Document 1252

Scottish Parliament: Research Briefings: RP 00-04 Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Bill

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RESEARCH PAPER 00/04 18 May 2000

Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Bill

The Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Bill seeks to make it an offence to use, cause or permit the use of a dog or dogs to hunt wild mammals or to allow such hunting to take place on land over which a person has control. This Research Paper discusses the provisions in the Bill, as introduced.

The Paper describes the background to the proposed legislation, current legislation for protecting wildlife in Scotland and the views of interested organisations in the provisions of the legislation. It goes on to consider the ways in which various mammals are hunted using dogs in Scotland and the likely impact of the Bill on these activities. Wider consequences of the Bill for rural economies are also discussed.





Foxes ... 9
Mink ... 13
Brown hare ... 13
Rabbits ... 15
Economic consequences of banning mounted fox hunting ... 16
Economic consequences of banning hare coursing ... 19
Alternatives to fox hunting and hare coursing ... 19
Summary - economic implications of the Bill ... 20
Fate of horses and dogs ... 20
For the Scottish Executive ... 21




A series of Private Members Bills with the aim of banning hunting have been introduced before the Westminster Parliament in recent years. These started with a Bill introduced by Mr Kevin McNamara MP in 1992 which was defeated at second reading by 187 to 175 votes, this was followed by a Bill introduced by Mr John McFall MP, introduced in 1995. The McFall Bill was considerably modified and eventually passed as the Wild Mammals (Protection) Act of 1996 but this did not ban hunting. Michael Foster MP introduced a further Private Members Bill in 1997. This aimed to ban hunting with hounds rather than also to ban snares which had been included in the initial McFall Bill. Agreement could not be reached in Westminster on the provisions of the Foster Bill and it never reached the statute book. The latest Westminster attempt to ban fox hunting is a Private Members Bill, introduced by Ken Livingstone MP, this is currently being considered by the House of Commons and is provisionally timetabled for it’s second reading on the 7 April 2000. One with the aim of banning hare coursing, introduced by Harry Cohen MP, is also due for its second reading in the House of Commons on 7 April 2000.


On the 20 July 1999 Mike Watson MSP (Labour) announced his intention to introduce a Members Bill in the Scottish Parliament to ban hunting with dogs. The introduction of this Bill has been sponsored by the Scottish Campaign Against Hunting with Dogs (SCAHD) which issued a press release on 4th August 1999, stating:

‘……….The legislation would outlaw:

• Hunts, mounted or otherwise, which employ dogs to pursue, attack and kill wild mammals;
• Hare Coursing;
• The use of terriers to attack wild mammals underground. However, special provision will be made in the Bill to exempt certain activities from the ban and to permit humane control of animal numbers. These include:
• The use of dogs to flush a quarry from wooded areas or difficult terrain for dispatch by a shooter;
• The rights of landowners or tenant farmers to use dogs to control rodents; and
• The innocent dog walker whose pet suddenly takes off after a wild mammal.’

Also on the 4th August 1999, Tricia Marwick MSP (SNP) agreed to co-sponsor the bill indicating broad cross-party support for the proposal.

The Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party appointed Alex Fergusson MSP to establish a co-ordinated campaign of opposition to the planned Watson Bill. Although the press release they issued on the 22nd July 1999, made it clear that Scots Tory MSPs will be allowed a free vote on the Watson Bill, this appointment indicated a general lack of support for the Bill by the Party.

Mike Watson MSP formally lodged his intention to introduce a Members Bill in the Scottish Parliament on 1st September 1999. By the 2nd September the proposal had secured the support of more than 11 fellow MSPs which is necessary before a Members Bill may be introduced under Rule 9.14 of the Standing Orders.


The rigorous public consultation required for the introduction of an Executive Bill is not required for a Members Bill to be introduced. Mike Watson MSP has, however, secured the financial support of a charitable organisation (Advocates for Animals) to fund the introduction of the Members Bill. He has met with groups (including the Scottish Countryside Alliance, the Scottish Hill Packs Association, the National Working Terrier Federation and the Scottish Executive) to discuss the likely consequences of his Bill (1).

A MORI telephone poll was conducted between 1 and 3 June 1999 of 1,000 representative members of the Scottish population over 18 years of age to ask their views on a ban of hunting with dogs. They were asked:

‘To what extent would you support or oppose a BAN on hunting with dogs in Scotland’

The findings were:
Strongly support 55%
Tend to support 19%
Neither support nor oppose 9%
Tend to oppose 6%
Strongly oppose 4%
Don’t know/No opinion 6%

Also in June 1999 a MORI poll was conducted of 73 MSPs. They were asked:

‘If appropriately framed legislation to ban hunting wild mammals with dogs were to come before the Scottish Parliament, would you be prepared to vote for it, or not?’

The findings were:
Yes, would be prepared: 71%
No, would not be prepared: 15%
Don’t know 14%



Most of the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ (SSPCA) prosecutions are brought under the Protection of Animals (Scotland) Act 1912. This makes it illegal to ‘cruelly ill treat’ an animal in specified ways such as beating, overloading or terrifying it. There is also a more general offence of wantonly or unreasonably causing unnecessary suffering to an animal, this includes omissions such as failing to provide food, water or veterinary attention, for example.

