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.

7. Other comments (Q12)

7.1 The final question in the consultation invited any other comments from respondents concerning the measures outlined in the consultation document in relation to the hunting of wild mammals with dogs.

Question 12: If you have any other comments on the proposals we have set out in sections one to four of this consultation or if there are any further measures relating to the hunting of wild mammals with dogs that you think we should consider please provide them here.

7.2 Many respondents used Question 12 to reprise their views as to whether there should be (i) a full ban on hunting, (ii) no change to the current legislation, or (iii) fewer restrictions on the use of dogs for pest control. Respondents also rehearsed the various arguments from their own perspective about the extent to which animal welfare, pest control, and environmental and / or conservation considerations did or did not support the current proposals to limit the number of dogs allowed to hunt to two. These arguments and perspectives, which are covered both in the various campaign texts as well as in the preceding analysis of Questions 1 to 11 above, are not repeated here.

7.3 In addition, in their responses to Question 12, some individuals provided – sometimes lengthy – personal accounts of their own experiences. These personal accounts were explicitly linked to the wider views of respondents on the proposals outlined in the consultation.

7.4 The main topics covered at Question 12, but not covered in the comments made at earlier questions were:

  • The consultation process, and the way the consultation questions were 'framed'
  • Wider impacts / potential wider impacts of implementing the proposals
  • The role of public opinion
  • Issues relating to the current legislation, or requirements for future legislation.[19]

7.5 Each of these is discussed briefly below.

The consultation process

7.6 Some of the individuals who favoured a more stringent approach to hunting with dogs explicitly expressed their satisfaction with the consultation process. They welcomed the 'direction of travel' of the Scottish Government in relation to the issues under consideration, and the commitment in the consultation document to put animal welfare at the centre of wildlife management.

7.7 By contrast, both individuals and organisations who were not in favour of the proposals made a range of critical comments about the consultation process as follows:

  • Given the current political situation, and the enormity of the problems facing Scotland in relation to education, the NHS, etc., this consultation is not a priority and does not deserve the resources that have been allocated to it.
  • Some asked why information was not gathered about the geographical location of respondents – and, in particular, whether or not they lived in Scotland. Those who made this point thought it is important to know where respondents were based.
  • Some thought the questions were phrased in a 'leading' or 'biased' way in that they assume that a two-dog limit is acceptable and that changes to the 2002 Act are necessary. This perceived 'lack of even-handedness' was said to give the impression that the Scottish Government is simply 'pandering to lobby groups' who want a full ban on hunting. Respondents also said that this framing of the questions speaks to an urban / countryside divide in understanding the issues – see paragraph 7.12 below.
  • The proposals suggest that hunting with more than two dogs will first be made unlawful and will then be permitted under licence. This, it was suggested, does not seem to be very logical. Respondents queried why hunting with more than two dogs should be made unlawful in the first place.
  • Some respondents also pointed out that the consultation does not address the full range of the recommendations made by Lord Bonomy.
  • Some respondents were critical of the word limit allocated to responses as they felt this did not allow them to fully explain their views.

7.8 In addition, respondents who held a range of views in relation to hunting with dogs asked why the consultation had not explicitly asked respondents whether or not they were in favour of a complete ban on hunting with dogs.

Wider impacts / potential wider impacts of the proposals

7.9 Respondents who were not in favour of the consultation proposals enumerated a range of wider impacts (i.e. wider than the impacts on pest control, animal welfare and conservation identified earlier in this report) which they thought rural communities would be subject to if a more stringent approach to hunting with dogs was introduced. These covered:

  • Economic impacts: The loss of jobs in rural areas (including of vets, farriers, grooms, apprentices, hospitality services, trainers, etc.) and the increase in administration costs for businesses
  • Social impacts: The loss of a social structure and way of life which brings people together and provides social occasions and opportunities to meet
  • Mental health impacts: The loss of the social structure around hunts which would increase loneliness and isolation and have an adverse impact on mental health.

7.10 One countryside management organisation noted that the 'future intent on the part of both EU and UK administrations to incentivise land management through the payment for maintenance or improvement of environmental and species outcomes may be hampered by disincentives created by limiting predator control'.

The role of public opinion

7.11 Those respondents who wanted the Scottish Government to go further in strengthening the laws against hunting with dogs often highlighted recent survey findings which indicated that public opinion was strongly opposed to hunting with dogs. These respondents argued that this justified the 'direction of travel' of the Scottish Government's thinking on this issue and provided confirmation that a strengthening of the current position was desirable.

7.12 By contrast, those who were not in favour of the Scottish Government proposals sometimes made explicit statements to the effect that reliance on public opinion did not represent 'an evidence-based approach' to decision making. Furthermore, some respondents in this group argued that people who lived in urban areas 'did not understand' or 'were ignorant about' the realities of rural life. There were strong views expressed that the current consultation was 'an attack' on the values of those living in rural areas, and that decisions about hunting with dogs were best left to those who lived in the countryside and understood the complexities and realities of rural life.

Current / future legislation

7.13 A range of specific (technical) points – additional to those already discussed earlier in this report – were made both about the current legislation and about the requirements in relation to any future legislation. Specifically:

  • Any current or future legislation should be clear in relation to the use of the guns for shooting foxes, including how close the guns should be in relation to the pack. (This point was made by an animal welfare organisation.)
  • Consideration should be given to the value of introducing a 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.
  • It is important to examine the rights and case law supporting Article 8 of the ECHR, (the right to respect for one's private and family life and home), Protocol 1 Article 1, (the right to the peaceful enjoyment of one's possessions), and Article 11, (the right to assembly and association). These appear to be in potential conflict with the proposals, and will likely lead to legal challenge.
  • There should be a re-consideration of the proposal that 'the onus of establishing that an activity falls within one of the exceptions detailed in the 2002 Act should lie upon the person accused of an offence'. It was suggested that, as it stands, this appears to propose a change to the burden of proof in criminal cases.
  • Given that, internationally, there is a generally accepted presumption against retrospective prosecutions, there should be a re-consideration of the proposal that 'the time limit for bringing prosecutions under the 2002 Act should be extended'.



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