Fox hunting is horribly simple - a pack of hounds is encouraged to chase and cruelly kill a wild mammal. Fox hunting legislation, on the other hand, is horrendously complicated and never fails to surprise.
Over the past four years the League Against Cruel Sports Scotland has convinced the media, the public, the judiciary and the Government that the present legislation just doesn’t work and that foxes continue to be chased and killed across the Scottish countryside.
So when the Government said it was going to announce what it was going to do about it we hoped they would get it right.
And they almost did. Implementing Lord Bonomy’s recommendations to clarify the Act and going above his recommendations by reducing the number of hounds to two would have strengthened the law and effectively banned fox hunting.
Bringing in new measures to stop trail hunting would also have stopped the invidious English trail hunting system establishing a foothold in Scotland.
If they’d stopped there all would have been good. But they didn’t.
The Scottish Government mentioned the prospect of looking into licensing hunts that needed more than two dogs. And as we all know - you can’t license cruelty.
In follow up answers about her statement the Minister made it clear that licenses would only be issued in upland areas and in exceptional circumstances. That’s as may be but we know that while there are licensing schemes mounted hunts will smell the chance to be out there with their full packs of hounds.
And then there’s the timetable - there isn’t one. Just a mention that Brexit takes up a lot of time (undeniably) and a hope to do something “this session” - ie before the end of 2021.
That’s not to say that there can’t be a good ending for foxes and for everyone who thought fox hunting had been banned in Scotland in 2002.
The Scottish Greens stand ready to bring forward their own legislation or amend the Government’s Bill. Any resulting unambiguous legislation to really ban fox hunting would be very tempting to many SNP MSP’s and it would be a curious SNP Government that whipped against really banning fox hunting.
Fox hunters live and breathe to see their packs of hounds out there chasing foxes. Reducing the number of dogs to two would take away their thrill and drive them to find another way to go out with their beloved packs of hounds. That’s why it’s so crucial to stop trail hunting in its tracks, which is what the Government say they will do. So far, so good. So why allow them the hope of a license for a full pack of dogs? I suspect the answer has nothing to do with animal welfare and a lot to do with internal SNP politics.
Fox hunting is simple, stopping it never is. However, we are two steps closer to really banning fox hunting in Scotland. The third and final step will be for the Government to come to terms with the fact that you can’t license cruelty.