Specific offences of cruelty include:
• transportation of an animal in such a way as to cause unnecessary suffering
• animal fighting and baiting
• the deliberate poisoning of an animal without reasonable care
• the failure of an owner of an animal to exercise reasonable care and supervision to protect it from cruelty.

However the Protection of Animals (Scotland) Act 1912 applies only to domestic or captive animals.


The Wild Mammals (Protection) Act 1996 applies to all animals that are not covered by the Protection of Animals (Scotland) Act and prohibits certain cruel acts against wild animals. Specifically, the Act illegalises mutilation, kicking, beating, nailing or otherwise impaling, stabbing, burning, stoning, crushing, drowning, dragging or asphyxiating of any wild mammal with the intention of inflicting unnecessary suffering. The humane killing of wild mammals as an act of mercy or to prevent suffering, and the use of legal snares or poisons is still permitted. The use of dogs to hunt animals was not banned by the Wild Mammals (Protection) Act 1996.


Certain wild mammals have been recognised as endangered or persecuted and therefore meriting their own protection (such as deer, seals and badgers) which gave way to the Conservation of Wild Creatures and Wild Plants Act of 1975 which protects a limited number of species from deliberate destruction. The 1975 Act was replaced by Part I of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (WCA). This provides legal protection for non-domesticated species, which are, for the most part, free-living and indigenous to Great Britain, by imposing restrictions on the killing, taking, possession of and trading in such species. The WCA makes extensive provisions for the protection of wild birds, in addition to which it prohibits:

• the intentional killing, injuring or taking of animals listed in Schedule 5 of the Act. In addition, their shelters are protected and trade is prohibited. These animals include all bats, the otter, porpoises and dolphins.

• self-locking snares and the use of bows, crossbows, explosives and live mammals or birds as decoys to catch any animal. In addition the WCA makes it an offence not to inspect a set free running snare at least once a day.

• the use of traps, snares, poisons, electrical stunning devices, nets, automatic or semi-automatic weapons, dazzling or illuminating devices as night shooting aids, vehicles for driving or killing, smoke and sound recordings as decoys to take or kill animals listed in Schedule 6 to the Act. These animals include badgers, dormice, pine martens, shrews, wild cats and red squirrels.

The WCA does not prohibit the use of dogs to hunt wild mammals.

Some of the provisions of Part I of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, specifically in relation to the powers of entry and enforcement of the legislation are likely to be reformed in England and Wales by the Countryside and Rights of Way Bill which is currently being considered at Westminster. This Bill does not apply to Scotland.


The current Bill before the Scottish Parliament is thought to represent a progression of the Foster Bill upon which agreement couldn’t be reached at Westminster.

A Section by Section commentary on the provisions of the Bill is provided in the Explanatory Notes that were issued to accompany the Bill. It is not intended to repeat this analysis here and a more general overview of the provisions of the Bill is given instead.

The Bill seeks to make it an offence to use, cause or permit the use of a dog or dogs to hunt wild mammals or to allow such hunting to take place on land over which you have control.


The Bill seeks to allow the following exceptions to the general ban on the use of dogs to hunt wild mammals:

• when carried out in accordance with a licence issued by Scottish Ministers.
• when a single dog is used above ground and under close control to hunt a rabbit or rodent or to flush a fox or hare from cover.
• when dogs are used to retrieve rabbits or hares that have been shot.
• to locate wild mammals (other than foxes or hares) that have escaped from captivity if they are then shot.
• to locate wild mammals which have been injured and which are then shot or treated.

The introduction of provisions to allow Scottish Ministers to grant licences to allow hunting with dogs represents a progression from the provisions of the earlier Foster Bill. Under Section 2(2) of the Bill licences could be issued where hunting with dogs is necessary to safeguard the welfare of a species by controlling its numbers or to protect livestock, fowl or game birds from attack by wild mammals.

Section 3 of the Bill allows a single dog to be used to hunt a wild mammal when necessary to protect livestock, fowl, game or crops or, in the case of a rabbit or hare, where the intention is to provide food for human consumption (but not by way of sale).


Anyone found guilty of an offence would be liable to 6 months imprisonment or a fine up to level 5 on the standard scale (currently £5,000). In addition, a person might be disqualified for a specified period from owning or having responsibility for a dog (as specified in the order).



Much of the debate surrounding the introduction of the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Bill has focused on the impact of banning mounted fox hunts. The way the Bill is worded, however, may extend the ban to other uses of dogs to hunt other wild mammals. In addition to foxes, dogs are used to hunt mink, hares and rabbits in Scotland. This section describes the various reasons for hunting these mammals and the ways in which dogs are used to carry out this hunting.


There is a shortage of evidence as to the exact size of the fox population in Scotland. However, there is no concern as to their conservation status. Foxes are one of the most widespread mammals in the UK and are found throughout mainland Britain. The best current estimate suggests that the pre breeding Scottish fox population is approximately 23,000 individuals of which 2,900 occur in urban areas. Estimates suggest that approximately 40,000 cubs are born to these adults each year although it is notoriously difficult to estimate fox populations, particularly in rural areas (2).

