Tally Ho! Time to REALLY ban fox hunting in Scotland

Tally Ho! Is not a shout you expect to hear in Scotland.  It sounds like such an English thing.  But, nevertheless, that’s what a team of the League’s investigators recorded a huntsman shouting as he encouraged his pack of hounds after a fox in the Scottish Borders earlier this year.

Tally Ho! is also the title of the League’s most recent publication and video on the hunting issue in Scotland.  The report outlines the League’s three-year investigation into the activities of the ten mounted fox hunts in Scotland. The investigation shows that that one shout of Tally Ho! wasn’t, by any means, a rare occurrence in the Borders.

Despite Scotland being the first place in the UK to ban foxhunting in 2002, the ten Scottish hunts still go out two or three times a week each year between November and the end of March. They say they are using their hounds to flush foxes to waiting guns. Except our investigators could see no guns where you would expect to find them. We were pretty much convinced that it was business as usual for the fox hunters in the Scottish countryside.

And we weren’t the only ones.  After we showed the Scottish Government the results of our investigation they set up an official Review chaired by the eminent Lord Bonomy. Lord Bonomy’s review was damning. He concluded that our evidence supported the fear that the “flushing from cover for pest control exception is a decoy for the continuation of some traditional hunting practices”.  He also questioned whether the hunts were really even bothered with pest control when he said: “among mounted hunts pest control can appear incidental to the primary purpose of exercising horse and hounds”.  In their submission to Lord Bonomy’s Review, Police Scotland said they had “encountered unwillingness on the part of hunt participants [...] to give witness statements to investigating officers on ‘legal advice’”.  Police Scotland concluded that exceptions to the offence, like flushing to guns, “provide opportunities for exploitation by those who continually and deliberately offend”.  Pretty damning stuff.

So you can imagine the League’s surprise when Lord Bonomy recommendations didn’t go quite far enough to really ban fox hunting in Scotland.  We did welcome that he recommended some legal changes that would make it a bit easier to prosecute “those who continually and deliberately offend” but he seemed more interested in the setting up of a voluntary code of conduct by the hunts and other interested parties (such as the League) that would enable flushing to guns to continue.  Self-regulation agreed by the hunts themselves was his proposed solution…

Shortly after the Lord Bonomy Review the willingness of hunts to keep to the law was clearly established when the Master and Huntsman of the Jed Forest hunt were found guilty of illegally hunting foxes not far from Jedburgh.

So why did Lord Bonomy not want to do the job that members of the League Against Cruel Sports, the Scottish people and the Scottish Parliament had thought had been done back in 2002 and really ban fox hunting in Scotland?  The answer came in the answer he later gave to a Government Committee in the Scottish Parliament:

“I have always had in my mind the notion that there must be a way of preserving it and securing the welfare of the animal at the same time. My view is couched not in the form of abolishing fox hunting but in the form of trying to find a way of maintaining it”.

So, it turned out that his Review into whether the fox hunting ban in Scotland worked or not was really a review into how to keep fox hunting in Scotland. That might explain why his recommendations didn’t go far enough to really ban fox hunting despite the damning evidence he outlined in his report.

That is why we are pleased that the recently announced consultation on Lord Bonomy’s recommendations includes the opportunity to suggest further changes.

Our three year investigation into the activities of Scottish hunts, Lord Bonomy’s report and the successful prosecution of the Jed Forest hunt convinces us that the “flushing to guns” exemption should be removed from the Act and the number of dogs allowed, in so called pest control, should be reduced to two.

All the polling in Scotland tells us that over 80%, in town and in country, want fox hunting banned.  Approaching 20,000 Scots have signed our petition to really ban fox hunting.  Campaign events have mobilised the public from Aberdeen and Dundee, through the central belt of Edinburgh, Falkirk and Glasgow and onto Dumfries and Irvine in the west. We were welcomed everywhere we went except by a very few who say they like the idea of packs of hounds being encouraged to chase and kill foxes across the Scottish countryside.

It’s a slow process, and it’s a shame that as we approach the beginning of the fox hunting season this November – nothing has changed in the countryside. However, we are convinced, if the Government apply some political will, fox hunting can be really banned in Scotland – for good.

Robbie Marsland

Do you want to help us? If you live in Scotland, please sign our petition to tell the Scottish Government that this cannot be allowed to continue in 21st century Scotland and that you want them to act now to stop the cruelty.

Sign the petition to stop hunting in Scotland

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