Holyrood foxhunt claims are refuted

The Berwickshire Hunt gather in Duns Market Square before their New Years Day ride
The Berwickshire Hunt gather in Duns Market Square before their New Years Day ride

Berwickshire Hunt has found itself at the centre of the continuing debate on the legality of foxhunting.

The hunt is featured in a video made by the League Against Cruel Sports, which was due to be shown at a Holyrood reception yesterday morning (Wednesday, May 27).

It also features the Buccleuch and JedForest hunts.

The League Against Cruel Sports detail in their presentation how their investigators, including a retired policeman, had observed “half of the hunts advertised by the 10 hunts in Scotland on 16 dates during the 2014/15 hunt season”.

They argue that huntsmen said they were flushing foxes “to guns”, but no shotguns were evident in the video, which consists of a series of short clips.

Under Scottish law, hunts are allowed to flush foxes towards guns with more than two hounds.

Berwickshire Huntmaster Rory Innes reacted to the video on Tuesday night, saying: “All of our hunts are in accordance with the law.

“We work very closely with the police, and they are very happy with what we do.

“This is the first that I am hearing of this, and there were four armed men there. They are just not shown on what is a very selective video.”

The video goes on to say the League had footage of one hunt observed in that season - which would not be shown at the reception- that had been turned over to the police.

A Police Scotland spokesperson acknowledged that the league had turned over information to the police regarding the Buccleuch Hunt, but that after consultation with the Crown Office, no further action had been taken.

Jamie Stewart, director of the Scottish Countryside Alliance, responded ahead of the video’s showing: “The Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002 is unjustified and unnecessary but it does at least allow hunts and hill packs to continue to deliver a much needed service to our livestock farming enterprises throughout Scotland.

“There have been no convictions relating to fox control with hounds which suggests compliance with the legislation and that Police Scotland and other agencies have effectively monitored the practices over the 13 or so years since implementation.

“The League Against Cruel Sports is a tiny organisation with a membership of less than 3,000 UK wide. It has a political agenda which rejects the case for managing foxes entirely and has no interest in the economic and environmental wellbeing of rural Scotland.”

He concluded: “Serious animal welfare organisations recognise that the Act has achieved some level of balance.”