Foxes are wild predators and will eat rabbits, hares, wood mice, field voles, insects, earthworms, poultry, birds and small lambs. Evidence suggests that their presence can influence management of the wider countryside for agricultural, game and conservation reasons (3), (4), (5), (6) and that foxes need to be controlled.

Fox control is most efficient if targeted at breeding females just prior to or just after the cubs have been born (7). This timing also coincides with lambing and nesting seasons and so would be appropriate to reduce losses of lambs and newly fledged chicks. Estimates suggest that for the breeding population of foxes to remain stable, culls of approximately 64% of the spring fox population (almost 15,000 individuals in Scotland) are required(7). Even when fox mortality was artificially very high, because of the value of fox skins in the late 1970s, this had no discernible effect on overall numbers in Britain (2).

There are a number of ways in which foxes are hunted using dogs in Scotland.
These are described below.

Mounted fox hunts

Nine registered (8) (or mounted) fox hunts currently operate in Scotland. These are concentrated in the South of the country and are listed below:
• Berwickshire Hunt
• Buccleuch Hunt
• Dumfriesshire Hunt
• Eglinton Hunt
• Fife Fox Hounds
• Jed Forest Hunt
• Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire Hunt
• Lauderdale Hunt
• Liddesdale Hunt

In addition to the registered hunts there is one private hunt in the Stonehaven area, which uses mounted hunting methods. The mounted fox hunting season operates from the first Saturday in November through until the end of April and hunting takes place Tuesdays and Saturdays during that period. Earlier in the year (during August, September and October) young hounds are taken out ‘cubbing’ with older hounds for training. The mounted fox hunting season does not coincide with the times thought to be most effective for fox control.

Mounted fox hunting involves foxes being chased by a pack of hounds (usually comprising 15 to 20 couples or 30 to 40 individuals) and a group of huntsmen and women on horseback over several hours. The hounds follow the fox until it is driven into hiding, killed or escapes. Different interest groups express different views about the nature of the chase. The British Field Sport Society (BFSS), for example, states:

‘Unlike those dogs which pursue their quarry by sight, foxhounds follow the scent of a fox – an invisible, intangible thread which hangs in the air or lies on the ground. They pick up the scent sometime after the fox has been around, and for most of the pursuit are out of the fox’s sight and hearing. Until the final stages, a fox is often quite unconcerned that it is being pursued at all’ (9).

On the other hand, the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) states:

‘After moving off from the meet, the hounds are sent into a ‘covert’ to seek out a fox. A fox could be found almost immediately and flushed out or alternatively there could be a long delay. When the fox sprints away, the huntsman calls the pack together to follow the scent trail left by the fox. A hunted fox will naturally run to the nearest earths and other holes familiar to it, but they are likely to be blocked. It is then forced to run as far and as fast as it can; as the fox is a predator and has not evolved for long sustained chases, it cannot compete with the superior stamina of the slower-running but persistent hounds. Eventually it becomes exhausted whereupon the hounds catch up….’ (10)

When they are caught, foxes are usually killed by the hounds. The nature of the kill is a subject of further disagreement amongst those groups with an interest in hunting. As the LACS states:

‘Canids (wolves, jackals, dogs etc) that hunt in packs, tend to bring down their prey by a series of bites and tears to the quarry’s sides and hind-quarters.’

The BFSS, on the other hand states that:

‘A fox is nearly always killed by a single bite to the back of the neck from just one of the foxhound’s powerful jaws.’

Most mounted foxhunts have terrier men amongst their supporters. Their role is to follow the hunt and, in the event of a fox finding an underground refuge, dig it out, hold it at bay using terriers and kill it. The level of cruelty inflicted on the fox by this activity is a subject of debate. BFSS state that, even if a fox has sought underground refuge, hunts are often obliged by farmers to kill it and:

‘Under such circumstances, trained and accountable staff…are instructed to establish the whereabouts of the fox, to dig down to it, and to dispatch it instantly with a humane killer – usually a small pistol fired at point blank range. These men will use a terrier to hold the fox at bay in a particular part of the earth. They go about their necessary work with all haste and the fox is quickly destroyed.’

‘Small terrier-dogs are entered into the fox’s refuge to locate the sheltering animal. If the fox does not ‘bolt’ there can be a subterranean battle between the fox and terrier in which both may receive serious injuries. The terrier men listen for snarls and growls underground, and then, with spades dig down to expose the combatants. This may take hours….. Once exposed the terrified fox can either be dragged out and shot, or killed with a blow from a spade. If the hounds are in the vicinity they may be brought back and given the live fox as a reward.’

The Scottish Countryside Alliance (SCA) is unable to give information as to the number of foxes taken by registered foxhunts (11). Some hunts keep records of the number taken but these are not collated nationally. They suggest that, in some cases, the benefits of mounted hunts for fox control are that they disperse foxes rather than actually kill them. Hunts have been estimated to take an average of between 1.2 and 1.3 foxes on each outing (10). From this information it can be estimated that mounted fox hunts in Scotland kill approximately 570 adult foxes per year.

The Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Bill would ban mounted fox hunting.

Foot packs

Dogs under the control of huntsmen on foot are also used to hunt foxes in Scotland. Foot packs typically operate over terrain, which is less accessible on horseback, such as through coniferous forestry or over hill ground.

