Countryside organisations are preparing for court action if the Scottish Government's proposed ‘fox control bill’ prevents the humane and effective use of hounds to flush foxes from cover in order for them to be shot, writes Matt Cross in Shooting Times

Shooting Times understands that countryside groups are in receipt of advice that they potentially have strong challenges to legislation under the European Convention on Human Rights and that they have been marshalling resources to take the case to court.

Fox control bill

Currently, packs of dogs may be used to flush foxes to guns in Scotland. This is viewed by many as a vital pest control tool as it is the only effective way to control foxes in large areas of woodland. The Scottish Government has indicated that it intends to change the current legislation. In the recently published programme for government, the SNP Green alliance said that they would, “Introduce a Bill this year to strengthen the law relating to the use of dogs to hunt and flush foxes and other wild mammals.”

Shooting Times understands that the Countryside Alliance is likely to lead efforts to counter restrictions on sustainable fox control. Tim Bonner, Chief Executive of the Countryside Alliance, told Shooting Times: “It is fairly clear that the arbitrary prohibition of the use of packs of dogs for pest control in contradiction of peer reviewed research and the findings of the Scottish Government’s own review would breach the human rights of farmers and landowners who would not be able to properly protect their livestock, wildlife and their livelihoods.”

The issue of using dogs to flush foxes to guns was looked at in detail by a Scottish Government review which concluded it was humane and effective. Commenting on that review and its relationship to the challenge, Tim Bonner said: “As Lord Bonomy’s review stated, such a ban would ‘seriously compromise effective pest control in the country’ without any justification in terms of animal welfare, but with more than a suggestion of prejudice.”

There is no need, or justification, for further legislation of fox control in Scotland, but if it must bring forward a Bill, the Scottish Government has at least said that it is considering a licensing system which, if it were workable and fair, would avoid some very awkward questions in the courts.”