THE Scottish fox hunting seasons has ended amid police investigations into illegal activities by riders, the Sunday Herald can reveal.

Police have charged two hunters from the Duke of Buccleuch’s fox hunt, and officers are investigating another hunt led by Grand National winning jockey Ryan Mania.

A probe was launched into the activities of four hunts after video footage was handed over by undercover animal welfare investigators which they claim shows huntsmen flouting the law. Fox hunting legislation in Scotland allows for dogs to be used to flush foxes from cover to be shot by waiting gunmen. Huntsmen must not allow hounds to hunt down a fox and kill it unless the animal is already wounded.

Huntsman Claire Bellamy was charged last year in connection with an incident at Lauderdale Hunt. Police have now charged two men from the Duke of Buccleuch’s Hunt after reviewing footage. Meanwhile, footage of the Ryan Mania-led Berwickshire Hunt is also under scrutiny. Mania said he “always” acts within the law. Footage of the Fife Hunt was also under investigation, but Police Scotland told the Sunday Herald no crime was established.

READ MORE: New calls to stop fox hunts using hounds as Scottish Government consultation closes

A team of investigators employed by animal welfare charity the League Against Cruel Sports follow hunts in Scotland and capture footage which they claim shows huntsmen breaching the ban.

The Scottish Countryside Alliance, which represents hunts, denies this and accused the League of producing “selectively recorded” footage which only “appears” to show illegality.

Ryan Mania, who leads the Berwickshire Hunt, said he “always” acts within the law and the League’s “aim in life is to pester us and make it look like what we’re doing is illegal”.

Mania won the Grand National at Aintree in 2013 on 66/1 outsider Auroras Encore. He has since retired and is now master of the historic Berwickshire Hunt, which is believed to be Scotland’s oldest, beginning in the 17th century.

The Duke of Buccleuch’s hunt was founded in 1827 by the 5th Duke of Buccleuch and is now led by Tim Allen. The current Duke of Buccleuch, Richard Scott, who owns hundreds of thousand acres of land in Scotland, said in December he no longer hunts but wants to see fox hunting “thrive” because it’s “important fabric of our rural life”.

One investigator employed by the League Against Cruel Sports, who asked not to be named, said footage they captured of hunts throughout Scotland often shows “no guns were present” when hounds are running across open fields followed by huntsmen on horseback.

READ MORE: New calls to stop fox hunts using hounds as Scottish Government consultation closes

They said: “Our team continues to see dogs being sent into cover to search for foxes and there have been no people in position to shoot any foxes that may be flushed from cover. We continue to see foxes running from dogs and see dogs running across fields on a scent and in pursuit of foxes.

“Sadly, also we continue to see livestock being frightened by hunts going through fields. In addition, terrier dogs continue to be pushed down holes to battle against foxes which have attempted to seek refuge from the hunting dogs above.

“What is most concerning is we are now seeing many of the hunts that we watch claiming that their dogs are hunting a wounded fox. Incredibly, there is an enormous loophole in the law which allows a pack of dogs to hunt a fox and kill it if that fox is believed to be wounded.”

Scottish Countryside Alliance Director Jamie Stewart, who speaks for all ten hunts in Scotland, said: “The League Against Cruel Sports has presented hundreds of hours of selectively recorded footage which may appear illegal, even more so when a subjective narrative is applied…images offered by the animal rights activists are always shown in edited highlights to infer illegal activity.”

The Sunday Herald also contacted the Duke of Buccleuch’s Hunt, the Lauderdale Hunt and the Fife Hunt but they did not respond.

READ MORE: New calls to stop fox hunts using hounds as Scottish Government consultation closes

A spokeswoman for Police Scotland said: “Police in the Scottish Borders received a report of an incident that happened during a fox hunt in Berwickshire on January 9 2018. Inquiries are ongoing into the full circumstances.

“Police in the Scottish Borders have arrested and charged two men following an incident at a fox hunt on December 20 2017. A report has been submitted to the Procurator Fiscal.”

When asked about the investigation into the Fife Hunt the spokeswoman said: “A thorough investigation was conducted and no crime was established, in accordance with the relevant legislation.”


NEW footage of huntsmen allegedly “riding roughshod over the law” shows fox hunting legislation must be strengthened, according to the Director of the League Against Cruel Sports Scotland Robbie Marsland.

