Trail Hunting (Definition)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 3rd April 2019.

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Photo of Emma Harper Emma Harper Scottish National Party

2. To ask the Scottish Government how it defines trail hunting in relation to its proposals for legislative changes to fox hunting practices. (S5O-03087)

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government has not yet set out to define trail hunting in legal terms, but it might be helpful for me to outline the description of trail hunting that was provided by Lord Bonomy in his review of the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002. He described it as

“the hunting of a scent laid manually in such a way as best to simulate traditional mounted hunting activity. The trail is laid along the line a fox might take when moving across the countryside. Trail hunters use animal-based scent, primarily fox urine, a scent with which the hounds are familiar and with which it is intended they should remain familiar.”

Photo of Emma Harper Emma Harper Scottish National Party

Would the minister be open to looking at drag hunting, which uses a pre-laid, non-animal chemical scent, such as aniseed oil, as an alternative? It would allow the cultural heritage and social aspects of such countryside activities to continue.

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

In January, I announced the Government’s intention to prevent trail hunting from becoming an established practice in Scotland, to protect animal welfare. Since trail hunting has been introduced in England and Wales, we have seen that it can sometimes lead to hounds killing a fox, whether by accident or intentionally.

As we develop our proposals and move forward, if the evidence shows that drag hunting does not pose a risk to animal welfare, I envisage that we might well consider that practice to be fit to continue in Scotland.

Photo of Colin Smyth Colin Smyth Labour

It is clear that we need to end the current loopholes in the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002 and avoid creating any new ones, such as trail hunting, appearing in Scotland. Does the minister not accept that the Government’s plans for a licensing scheme that would allow the use of more than two dogs risk creating an entirely new loophole for hunters who want to dodge the ban? Will she accept that cruelty cannot be licensed and scrap the Government’s proposals for a licensing scheme?

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

I understand Colin Smyth’s concern, but I reiterate what I said in my statement in January. The reasoning behind our proposals is to close any loopholes and not create new ones. I have openly said that I want to work with members across the chamber to develop the legislation.

I have talked about the potential for licensing. We do not know what the scheme might look like, because we have not developed the proposals. I want to work with Colin Smyth and other members across the chamber so that, when we introduce the legislation, we do it right and we avoid creating any loopholes.