The Scottish Hill Packs Association (SHPA) currently has five pack members:
• The Lochaber and Sunart Hounds, Strontian
• The Atholl and Breadalbane Hounds, Pitlochry
• The Three Straths Hounds, Tomatin
• The Argyll and District Hounds, Inverary
• The Caithness District Terrier Pack, Reay
SHPA members currently kill about 800 foxes plus cubs each year.

Three members of the SHPA receive grant assistance from the Scottish Executive through the fox destruction clubs scheme (12). Fox destruction clubs also operate on foot and use hounds or terriers to flush foxes, which are then shot. There are currently 28 fox destruction clubs operating mainly in the North and West of Scotland. Fox destruction clubs generally use less dogs than foot packs and they receive grant aid administered by the Scottish Executive Rural Affairs Department. Staff in the Executive estimate that Scottish fox destruction clubs cull approximately 3,600 adult foxes over a 14-month period (13). The National Working Terrier Federation (NWTF) provides a code of good practice to promote the efficient, selective and humane use of working terriers for pest control (14).

Recent research has been carried out by the Game Conservancy Trust into the relative effectiveness of foot packs for fox control in the Welsh Uplands (15). This shows foot packs to be highly effective in controlling foxes.

The Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Bill, as introduced, would allow foot packs operating under licence to be used to flush foxes so they can then be dispatched with a gun. The SSPCA advocates shooting as the most humane method of fox control (16). British Wildlife Management (17), citing research from the Patrick Foundation, however, claims that shooting is indiscriminate and can lead to injuries to foxes, which are then left to suffer. Shooting foxes requires considerable skill on the part of the marksman and can only be carried out in open areas where public access is limited.

The use of terriers or any dogs under ground to flush or kill foxes would be banned by the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Bill. Section 2(2) of the Bill, as introduced, only allows licences to be issued ‘to use a dog under close control to stalk a wild mammal or flush it from cover above ground’. The use of terriers has been shown to be an effective method for controlling fox cubs in forestry plantations in the Highlands, Argyll and North-east Scotland (18). Fox cubs frequently remain underground or in rock cairns, where they can be difficult to access by man, and the only means to control them, now that gassing is illegal, may be through using terriers (19).


Mink are small predators which kill a wide variety of, principally waterside, animals including small frogs, fish, water voles and moorhens. The species in Britain is the American mink (Mustela vison) this is similar to the European mink (Mustela lutreola) which is now extinct in Britain and endangered in the rest of Europe. The American mink became established following escapes from fur farms in the late 1950s. The species has now spread along most watercourses in lowland Britain and is well established along rocky coastlines. The total population in Britain is estimated to be at least 110,000 of which around 52,250 (plus an unknown number on the Island of Arran) are though to be in Scotland (2).

Mink are frequently of concern to conservation interests. They have been associated with the complete nesting failures of black headed gull, common gull, common tern and Arctic tern colonies. They are also thought to be responsible for the disappearance of the moorhen from Lewis and Harris and for the disappearance of water voles from watersheds. Mink also damage economic interests, particularly game birds, and the Game Conservancy Trust has evidence of up to 180 kills in a single night from a pen of 400 gamebirds (20).

Mink are widely controlled, particularly by game keepers. Control tends to be through trapping and shooting although dogs can be used and there are 19 packs of mink hounds in Britain (21). There are currently no resident packs of minkhounds in Scotland although packs occasionally visit Scotland from south of the Border. It has, however, been suggested that the economic and ecological impact of mink on either domestic stock or native prey is insufficient to warrant expenditure on wide-spread control (22).

The Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Bill would prohibit the use of dogs to control mink unless they have escaped from a farm or zoo. It may be possible, however, to secure a licence to use dogs to hunt mink to protect fowl or game birds (see Section 2(2)(b)) although the Bill as introduced would not allow licences to be issued to use dogs to hunt mink to protect conservation interests.

Brown hare
The brown hare is a common and conspicuous farmland species. It is widespread throughout lowland Britain but absent from the north-west and west Highlands, where it is replaced by the mountain hare. The best estimate of the mid-winter British brown hare population, prior to the onset of the main hare-culling season is 817,500. The Scottish population at this time is thought to be around 187,250 (2).

The brown hare population seems to have undergone a substantial decline in numbers since the early 1960s. The UK Biodiversity Action Plan (23) attributes this to changing agricultural practices and particularly the reduced diversity of the agricultural landscape. Disease outbreaks may give rise to mass mortalities of hares in some areas but those reported so far do not seem to be sufficiently widespread to cause lasting damage to the hare population. Predation, especially by foxes, has also been suggested to be a factor in this decline although evidence for this is limited. Some have suggested that computer models show hare densities to be three to six times higher in the absence of fox predation (24). Others suggest that, since the strongest hare populations occur in areas where fox numbers are highest, there is no clear link between fox predation and brown hare declines (25).

