SCOTTISH fox hunts have been accused of riding roughshod over the law, with claims that foxes are still being pursued and killed by packs of dogs.

The suggestion comes at the end of a five-year monitoring programme by anti-hunt campaigners, launched amid concerns that the legislation cracking down on fox hunting in Scotland was not being fully adhered to.

Supporters of The League Against Cruel Sports say they have witnessed episodes which appear to flout the law, including incidents which occurred in the final weeks of this year’s hunting season.

They have now released film footage taken of recent Scottish Borders hunts which appear to show an exhausted fox pursued by a pack of hounds, a fox being chased out of its hiding place to be killed by hounds, and a dead, apparently disembowelled fox being thrown to the hounds by a huntsman.

Police have confirmed that their enquiries are continuing into one of the incidents.

Hunting for foxes with hounds was effectively banned in Scotland in 2002.

However, for the purposes of pest control, dogs can still be used for flushing out foxes to be shot. Unlike in England which limits the number of dogs which can be used to just two, there is no limit to numbers in Scotland.

According to anti-bloodsport campaigners, a lack of clarity in the law has opened the door to the risk of hunts continuing to use packs of dogs, raising concerns that foxhunting with hounds is continuing in all but name.

Police Scotland has also previously suggested that the law banning fox hunting in Scotland is unworkable and creates a level of confusion which can deflect from the spirit of the law.

Moves to strengthen the law which were to be included in forthcoming Scottish Parliament business have now been put on hold as a result of the current health crisis.

Campaigners are now calling for political parties to enshrine a change in foxhunting legislation in their manifestos for next year’s Scottish Parliament elections.

The League Against Cruel Sports say they filmed incidents at the JedForest hunt at Jedburgh and the Duke of Buccleuch hunt near Eccles in the Scottish Borders.

Footage captured on 17 December during the JedForest hunt appears to show a pack of hounds on the scent of a fox. The charity says it believes the JedForest Hunt was encouraging its hounds to search for and chase foxes.

Steven Irvine, Police Scotland Wildlife and Enviromental Crime Officer said: “On Tuesday, 17 December, 2019, a complaint was made to police about a fox hunt in the Jedburgh area. Our enquiries are continuing into this matter.”

In the second film also involving the JedForest hunt on March 3 this year, a fox is seen bolting after it was dug out from underground. The hunt then attempts a gunshot before the pack of hounds chases down the fox.

In the final clip, a huntsman from the Buccleuch hunt is seen throwing a dead fox into a pack of hounds near Eccles in the Scottish Borders. The incident took place during the hunt on March 2.

In both cases, the films were shared with police however, no crime was established in either case.

Robbie Marsland, Director of the League Against Cruel Sports, Scotland said: “We believe the law does not work. For the last five years we have been filming Scottish hunts and looking for patterns of behaviour.

“They say they are shooting foxes, but in the first year we didn’t see a single gun. When they knew we were filming them, guns started to appear.”
They would be held up in an ostentatious manner.

“Every hunt we saw looked to us like a tradition hunt looked before the ban except occasionally a man would be standing there with a gun.

“Hunts often come up with a way of protecting themselves and for the police to say they don’t think it’s possible for a prosecution.”

Campaigners want new legislation which would reduce the number of dogs used during a hunt to just two, and a clause that would outlaw the practice of laying a fox scent for hounds to follow – known as trail hunting. Popular in England, there are concerns that it can lead to hounds confusing scent baits with live animals.

Countryside Alliance Director Jamie Stewart criticised the campaigners’ methods and insisted hunts in Scotland were abiding by the law.

“Once again the LACs have reverted to the deceitful practice of hiding in bushes and using heavily edited footage to suggest illegal practices in an attempt to deceive the general public and to try and influence politicians.”

He added: “Scottish Mounted Fox hound packs operate a legal pest control service to comply with the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002.

“The impact of fox predation on livestock, red-listed, and other vulnerable, ground-nesting birds is well-documented.”

“In addition to this, scientific research tells us that foxes could be responsible for the savage death of up to 35,000 lambs in Scotland every year. New-born and unable to protect themselves. Where’s the welfare concern for these animals?

“The use of dogs to locate and flush foxes to guns is a legitimate and demonstrably necessary wildlife management tool.”

A man who identified himself as being from JedForest Hunt said: "No foxes are being killed by hounds. Foxes are being killed using guns which is within the law. 

"I can assure you we are 110% acting within the law."

A spokeswoman from the Duke of Buccleuch Hunt said: "We hunt within the law, full stop."