IN 2002, the Scottish Parliament passed legislation that was intended to ban hunting with dogs, but how robust is the ban in reality? Since the act was passed, there have been no successful prosecutions and animal welfare organisations have claimed there is widespread evasion of the law - just last weekend two charities published what they said was proof a fox was killed by dogs during a recent hunt.

Last year, this lack of clarity and confidence in the law led the Scottish Government to announce a review by Lord Bonomy and he has now delivered his report. Lord Bonomy says there are grounds for suspecting illegal hunting is still taking place and that the law should be changed to make prosecutions easier. He has also suggested introducing monitors to check on hunts, with their reports admissible in court, as well as a code of practice for the conduct of hunts.

These are good recommendations and if accepted by the Government, would be a step towards limiting what looks like widespread evasion of the law. The legislation states that the hunting of foxes with dogs is illegal but that a dog can be used to flush out a fox provided it is shot “when it is safe to do so”. However, one of the problems is there is no definition of how long the flushing-out of the fox can last and the law has been interpreted by some hunts as allowing a lengthy chase.

Independent monitors, as suggested by Lord Bonomy, may be able to cast some light on this situation and help enforce a law that is opaque and open to exploitation. One of the aims of the monitors would be establish how often hunts are chasing foxes with dogs, and for how long, and if and when the foxes are being killed by the dogs rather than being shot.

But introducing monitors may not be enough – if their evidence shows there is widespread evasion of the law, then the Government will have to be prepared to act and toughen up the law even further. Scotland’s ban on hunting with dogs must be made to work.