limit for bringing prosecutions under the Act should be extended.

1.7 Following publication of the review report, the Scottish Government committed to (i) working with key stakeholders to develop a code of practice for hunts and explore the potential for a new monitoring scheme, and (ii) consulting the public regarding Lord Bonomy's other recommendations.

About the consultation

1.8 The consultation paper issued by the Scottish Government contained six sections with a total of 16 questions (Question 1 to Question 7, with Question 1 containing 10 sub-questions). The questions were a mix of closed (tick-box) questions and open questions. The consultation paper referred respondents directly to specific sections of Lord Bonomy's review report and asked for their views on the conclusions and recommendations set out therein.

About the analysis

Quantitative analysis

1.9 Frequency analysis was undertaken in relation to all the closed (tick-box) questions in the consultation and the results have been reported in tables throughout this report. Most of the consultation's closed questions were of the form: 'Do you agree (or do you think that) X?' Respondents were given the option to tick 'yes' or 'no' in response.

1.10 Some respondents made comments in relation to a question without ticking a response at the relevant closed question. If the respondent's reply to the closed question could be inferred from their written comments (for example, if their comments began with the words 'yes' or 'no', or if their comments clearly indicated that they agreed or disagreed with a certain proposal), then the missing response to the tick-box question was input during the analysis – i.e. the response was imputed.

1.11 This consultation received a large number of 'campaign responses' from five different campaigns – see Chapter 2 for further details. The figures reported for the number of responses received through each of the campaigns have been provided by the Scottish Government. No independent verification of this information has been undertaken as part of this analysis. Some of the campaign responses provided comments only, while others provided responses to tick-box questions as well as comments. Where an answer to a tick-box question was given by campaign respondents, this is shown as a separate line in the tables throughout this report.

1.12 Thus the tables show the percentage of organisations, individuals and campaign respondents who answered 'yes' or 'no' – and the percentage of all respondents who answered 'yes' or 'no' – to each question. Copies of all the tables in the report ( Chapters 2 to 12) are provided in Annex 1.

Qualitative analysis

1.13 Comments made in response to each question were analysed qualitatively. The aim was to identify the main themes and the full range of views expressed in relation to each question or group of questions, together with areas of agreement and disagreement in the views of different types of respondent.

1.14 Comments from campaign responses have been incorporated in the qualitative analysis for relevant questions.

Comment on the generalisability of the consultation findings

1.15 As with all consultations, the views submitted in this consultation are not necessarily representative of the views of the wider public. Anyone can submit their views to a consultation, and individuals (and organisations) who have a keen interest in a topic – and the capacity to respond – are more likely to participate in a consultation than those who do not. This self-selection means that the views of consultation participants cannot be generalised to the wider population. For this reason, the main focus in analysing consultation responses is not to identify how many people held particular views, but rather to understand the range of views expressed and the reasons for these views.

Structure of this report

1.16 Chapter 2 presents a description of the respondents to the consultation. Then, the report follows the structure of the consultation questionnaire with findings presented on a question-by-question basis in Chapters 3 to 12. (Note that some chapters contain findings for two questions.) Three annexes at the end of the report contain (i) a list of organisational respondents; (ii) details of the campaign texts submitted to the consultation; and (iii) details of the number of responses to each question.


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