Annual hunt goes ahead as Scottish Greens renew call for outright ban

Scottish Greens spokesperson Mark Ruskell MSP has called again for the Scottish Government to ban foxhunting.

Katharine Hay
Monday 27 December 2021 18:56
Riders and hounds taking part in the Kennels Lanarkshire & Renfrewshire meet in Houston, Scotland (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Riders and hounds taking part in the Kennels Lanarkshire & Renfrewshire meet in Houston, Scotland (Andrew Milligan/PA)

An annual Boxing Day hunt has prompted the Scottish Greens to renew their call for an outright ban on foxhunting in Scotland.

The Lanark and Renfrewshire Foxhounds hunt set off from Meadow Park Equestrian Centre in Houston Renfrewshire, on Monday, a day later than planned due to Boxing Day falling on a Sunday – traditionally a hunt-free day.

One of the hunt “masters” Sheila Gillespie, who has been leading the hunt for more than two decades, said about 20 riders followed on horseback with about 50 people joining the event from the local village.

She said “a few” saboteurs were out in protest, but “not enough to disrupt the hunt going ahead”.

Saboteurs holding spray bottles follow riders and hounds as they take part in the annual hunt (Andrew Milligan/PA)

They were pictured following the riders and hounds carrying backpacks and spray bottles.

In response to the annual event, Scottish Greens spokesperson Mark Ruskell MSP called again for an outright ban on hunts in Scotland.

He said the Monday Lanark and Renfrewshire hunt “must be the last”.

“While the killing of foxes for sport using hunting dogs was meant to have been banned in 2002, the reality is that loopholes in the law mean that little has changed,” he said.

“Hunts still go out, pursuing and killing foxes, with hundreds of foxes still thought to be killed by hunting dogs.

“Even throughout the pandemic, while many of us have been restricted to our homes by unprecedented public health measures, hunts have continued.

“The fox is an iconic native species.

The hunt normally takes place on December 26, but due to Boxing Day falling on Sunday this year – traditionally a non-hunt day – the event went ahead on Monday (Andrew Milligan/PA)

“It’s time we brought an end to the cruel practice of hunting by removing all the loopholes that were built into the current legislation, giving Scotland the outright ban on fox hunting that the public wants.

“Today’s Boxing Day hunts must be the last.”

Foxhunting in Scotland is currently controlled by the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act which came into force in 2002.

This allows hounds to flush out foxes but not to kill.

Ms Gillespie said the hunt works under the latest Scottish Government guidance for foxhunting.

She confirmed no foxes were killed on the day.

“We had a few saboteurs out,” she said.

One of the hunt’s masters Conrad Jones leading the way with the hounds (Andrew Milligan/PA)

“In their defence they weren’t a big problem for us this time, there weren’t enough to disrupt the hunt going ahead.

“Sometimes we have issues with them but today was OK.”

Police Scotland said officers were aware of the hunt taking place, but no arrests were made.

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said: “It is our intention to put an end to this practice for good, and we have committed to bring forward legislation to do so.

“Despite the ban on hunting introduced in 2002, we are aware there remains considerable public concern about fox hunting in Scotland and doubts about the operability of the legislation as it currently stands.

“Our focus will be to enhance animal welfare and to significantly reduce the risk of wild mammals being killed by packs of hounds.”

A public consultation seeking views on the Scottish Government’s proposals to end foxhunting closed this month.

The spokesperson said new legislation is expected to be brought forward “early next year.”

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