Hares can be considered a minor agricultural nuisance unless numbers are excessively high (25). Farmers do not generally notice damage to cereal and grass crops, although occasionally it can be more severe particularly to crops such as peas, sugar beet and vines (26). As a consequence, hunting of hares to reduce agricultural damage is not widespread. In much of continental Europe the hare is prized for sport shooting and, although this is carried out in Britain, sport hunting methods that employ dogs tend to be favoured. These are described below.


Hare coursing is a sport with particular history in some parts of Britain. Formal coursing competitions are organised by 23 British coursing clubs and about 1,500 people across Britain participate as club members or spectators. In addition to the formal coursing, around 70,000 dogs across Britain take part in informal coursing (27). There is only one formal coursing club in Scotland, this meets twice a year in Annan in Dumfriesshire. Coursing takes place in the winter between mid September and mid March (28).

Coursing involves setting two dogs after a hare. Typically greyhounds are used, although whippets, deerhounds, lurchers, afghans and salukis may course. These are all dogs that hunt by sight (gazehounds), rather than smell (like foxhounds). Hares are raised by beaters and driven into a field or are raised by people walking across the field to be coursed over. The dogs are let go after the hare has a start and chased until the hare escapes, goes to ground or is killed by the dogs. The intention of coursing is to mark the speed, stamina and agility of the hound (29) rather than to kill the hare. However, figures suggest that around 600 hares may be killed per year across Britain at formal coursing events (30) and many more than this at informal events.

The consequence of coursing for the brown hare population is a matter of dispute. It is unlikely that coursing itself results in the death of a large enough number of hares to affect the population status (28). Some groups claim that, in some places, hares are conserved especially because of the coursing interest (20). On the other hand, others claim that the desire to discourage illegal coursing on their land encourages some landowners to heavily shoot hares (25).

The Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Bill would ban hare coursing. The Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) would support a ban on hare coursing, it is concerned about the impact of this sport on the welfare of the dogs as well as the hares involved (31).


Beagling is a form of hare hunting which is carried out on foot with small hounds (beagles). Like coursing, beagling is a winter activity conducted between September and March but it involves the pursuit of a single hare with a pack of about 20 hounds. These are controlled by a huntsman, who is usually on foot, although may be on horseback if larger hounds are used. The hare is followed, by scent, until it is lost or killed. There are 85 packs of beagles and 26 packs of harriers in Britain, none of which reside in Scotland..

The Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Bill, as introduced, would ban beagling.


Rabbits are ubiquitous in Britain and Ireland and pre-myxomatosis were the major vertebrate pest of agriculture with a population of around 100 million in Britain. Myxomatosis caused up to 99% mortality of rabbits but the spread of weaker strains of the virus and the increase in resistance has allowed the population to recover. The British pre-breeding rabbit population is now estimated at 37 million of which 9.5 million are in Scotland (2).

Rabbits continue to be a considerable pest of agriculture and forestry and they tend to be controlled through ferreting, bolting them onto guns, shooting, snaring and trapping. The Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Bill would not ban any of these methods of control other than the use of dogs to bolt them onto guns. The use of dogs to retrieve rabbits that have been shot would continue to be allowed (Section 3(1)a). In addition, the use of a single dog under close control to hunt a rabbit or rodent is excepted from the general prohibition on the use of dogs to hunt wild mammals (Section 2(7)a) if it is being carried out to protect growing crops or to provide food for human consumption (but not by way of trade).

Rough shooting, falconry and dog walkers

The impact of the proposed Bill on certain methods of rabbit control has given rise to particular concern. As introduced, the Bill would ban unlicensed rough shooting, which involves the use of more than one dog by a single person to flush rabbits, hares, other pests and game in order to shoot them. Game keeping interests, in particular, have expressed concern at this, aspect of the Bill (32).

Falconry groups have expressed similar concerns that the Bill, would impact on their practice of using more than one dog to flush potential prey (usually rabbits) for capture by falcons.

In an interview with The Times on the 23 March 2000 (33) Mike Watson MSP however, confirmed that he did not wish to ban rough shooting or falconry pursuits. In this interview he stated that his intention in introducing the Bill was primarily to end fox hunting with dogs and that he would be prepared to modify the legislation to protect falconry and rough shooting interests. It seems that the overall intention is to ban the use of dogs to hunt and kill wild mammals rather than to use them to flush wild mammals and allow them to be killed using other means. In practice, this would ban mounted fox hunting, the use of terriers to hunt wild mammals below ground, and hare coursing.

Other concerns that have been expressed about the Bill include its impact on the innocent dog walker whose dog takes off after a rabbit or hare. This seems to be a somewhat alarmist attitude towards the impact of the Bill. Section 1(2) clearly states that an offence is only committed by someone who deliberately hunts a wild mammal with a dog.


In November 1999 the Macaulay Land Use Research Institute (MLURI) was commissioned by the Scottish Executive to carry out new research into the economic contribution of fox hunting in Scotland. When published, later in 2000, the results of this study will be the most current and impartial evaluation of the likely economic impact of the Protection of the Wild Mammals (Scotland) Bill. In the meantime, however, estimates of the economic consequences of the Bill can only be made on the basis of relatively crude analysis of figures published by various pro and anti-hunt lobby groups.

