Scot­tish hunts should be more open, finds re­port

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country -

ARe­view of scot­tish hunt­ing law con­cludes that greater trans­parency on the part of hunts could help defuse the ar­gu­ment and re­duce sus­pi­cion that they’re op­er­at­ing il­le­gally. No mounted packs have been pros­e­cuted un­der the Pro­tec­tion of wild Mam­mals (scot­land) act 2002—by far the most wildlife crimes re­late to fish-poach­ing and birds—but the tone of Lord Bon­omy’s re­port im­plies that the field­sports fra­ter­nity should not be com­pla­cent; he thinks it’s pos­si­ble that hunts have been saved from pros­e­cu­tion by the act’s com­plex word­ing and the anti lobby’s lack of knowl­edge about hound work.

Lord Bon­omy, a judge, rec­om­mends random visits by hunt mon­i­tors, who would re­port back to a gov­ern­ment agency—an idea the scot­tish Coun­try­side al­liance is will­ing to try and one that was mooted in the Burns Re­port com­mis­sioned by Tony Blair’s Labour gov­ern­ment in 2000—hunts no­ti­fy­ing po­lice in ad­vance of their plans and landown­ers be­ing sub­ject to vi­car­i­ous li­a­bil­ity plus a longer time limit for prose­cu­tions.

‘There is a dan­ger that the in­evitable mys­tery that sur­rounds the ac­tiv­i­ties of hunts, be­cause their ac­tiv­i­ties tend to be con­ducted away from the pub­lic gaze in re­mote parts of the coun­try­side, sim­ply adds fuel to that sus­pi­cion,’ writes Lord Bon­omy. ‘ideally, the grounds for that sus­pi­cion should be ad­dressed. Clearly, sus­pi­cion of il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity is not an ad­e­quate ba­sis for de­cid­ing that the act is not work­ing as it was in­tended to or con­demn­ing the hunts or out­law­ing a prac­tice that has been changed with a view to com­ply­ing with the law.’

Un­like the Hunt­ing act (2004) of Eng­land and wales, scot­tish law al­lows the draw­ing for a fox with a full pack of hounds and to flush it to guns. Lord Bon­omy was not asked to examine whether preda­tor con­trol is nec­es­sary, but the re­port states that hunt­ing of­fers sig­nif­i­cant pest con­trol, a com­ment that pleases the scot­tish Coun­try­side al­liance. ‘we look for­ward to work­ing with statu­tory bod­ies in the devel­op­ment of a sep­a­rate code of prac­tice for hunt­ing ac­tiv­i­ties as rec­om­mended by the in­quiry,’ con­firms Direc­tor Jamie ste­wart. KG

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