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Damage to biodiversity and wildlife likely outcome of law changes in Scotland, say Parliament committee

The mass destruction of hounds, harm to the welfare of foxes and enormous damage to wildlife and biodiversity are the likely outcomes of proposed changes to the law on using dogs to control mammals in Scotland.


The warnings of serious unintended consequences came in submissions to the Parliament’s Rural Affairs, Islands and Natural Environment committee, which is shortly to begin scrutinising the legislation.

Among those slamming the proposals was the headkeeper of Strathspey estates, Ewan Archer . Strathspey is home to a nationally significant population of capercaillie,  a bird which experts have predicted will be extinct in Scotland in 20 years in large part due to predation pressure. (Read more on the capercaillie here.) Ewan explained: “At Strathspey Estates, we are over 30% tree cover, the national average is 9%. We cannot use thermal imagers or spotlights in our expanding native woodlands. We do not set snares. We rely on our local footpack of 15 -20 hounds to flush the fox from extensive woodland covering many, many square miles.”

The Government’s proposals would see that pack limited to just two hounds. Ewan explained that, “Two dogs do not produce enough noise and pressure to make the fox move – it requires a pack.”

Fellow Scottish keeper Bob Connelly supported Ewan and added that the number of digs used had a welfare implication for the fox. Bob said “By using a larger number of trained dogs the timescale of flushing a hunted fox to waiting marksmen is significantly reduced, therefore more efficient and humane.”

Meanwhile in powerful verbal testimony Ian Duncan Millar of the Atholl and Breadalbane Fox Control Society told the committee that the decision would lead to the deaths of hundreds of hounds. Conservative MSP Rachael Hamilton asked Mr Millar if, under the proposals, his dogs would be “sent to slaughter” Describing what he saw as the inevitable outcome of the proposals Mr Millar said: “Somebody is going to have to turn to our dog handler and say ‘look, you need to euthanise these dogs.”