Much has been made, by the pro-hunting lobby, of the likely impact of a ban on hunting on economies and employment in rural parts of Scotland. Given that the primary aim of the Watson Bill is to ban mounted fox hunting and hare coursing, this discussion of the economic consequences of the Bill will focus on the consequences of banning these two activities.

Economic consequences of banning mounted fox hunting

Mounted fox hunts and their followers employ staff directly, primarily to look after horses or hounds, on a full or part time basis. They also spend money on feed, bedding, veterinary and farrier services, saddlery, clothes and entertainment which gives rise to indirect employment. Induced employment can also be attributed to fox hunting and arises as a consequence of the expenditure of employees derived either directly or indirectly from fox hunting.

Although a number of studies have been carried out on the economic contribution of fox hunting, these tend to have a UK, rather than a specifically Scottish, focus. In a Scottish study that was funded by the International Fund for Animal Welfare,

Macmillan (1999) (34) points out that it is important to base information, as far as possible, on studies of Scottish hunts because they have relatively less followers than hunts elsewhere in the UK. One such study was carried out by Produce Studies Group (PSG) in the Scottish Borders and Northumberland in 1998.

Direct employment by mounted fox hunts

People can be directly employed by fox hunts to look after hounds and by mounted followers of fox hunts to look after horses. The PSG study, which considered employment by seven hunts (five in the Scottish Borders and two in Northumberland) showed that 16 people (or 2 people per hunt) were employed directly by the seven fox hunts and that mounted followers employed a further 230 people. Macmillan (1999) points out that these figures need some adjustment before they can be used to provide an accurate and defensible estimate of employment associated with mounted fox hunting in Scotland.

Firstly, of the 230 individuals employed by the followers of the PSG surveyed hunts, only 71 were employed full-time all year round. The others were employed for part of the year and/or on a part-time basis. A simple way to convert part-time employment to full-time is to assume that all part-time employees work 50% of the time of full time employees. Table 1 shows the types of employment associated with the seven hunts surveyed by PSG and estimates between 130 and 135 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) jobs to be directly associated with these hunts.

Table 1 Types of employment by followers of the PSG surveyed hunts

[NOTE: Table here in original, including reference to footnote 35]

Secondly, the PSG survey examined 7 hunts in total, 2 of which were in England and 5 in Scotland. Macmillan (1999) suggests that there are 50% less followers, and therefore less employment by followers, of Scottish hunts than followers of English hunts. However, figures provided by Cobham Resource Consultants (36) (see Table 2), show that it may be more accurate to suggest that Scottish hunts attract 70% of the followers attracted by English and Welsh hunts. This would mean that followers of the 5 Scottish hunts in the PSG study resulted in the direct employment of 85 staff or 17 staff per hunt (as opposed to 24 staff per hunt in Northumberland).

Table 2 Hunt providers and participants in the UK

[NOTE: Table here in original]

Finally, Macmillan adjusts the PSG survey figures for direct employment by followers of fox hunts to take account of the fact that the majority of horses that are used are not kept for fox hunting alone. PSG suggested that 43% of the horses kept by mounted followers were used only or mainly for hunting. It seems accurate therefore to adjust the figures for employment attributable to fox hunts to take this into account.

Table 3 summarises the estimates, derived through the methodology described above, of direct employment associated with mounted fox hunts in Scotland.

Table 3 Direct employment associated with mounted fox hunts in Scotland

[NOTE: Table here in original]

Indirect and induced employment associated with mounted fox hunts

Followers of fox hunts spend money on goods and services related to fox hunting such as clothing, saddlery, farriers and feed. This expenditure and that of people employed directly through mounted fox hunting also creates induced employment in the local economy. Calculating indirect and induced consequences of economic activities is extremely difficult and complex. Multipliers can be used to calculate the level of activity generated throughout the economy by each FTE associated with a particular economic activity. Unfortunately, there are no recognised economic multipliers associated with fox hunting or horse riding in Scotland.

Macmillan is the only author to have attempted to calculate the indirect and induced economic activity associated with fox hunting in Scotland. He uses figures derived from the PSG survey to estimate that expenditure and associated employment in the five hunts of the Scottish Borders are £1.48 million and 46.5 FTE jobs respectively. As outlined on page 10 of this paper, there are ten (nine registered and one private) mounted hunts in Scotland.

Figures derived from other studies give different figures for indirect employment associated with fox hunting. For example, Cobham Resource Consultants estimated that 6,600 jobs were indirectly associated with those who take part in fox hunting across Great Britain. Assuming that ten out of 200 fox hunts in Great Britain are based in Scotland it could be estimated that between 300 and 350 FTEs were indirectly attributable to fox hunting in Scotland. However, this may not be accurate since the number of followers of fox hunts is lower in Scotland than England (34).

A great deal of uncertainty is associated with making estimations of the indirect and induced employment associated with fox hunting. Hopefully the MLURI study will shed some light on this issue.

Economic consequences of banning hare coursing

Only one of the 23 British hare coursing clubs operates in Scotland, this club meets over two days twice per year. It is extremely unlikely that any direct employment is associated with such an occasional event however the event does attract followers and will therefore give rise to multipliers in the local economy. Estimates by CRC suggest that 1,500 people across Britain participate in hare coursing either directly or as spectators. This would suggest that between 60 and 70 individuals may participate in formal hare coursing in Scotland. The contribution to the local economy of such a relatively small number of individuals gathering only twice per year is likely to be quite low.

