Section 1A — Exception: stalking and flushing from cover

Part of Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 3:00 pm on 13th February 2002.

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Photo of Scott Barrie Scott Barrie Labour 3:00 pm, 13th February 2002

From time to time in the course of the debate on the bill, Mike Watson and those of us who support the bill have been accused of a number of things. The Daily Telegraph editorial accused me of indulging in class warfare. Others were accused of acting like Joseph Stalin or Robert Mugabe. All of us have been accused of arguing our case on the basis of sheer prejudice. The majority of those accusations are untrue.

Like other sections that we will debate today, section 1A(1A), which I wish to remove from the bill, allows fox baiting, hare coursing and mounted hunting, which are in direct contravention of what Parliament voted for at stage 1. That subsection will allow the use of lurchers to kill hares and foxes. Let us examine the science of that.

First, let us consider hare coursing. The hare is forced to run for its life as two greyhounds or lurchers chase it across an open field for the entertainment of spectators. We know what happens when lurchers meet hares because of the openness of the hare coursing community—full credit to it. That community allowed the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare to perform 53 post-mortem examinations of hares that were killed in hare-coursing events. The federation found that not one of the 53 hares had been killed by a bite to the back of the neck. Many had not died until the dog handler had caught up with the dog, taken the hare from it and killed the hare with his bare hands. The science is clear: lurchers cannot kill hares humanely.

Secondly, let us consider the fox. In the context of a contest between wild mammals and lurchers, how does the fox compare to the hare? For a start, it is bigger, it has sharper teeth and claws and its ability to fight the dog is a little greater than that of the hare. In September, Parliament decided that it wanted to abolish hare coursing. Section 1A(1A) of the bill, as amended by the Rural Development Committee, will permit something far worse. Let us call it fox coursing. Many members will have seen the film that was circulated by the Scottish Campaign Against Hunting with Dogs, which demonstrates clearly that lurchers are unable humanely to kill foxes. Therefore, all sections of the bill that would permit lurchers to be set to kill should be removed.

Section 1A(1A) of the bill will allow any dog—from a lurcher to a collie to a Rottweiler—or even a pack of dogs, to be used to kill a mammal that has been shot at. Whether or not the mammal has been shot and wounded, the pack of dogs can be set on it. I argue that it is never necessary to set a single dog or a pack of dogs on a fox in order to kill it. An alternative is allowed for under the bill, which will enable pest control workers such as gamekeepers and hill packs to perform their roles effectively.

Let us examine what hill packs do. Paul Crofts, of the Scottish Hill Packs Association, gave evidence to the Rural Development Committee on 6 November. He said:

"If the fox is wounded, the dog is slipped immediately and, being faster than the fox, quickly catches and kills it."—[Official Report, Rural Development Committee, 6 November 2001; c 2346.]

We can argue about whether the kill is quick. My assessment—made after hearing the opinions of other people and not just that of Mr Crofts—is that that will not be the case often.

Crucially, under the terms of the bill, a lurcher could be used to catch a wounded fox. Section 3(1)(c), to which John Swinney has already referred, says that a dog can be used to locate a seriously injured mammal, provided that the mammal is

"killed as humanely as possible".

If the intention of the person using the lurcher is to locate the fox and catch the fox so that he can shoot it, the bill permits him to do that. If the dog is, perchance, a quicker killer, section 1A(1B) of the bill—which has also been referred to—says that the dog handler commits no offence if the dog kills the mammal. However, it would be wrong for the individual to slip the lurcher and stand back to watch the fight.

I support the need for pest control and I am happy for lurchers to be part of that process, but lurchers should be used for what nature designed them—to catch and stop a fox quickly. They should not be used to kill. Section 1A(1A) provides no extra protection for hill packs.

I move amendment 42.