Hunting with dogs: consultation analysis

Key themes to emerge from our consultation on the use of dogs to control foxes and other wild mammals in Scotland.

1. Introduction

1.1 The Scottish Government carried out a public consultation on proposals for a Bill which (if enacted) will repeal and replace the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002. The consultation ran from 29 October 2021 to 15 December 2021. This report presents findings from an analysis of the written responses to the consultation.

Policy background

1.2 The Scottish Government introduced the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002 (the Act) to address concerns about the use of dogs to hunt wild mammals. The Act makes it an offence to use dogs to chase down and kill wild mammals such as foxes, hares, mink, etc. (Rabbits and rodents are not included among the wild mammals covered by the Act.) At the same time, the legislation allows for the use of dogs in certain exceptional circumstances, including to search for and flush out (but not chase and kill) wild mammals for the purposes of pest control, and in connection with falconry.[2] Thus the legislation does not entirely ban hunting with dogs, but places significant restrictions on doing so.

1.3 However, continuing concerns about the effectiveness of the legislation, and about the use of packs of dogs for flushing foxes, led the Scottish Government to appoint Lord Bonomy to undertake a review of the 2002 Act. The review report was published in November 2016. In brief, Lord Bonomy's report set out recommendations for (i) addressing inconsistencies and a lack of clarity in the language of the Act, and (ii) strengthening aspects of the Act to enable more effective detection, investigation and prosecution of alleged offences.

1.4 The Scottish Government carried out a public consultation on Lord Bonomy's recommendations in 2017–18. Following that consultation, the Scottish Government developed new legislative proposals, and the Hunting with Dogs (Scotland) Bill was introduced to the Scottish Parliament in February 2022. This Bill (if enacted) will repeal and replace the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002. The aim of the Bill is to address widespread concerns that foxes and other wild mammals continue to be hunted (and killed) by dogs in contravention of the intention of the 2002 Act.

1.5 The Bill broadly replicates the core provisions of the 2002 Act but it incorporates many of the recommendations made by Lord Bonomy in his report – thus aiming to address inconsistencies and ambiguities in the language of the 2002 Act and making the law easier to understand and enforce. The Bill also incorporates proposed additional measures which aim to significantly reduce the risk of wild mammals being killed by packs of hounds. It is these additional measures, in particular, that were the focus of the 2021 consultation.

About the consultation

1.6 The consultation paper issued by the Scottish Government contained 12 numbered questions, some of which were multi-part questions with an initial closed (tick-box) question followed by space for comments. Altogether there were 11 closed questions and 6 open questions.

1.7 The consultation invited views on four topics:

  • Limiting to two the number of dogs allowed to flush a wild mammal from cover (Qs 1–3)
  • Banning trail hunting (Qs 4 and 5)
  • The definition of 'wild mammal' and the definition of 'pest species' (Qs 6–10)
  • Strengthening the law on hare-coursing (Q 11).

1.8 A final question, Question 12, invited any further comments.

About the analysis

1.9 This report is based on a robust and systematic analysis of the responses to the consultation. Quantitative and qualitative analysis were undertaken. Frequency analysis of the closed questions was undertaken, and the findings are shown in tables throughout this report. Qualitative analysis of the comments made in response to each open question was also undertaken. This aimed to identify the main themes and the full range of views submitted in response to each question or group of questions, and to explore areas of agreement and disagreement among respondents.

1.10 Not all respondents answered every question, and some made comments in relation to an open question without ticking a response at the relevant closed question. If a respondent's reply to the tick-box question was clearly stated in their written comments, the response to the tick-box question was imputed. The tables in this report include such imputed responses.

1.11 This consultation received a large number of 'campaign responses' from six (6) different campaigns – see Chapter 2 for further details. Some of the campaign responses provided comments only, while others provided responses to tick-box questions as well as comments. The responses to the closed questions in campaign responses are not included in the tables presented in the report. Instead, a statement summarising the views presented in campaign responses is provided at each relevant table. Comments from campaign responses have been incorporated into the qualitative analysis for relevant questions. (See Chapter 2 for a full description of how campaign responses have been incorporated into the analysis.)

1.12 In undertaking the analysis, two specific issues required to be addressed as follows:

  • First, although the consultation did not include a question asking respondents whether they wished to see a full ban on all hunting with dogs, a large number of respondents explicitly stated that they did. The views expressed by these respondents were distinctive, and coherent within the group. It was therefore agreed with the Scottish Government that an exercise should be undertaken to identify and 'tag' such respondents. This exercise, which allowed this group to be separately identified, is described in detail in Chapter 3.
  • Second, there was evidence that some of the questions in the consultation were not well understood by respondents. This lack of understanding, which came into focus most sharply in relation to the questions dealing with the definition of 'wild mammal' and the definition of 'pest species' (Qs 6–10), was revealed through the lack of consistency between respondents' answers to the closed and open elements of the question. The implications of this lack of understanding, and how this may have impacted on the responses, are discussed as appropriate throughout this report.

1.13 Finally, as with all consultations, it is important to bear in mind that the views of those who have responded are not representative of the views of the wider population. 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 approach to consultation analysis is primarily qualitative in nature. Its main purpose is not to identify how many people held particular views, but rather to understand the full range of views expressed.

Structure of this report

1.14 The remainder of this report is structured as follows:

  • Chapter 2 presents information on the respondents to the consultation and the responses submitted.
  • Chapters 3 to 7 present the analysis of the responses to the consultation.

1.15 Annexes to the report contain a list of organisational respondents to the consultation (Annex 1), information on the campaign responses received (Annex 2), response rates for individual questions (Annex 3), and details of the approach used for identifying / 'tagging' respondents who wanted a ban on hunting (Annex 4).



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