Scottish hunts should be more open, finds report
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