An animal welfare group has accused a fox hunt of showing “complete ignorance” of the mood in Scotland to end fox hunting.
The move comes despite a new Scottish Government Bill which aims to protect foxes from being “chased and killed by packs of dogs”.
The League said the planning application was “quite surprising” given the public’s backing for tighter legislation on fox hunting, claiming it was evidence of a business as usual attitude by the hunt.
The Hunting With Dogs (Scotland) Bill – published in February – seeks to replace a widely criticised 2002 law on fox hunting in Scotland.
The Protection of Wild Mammals Act – enacted 20 years ago – saw the use of dogs to hunt wild mammals banned, except in limited circumstances.
Although hunting with dogs was technically outlawed, packs of hounds could still be used to flush foxes from cover, so they could be shot as pest control to protect livestock or curb disease.
But animal welfare campaigners said the law was flawed and packs of hounds still chased foxes. They allege that hunts used the loophole to flout the 2002 legislation.
The hunts denied the accusations and said they always act within the law.
The new Bill would limit the number of dogs allowed to flush animals from cover to two, instead of packs, which the SNP say will close the loophole. However packs of hounds may still be allowed to flush animals under a new licensing scheme. Critics say this would simply replace one loophole with another.
The application for new kennels was submitted last November by Houston Farms, in Renfrewshire. It was passed last month and allows for the Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire Foxhounds’s hunt kennels to be relocated to a new site.
Robbie Marsland, director of The League Against Cruel Sports (Scotland) said: “A planning application with this much ambition is quite surprising at a time when the hunting legislation is under so much scrutiny, with the Scottish Government pledging to strengthen the existing law and properly ban hunting, and has already started the legislative process.
He added: “It’s hard to say whether this shows a complete ignorance for the political and public will currently in Scotland to end hunting for good, or just the usual lack or regard hunts seem to have for sticking to the law.”
The Hunting with Dogs Bill was published in February following a public consultation that received more than 11,000 responses. The legislation would also ban trail hunting, which replicates traditional hunting practices by encouraging dogs to follow the scent of a fox – but without the fox being killed.
The Scottish Government said the Bill’s purpose is to protect “foxes, hares and other wild mammals from being chased and killed by packs of dogs”. According to ministers, the majority of respondents agreed with its proposals to tighten the law.
Holyrood’s Rural Affairs, Islands and Natural Environment Committee is now seeking views on the Bill and people have until 13 May 2022 to respond.
Announcing its decision on the planning application, Renfrewshire Council said: “The proposal complies with the policies and guidance of council. It is therefore recommended that the application should be approved.”
Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire Foxhounds did not respond to our request for a comment.
Houston Farms did not respond to our request for a comment.
The Scottish Countryside Alliance – which supports fox hunting – declined to comment.
Photo thanks to iStock and dabyg