March to call for full fox hunting ban in Scotland

Animal rights campaigners will converge on parliament to call for a total ban on fox hunting in Scotland.

A march is being held in Edinburgh city centre on Saturday to urge the Scottish Government to strengthen the law.

Fox hunting with dogs was banned in Scotland through the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act in 2002, with an exemption for using dogs to flush out foxes for pest control or protecting livestock or ground-nesting birds.

Mounted hunts in Scotland have since offered farmers, landowners and estate managers a pest control service, but a review by Lord Bonomy found there were "grounds to suspect" fox hunting takes place illegally.

Ministers have consulted on the review's recommendations, with analysis currently under way on the responses.

The League Against Cruel Sports, OneKind and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) have been campaigning for the legislation to be improved to close "loopholes" that allow for traditional hunting.

Green MSP Alison Johnstone has said she will bring forward a member's bill at Holyrood to ban fox hunting.

She said: "Every year hundreds of foxes are killed by hunts, many using packs of dogs in clear breach of the Protection of Wild Mammals Act. Scotland's reputation as a national of animal lovers lies in tatters.

"The Scottish Government has consulted on minor tweaks to a law that clearly hasn't stopped cruelty.

"Bloodsports supporters claim it binds communities together, which is an admission that it's still happening.

"Most Scots want it banned and as we await the Scottish Government's analysis of its consultation, I reaffirm my commitment to bring forward a member's bill in parliament to put an end to this barbaric practice once and for all."

Robbie Marsland, director of the League Against Cruel Sports Scotland, said: "Public support to really ban hunting in Scotland is overwhelming, with the vast majority completely opposed to the outdated, primitive cruelty of this so-called sport.

"As a nation of animal lovers we're expecting a good turnout this weekend of people committed to marching for the foxes and hope that this will send a clear message to the Scottish Government that hunting has no place in modern society.

"Action is urgently needed to improve the law so we can consign hunting into the history books once and for all."

A full ban is being supported by Scottish Labour, with rural economy spokesman Colin Smyth saying Lord Bonomy's recommendations did not go far enough.

He said: "The current legislation aimed to end the abhorrent practise of hunting with dogs but it is clear that loopholes exist and hunts have gone out of their way to ignore the law both in letter and spirit.

"It's time ministers listened to the public, starting by delivering a full ban on hunting. We need to put a stop to hunting once and for all."

The Scottish Government is expected to publish its report on the consultation this spring with any proposals for legislative reform to follow before the summer recess.

A spokesman said: "We are committed to ensuring the highest welfare standards for all animals - including those in the wild. In recognition of concerns about the effectiveness of the current fox-hunting legislation, we asked one of Scotland's most senior judges, Lord Bonomy, to carry out a detailed review of the current position.

"We are now evaluating the responses to our consultation on his recommendations. A stakeholder group has already been established to develop a new code of practice and assess the feasibility of a new monitoring scheme."

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