In addition to formal coursing, informal coursing also takes place in Scotland. Since such events are not formally recorded by any organisation or organisations it is impossible to reliably estimate the extent to which participation in such events generates expenditure in the Scottish economy. Such expenditure, as with formal coursing, is likely to be fairly low anyway.

Alternatives to fox hunting and hare coursing

It is probably inaccurate to suggest that a ban on mounted fox hunting and hare coursing would lead to the complete loss of all the employment associated with fox hunting in Scotland. Alternative sports are available to both mounted fox hunting and hare coursing participants.

Drag hunting involves horses and hounds following an artificially laid scent trail rather than one generated by a fox. Proponents of fox hunting do not see a switch between fox and drag hunting as likely because of the different nature of the sports:

‘There is no comparison between fox and drag hunting, the later being a high adrenalin sport whose numbers are usually in their twenties and thirties. The aim is to charge after hounds following a scent along a prearranged route, taking jumps at speed. The children on ponies and the middle aged, who make up a large number of a fox hunt, do not take part, nor do locals as hunt followers.’ (37)

Others suggest that drag hunting is pointless:

Most foxhunters I know regard drag hunting as similar to paying for sex – it lacks the uncertainty of the chase!’ (38)

and have also claimed that the fact that they do not contribute to the control of foxes may reduce the willingness of farmers to allow access to their land (38).

On the other hand, the LACS says that trails can be laid to suit the members of a drag hunt group making for a fast or slow hunt which is often safer than a true fox hunt because of its predictability. They also suggest that farmers might be more accommodating of drag hunts because they can be laid to avoid crops and sensitive areas (39). In spite of this, the Masters of the Draghounds Association knows of no drag hunts operating in Scotland (40).

There is also a humane alternative to hare coursing: coursing a lure, rather than a live animal. The lure is attached to a line threaded around hidden spools in an arena and pulled by a winch. The lure simulates a coursed hare by rapidly changing direction at each spool. Dogs can be tested against each other in their chase of the lure (41).

Summary - economic implications of the Bill

Total employment in rural Scotland is around 570,000 and even in the rural parts of South Scotland, where fox hunting is most concentrated, full employment is 177,000 and fox hunting is a relatively small component of this (42). It is unlikely that the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Bill will lead to a complete loss of huntassociated employment given that some horses and dogs will probably be switched to drag hunting and other horse activities. A ban on hare coursing would be unlikely to give rise to any significant economic consequences.

The Bill, as introduced, would ban rough shooting which could have serious consequences for pest control and other shooting on grouse moors with resulting negative economic impacts. However, without the results of the MLURI study the contribution which rough shooting makes to the economic success of grouse moors is unknown. Mike Watson MSP has stated that he does not want his Bill to ban rough shooting. The Bill, as introduced, would also ban the use of terriers below ground. This may have negative economic impacts in the rural economy but the economic contribution made by the use of terriers below ground is also unknown at this time.


Fate of horses and dogs

Those who are opposed to a ban on hunting frequently question the fate of the hounds and horses that are currently used for fox hunting.

CRC research showed that, even horses that are used predominantly for hunting are only hunted approximately 5 times per year. It therefore seems unlikely that they would be destroyed if there were to be a ban on fox hunting. There are a large number of other equestrian sports which do not involve fox hunting such as eventing and point to point which would continue. Point to point qualification currently depends of affiliation with a fox or drag hunt. However, if fox hunting was to be banned it is likely that alternative means for point to point qualification could be found (43).

If there were to be a ban on fox hunting the fate of the hounds is less certain. There is a lack of comprehensive impartial research on the re-housing of fox hounds. However, their suitability as family pets may be questionable, they will have been reared as pack animals, they may not be house trained and they will have strong predatory instincts that could make them difficult to control. In spite of these problems SSPCA points out that fox hounds are usually put down between the ages of 4 and 6 years anyway because they lose the ability to keep up with the pack. (44). To some extent problems concerning the fate of the hounds may be overcome if hunts were allowed a lead in time for the introduction of a ban on fox hunting so that they could scale down their breeding programme appropriately.

Some trained fox hounds would be able to convert to drag hunting. However, this conversion could not take place over night training would be needed to accustom the dogs to the new requirements. There is evidence however of fox hounds having been trained for drag hunting by the New Forest drag hunt in England (44).

For the Scottish Executive

The Scottish Executive would have to implement the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Bill. This would include monitoring compliance with the law, issuing licences and administering penalties and disqualification orders. The workability of the proposed licensing scheme is likely to be a crucial issue for the Scottish Executive.

None of the penalties in the Bill, as introduced, seem to be particularly excessive and are similar to those set down for wildlife crimes in the Countryside and Rights of Way Bill which is currently being considered at the Westminster. The only area which may be controversial relates to the provisions set down in Section 6 for disqualification orders. Disqualification from keeping a dog could be viewed as an additional penalty.

The Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Bill would make it an offence to use, cause or permit the use of a dog or dogs to hunt wild mammals or to allow such hunting to take place on land over which you have control. Essentially the aim of the member who introduced the Bill to the Scottish Parliament seems to be to ban mounted fox hunting, hare coursing and the use of terriers below ground to flush or catch wild mammals below ground.

The Bill, as introduced, however could impact on other means of pest control in the countryside, these particularly involve the use of dogs to flush mammals so that they may be shot. Many of these methods are the most humane and efficient available to control foxes and rabbits.

The Bill would have an impact upon the economies of rural parts of Scotland particularly because of the ban on mounted fox hunting with which some jobs are associated. However, the evidence available suggests that relatively few jobs are associated with mounted fox hunting and the impact of a ban would probably be relatively insignificant. The extent to which restrictions on certain methods of pest control might impact on the economic viability of certain land uses, such as game management, is currently unknown.

The Bill makes provision for the issue of licences to allow dogs to be used for hunting foxes under certain circumstances. The issue of such licenses would be a matter for the Scottish Executive and the procedures and practicalities of them being issued may require further consideration.

Research Notes are compiled for the benefit of Members of Parliament and their personal staff. Authors are available to discuss the contents of these papers with Members and their staff but cannot advise members of the general public.

1 Advocates for Animals personal communication 29 March 2000
2 Harris S, Morris P, Wray S and Yalden D (1995), A Review of British Mammals, Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Peterborough.
3 Hewson and Leitch (1984), Scavenging and predation upon sheep and lambs in the West of Scotland, Journal of Applied Ecology, 21, pp843-868.
4 Reynolds, Goddard and Brockles (1993), The impact of the local fox (Vulpes vulpes) removal on fox populations at two sites in Southern England, Gibier Faune Sauvage, 10 December 1993, pp319-334.
5 Game Conservancy (1992), Game Conservancy Review of 1992, p120.
6 Biodiversity: the UK Steering Group Report (1995), Volume 2: Action Plans, HMSO.
7 Baker P and Harris S (1997) How will a ban on hunting affect the British fox population? University of Bristol.
8 Registered with the Master of the Fox Hounds Association
9 BFSS, Hunting the facts, London.
10 League Against Cruel Sports (1992), Wildlife Protection: the case for the abolition of hunting, and snaring, London.
11 SCA (1999) personal communication.
12 Scottish Hill Packs Association, information leaflets.
13 Scottish Executive (1999), personal communication.
14 National Working Terriers Federation, information leaflets.
15 Reynolds J and Haydon M (1999) Journal of Applied Ecology in press.
16 SSPCA 1999) personal communication.
17 British Wildlife Management, Wildlife Welfare – Vulpes vulpes vs Homo sapiens sapiens.
18 Hewson R and Kolb HH (1974), The control of foxes in Scottish forests, Scottish Forestry 28(4) pp 272-277.
19 Scottish Agricultural Science Agency, personal communication. 28 January 2000.
20 Tapper S (Ed) (1999), A Question of Balance: game animals and their role in the British countryside, Game Conservancy Trust, Hampshire.
21 British Field Sports Society, Hunting the facts
22 Dunstone N (1993), The Mink, T & AD Poyser Ltd, London.
23 Biodiversity: the UK Steering Group Report (1995), Volume 2: Action Plans, HMSO, London.24 Reynolds JC and Tapper SC (1995), Predation by foxes (Vulpes vulpes) on brown hares (Lepus europaeus) in central southern England, and its potential impact on annual population growth, Wildlife Biology 1 145-158.
25 Harris S and McLaren G (1998), The Brown Hare in Britain, University of Bristol.
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27 Cobham Resource Consultants (1997), Countryside Sports their economic, social and environmental significance, report published by the Standing Conference on Countryside Sports.
28 Stoate C and Tapper SC (1993), The impact of three hunting methods on Brown hare (Lepus euroaeus) populations in Britain, Gibier Faune Sauvage 10 pp 229-240.
29 Countryside Alliance, This is coursing, leaflet.
30 Stoate C and Tapper SC (1993), op cit.
31 SSPCA (1999), personal communication.
32 Hunt ban ‘will destroy grouse moors’ The Telegraph p13, 16 March 2000.
33 MSP ready to water down foxhunting Bill after protests, The Times p1, 23 March 2000.
34 Macmillan D (1999), The economic impact of a ban on fox-hunting with dogs in Scotland, University of Aberdeen, Environmental and Resource Economics Group, Study funded by International Fund for Animal Welfare.
35 FTE figures are calculated on the basis that part time or part year employment is exactly half of full time or year round employment.
36 Cobham Resource Consultants (1997), Countryside Sports their Economic, Social and Conservation Significance, executive summary and main report by the Standing Committee on Countryside Sports.
37 Daily Telegraph 5 July 1997: Outdoors: How puppy love could help to kill the Bill.
38 Daily Telegraph 3 April 1997, Letters to the Editor Equine threat.
39 LACS Drag Hunting – ‘A family sport’
40 Maters of the Draghounds Association, personal communication, July 1999.
41 IFAW leaflet The Hunted Hare
42 SOAEFD figures, November 1998.43 Masters of the Draghounds Association (1999), pers com
44 SSPCA (2000) personal communication

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Scottish Parliament: Research Briefings: RP 00-04 Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Bill


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