On 24th January 2023, with 90 votes in favour and 30 opposed, the Scottish Parliament passed a new hunting law that replaced the 2002 ban on foxhunting. The Hunting with Dogs (Scotland) Act 2023 was aiming to replace the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002 by closing some loopholes the hunts had been using to continue hunting foxes with dogs, but campaigners fear that it opens new loopholes the hunting fraternity could exploit. 

In particular, while the new law no longer allows using a full pack of hounds to flush a wild mammal out of cover (now only two can be used as in the case of the foxhunting ban in England and Wales), it allows this to happen under a licence that the hunts could apply to (something not allowed south of the border). 

Another bittersweet result is that the new law explicitly bans trail hunting (the new activity invented by the hunts in England and Wales to circumvent the law by pretending the hounds are chasing an artificial scent, not a wild mammal scent), but it only defines it as “the activity in which a dog is directed to find and follow an animal-based scent which has been laid for that purpose.” This means that hunts could start using train hunting in Scotland as long as they prevent any evidence of the animal component of a scent to be obtained by wildlife crime investigators or the police. The law even allows the training of dogs to follow animal-based scents as long as they are trained two at a time.

Other potential loopholes identified are the “excuses” hunts can use to hunt foxes with hounds (without a licence using two dogs, or with a licence using a pack). It shows as valid justifications the following: preventing serious damage to livestock, woodland or crops; preventing the spread of disease; protecting human health; providing quarry for falconry, game shooting or deer stalking; preserving, protecting or restoring a particular species (which may include controlling the number of a species for its welfare) for environmental benefit, preserving, protecting or restoring the diversity of animal or plant life, or eradicating an invasive non-native species of wild mammal from an area. The hunting fraternity is notorious for lying about the reasons why they go out chasing wildlife, often using conservation and livestock protection excuses, so it appears the new law will give them plenty more to choose from.

Colin Smyth, Scottish Labour rural affairs spokesperson, said to the BBC that his party had concerns about some of the provisions and agreed it creates new loopholes by allowing packs of dogs to be used for hunting via a licence. He said, “but the reality is you cannot license cruelty.

Jordi Casamitjana
“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.