The charity is campaigning for an outright ban of fox hunting and has pressured the Scottish Government to go beyond recommendations made by former judge Lord Bonomy in his recent review of the existing legislation – the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002.

Scottish Greens MSP Alison Johnstone has also said there should be a “real ban” and plans to bring a bill to Holyrood if the Scottish Government fails to end what she calls the “barbaric practice”.

The Scottish Government is in the process of analysing more than 25,000 responses to its consultation on changing the law. It is understood a consultation report will be published before the end of June.

Marsland said: “It is quite staggering how little respect hunters have for the law despite last year's first ever conviction for illegal hunting and the volume of publicity around the recent review and consultation on the legislation.

“Throughout the previous hunting season our investigators have repeatedly witnessed hunts exploiting loopholes to hunt in a way which is no different to traditional hunting, effectively riding roughshod over the law. Nothing has changed, and nothing will change until we see decisive action to strengthen the law.

“In order to really ban hunting in Scotland we need a rigorous overhaul of the current law which removes all exemptions. Regardless of whether this is done by the Scottish Government or a Members' Bill the process must go further than Lord Bonomy's recommendations in order to ban fox hunting once and for all.”

Alison Johnstone MSP said the majority of people in Scotland want a “real ban”, not “regulated, monitored hunting”.

“The latest footage demonstrates that foxes continue to be hunted by dogs in Scotland, in clear violation of the legislation,” she added. “If they [the Scottish Government] bring forward a proper ban, I will warmly welcome this and work with them to deliver it. If they don’t, I will bring forward a Member’s Bill to end this barbaric practice for once and for all.”

READ MORE: New calls to stop fox hunts using hounds as Scottish Government consultation closes

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Scottish Government cannot comment on individual cases and any evidence of people appearing to contravene fox hunting legislation is a matter for the police.”

He added: “We are now evaluating the responses to our consultation on Lord Bonomy’s recommendations. A stakeholder group has already been established to develop a new code of practice and assess the feasibility of a new monitoring scheme.”


By Scottish Countryside Alliance Director Jamie Stewart

The Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act is no different from any other criminal law. When there is evidence of illegal hunting then successful prosecutions have been brought under the act. Any deliberate use of a dog to search for, or pursue, a wild mammal whether by scent or sight is prima facie unlawful. Police Scotland then have to be clear as to whether one of the exceptions within the Act applies or not.

The League Against Cruel Sports has presented hundreds of hours of selectively recorded footage which may “appear” illegal, even more so when a subjective narrative is applied. Indeed, Lord Bonomy stated in his report to the Scottish Government: “It is said that the camera never lies. However, the way in which film is presented does not always show the whole picture. A full account of the circumstances may provide a complete answer to any suggestion of illegal hunting”.

Images offered by the animal rights activists are always shown in edited highlights to infer illegal activity. An image of a huntsman and hounds crossing open ground is not in itself an illegal action. Under the exceptions of the 2002 Act huntsmen are able to search for a fox in order that they then flush the fox from cover to be shot. Gunmen are positioned with the benefit of field craft and localised knowledge of where the fox is likely to break. This doesn't fit the script of the League Against Cruel Sports as they presume to see gunmen standing in the open. Even then the League deny the presence of gunmen despite them being viewed in their own footage.

Any suggestion of illegal hunting should be reported to Police Scotland not used in a PR campaign to further an animal rights objective. Thankfully, Police Scotland are required to review all of the evidence not just the edited highlights.

Rather than trying to influence the general public with misleading footage, the Scottish Mounted Foxhound packs have worked with Police Scotland to establish a reporting and recording system to aid investigation. These records present Police Scotland with a fuller account of activities and, more often than not, end an investigation.

In conclusion to his thorough review, Lord Bonomy recognised the need for this method of pest control stating “the use of packs of hounds to flush out foxes to be shot remains a significant pest control measure, both to control the general level of foxes in an area as well as to address particular problems affecting a farm or estate”.

The Scottish Countryside Alliance and others, including the League Against Cruel Sports, are currently working on Lord Bonomy’s recommendation for a Code of Practice (COP) to see the continuation of the pest control service. We are determined that this new COP will provide greater clarity, particularity in the areas where we feel individual interpretation can be applied, leading to unsafe convictions.