– in the Scottish Parliament on 24th January 2023.
The next item of business is stage 3 proceedings on the Hunting with Dogs (Scotland) Bill. In dealing with the amendments, members should have with them the bill as amended at stage 2—SP Bill 12A—the marshalled list and the groupings of amendments. The division bell will sound and proceedings will be suspended for five minutes for the first division of the afternoon. The period of voting for that first division will be 45 seconds. Thereafter, I will allow a voting period of one minute for the first division after a debate.
Members who wish to speak in the debate on any group of amendments should press their request-to-speak buttons or enter RTS in the chat as soon as possible after I call the group.
Members should now refer to the marshalled list of amendments.
The Presiding Officer:
Group 1 is on exception for use of dogs below ground. Amendment 19, in the name of Ariane Burgess, is grouped with amendments 25, 28, 31, 54, 55, 5 to 8, 58 and 59.
Thank you, Presiding Officer. Please accept my apologies for being late for the start of the debate.
The Rural Affairs, Islands and Natural Environment Committee expressed concern about the use of even one dog underground. The committee said:
“It is not clear ... that the use of dogs at all below ground is compatible with the Bill’s pursuit of the highest possible animal welfare standards.”
Amendment 59, in my name, would remove section 5, which provides for an exception to allow the use of a dog to hunt foxes below ground. I thank Colin Smyth for supporting amendment 59 and all the amendments in my name in this group.
During the evidence process, the committee received evidence from the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals on the consequences of sending dogs underground to flush foxes. We were shown pictures of dogs and foxes with horrific injuries and disfigured faces. We received written evidence about wild animals
“screaming in terror and pain as they were torn apart by dogs”.
How is that compatible with the bill’s pursuit of the highest standards of animal welfare? Sanctioning the use of a terrier below ground is sanctioning a core part, and perhaps the cruellest part, of fox hunting.
Terrier work continues to occur as a cruel, stand-alone pastime for people and gangs who enjoy using terriers to attack foxes and badgers. Dog fighting is illegal in Scotland. It should also be illegal to pit a dog against a fox underground. The removal of section 5 would also help to put a stop to illegal badger baiting, by removing a common excuse that baiters give, that is, that they were just trying to flush a fox.
Amendments 19, 25, 28 and 31 are consequential to amendment 59.
On the other amendments in the group, I support amendment 54, in Colin Smyth’s name, which stipulates that if a dog is used to flush a fox from below ground with the intention of killing it, the fox must be killed
“by shooting it as soon as reasonably possible”, so that it is not killed by the dog or by another inhumane method.
I do not support amendment 55, in Rachael Hamilton’s name, which would add to the list of purposes that justify the use of dogs underground. Nor do I support her amendment 58, which would allow the use of nets, which could prevent a fox from emerging from below ground and could trap a fox to be used as bait for young terriers.
I support amendments 5 to 8, in the name of the minister, which will add conditions to the use of a dog below ground, to reduce the impact on the welfare of dogs on foxes, but I would prefer, of course, that we did not allow hunting below ground at all.
I move amendment 19.
The Presiding Officer:
I call Colin Smyth to speak to amendment 54 and other amendments in the group.
Labour does not support the use of dogs below ground to control mammals, in any circumstances.
As Ariane Burgess said, the RAINE committee said, in its stage 1 report:
“It is not clear ... that the use of dogs at all below ground is compatible with the Bill's pursuit of the highest possible animal welfare standards.”
That is because it is not compatible. The proposal in the bill to limit to one the number of dogs to be used underground is an ineffective compromise. If it is cruel to use more than one dog below ground, it is cruel to use one dog.
It is not credible to argue that a dog can be properly controlled once it is below ground. The Government knows and admits this. It changed the explanatory notes on the bill to say that a person who is responsible for a dog, as defined in section 2(6), no longer needs “continuously” to
“direct the dog’s activity by physical contact or verbal or audible command”.
Labour supports Ariane Burgess’s amendments 19, 25, 28, 31 and 59, which would remove the exception completely. The risk of harm that is created by a dog encountering a wild mammal in an enclosed space is such that it is clear that section 5 should be removed on animal welfare grounds.
Amendment 54, in my name, would become relevant only if section 5 is not removed. It seeks to specify that the intention should be to kill, by shooting, the animal that emerges from below ground, to ensure that less humane methods are not used, that such a scenario is not used as a cover story and that the intention is not to kill wild mammals with dogs. Although the method of killing the wild mammal is specified, amendment 54 would more explicitly require that there could be no intention for the dog to kill the wild mammal.
I have altered the wording that I used in a similar amendment at stage 2, to clarify that the wild mammal should be shot
“as soon as reasonably possible”.
The proposed wording is similar to wording that is used elsewhere in the bill.
Amendments 5 and 6, in the name of the minister, will require a dog that is used below ground to be fitted with a tracking device. Amendment 7 will require “reasonable steps” to be taken to prevent a dog from becoming trapped below ground and to ensure that a dog that is trapped is rescued as soon as possible. Labour will support those amendments. Although, as I said, we oppose the use of dogs below ground altogether, the amendments would mitigate some of the risk to dogs’ welfare in such circumstances.
We support amendment 8 from the minister, which will create a condition that a fox cannot be prevented from emerging from below ground. That would mitigate one of the many risks posed to foxes by the activity permitted by section 5, should that section remain in the bill.
However, amendment 58, in the name of Rachael Hamilton, which creates similar conditions to those in amendments 5 to 8, would allow the use of nets to prevent foxes emerging from below ground. We do not support that amendment, due to the welfare concerns that it raises.
I therefore urge members to support the amendments in my name and those from Ariane Burgess and from the minister.
The Presiding Officer:
I call Rachael Hamilton to speak to amendment 55 and other amendments in the group.
Amendment 55 in my name seeks to extend the ability to use dogs to hunt—[
Pardon? I do not know if someone wants to intervene.
Amendment 55 in my name seeks to extend the ability to use dogs to hunt wild mammals below ground, in order to preserve or protect the diversity of animal and plant species and to eradicate invasive and non-native species from certain areas. The purpose of allowing the use of a dog below ground is to enable fox control and effective wildlife management. Limiting the means to do so to the protection of livestock alone ignores the reality that using dogs below ground for those purposes is a vital tool in protecting other wildlife, such as vulnerable ground-nesting birds.
So far, we have heard no reasonable explanation as to why the Scottish Government believes that the use of dogs to control predators below ground is acceptable for the protection of livestock but not for the protection of dwindling populations of curlew or capercaillie. The importance of using dogs in those circumstances below ground is clearly outlined by Lord Bonomy and Lord Burns in the Bonomy review. Lord Bonomy said that
“the material presented to the Review is persuasive of the need for the use of terriers to ensure the despatch of a fox gone to ground” and that
“there is no firm scientific evidence of the extent of the impact on the fox. Indeed it was observed in the Burns Report that the banning of hunting could have an adverse effect on the welfare of foxes in upland areas unless dogs could be used at least to flush foxes from cover.”
The Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002, which this bill has been brought to Parliament to replace, rightly allows for that form of predator control. I ask the minister if she believes that it is appropriate, at a time when ecologists are discussing the extinction of capercaillie from Scotland, to remove a vital means of protecting those birds from predators, or if she believes that it is important to support my amendments. Any omission of that exemption by way of a vote against amendment 55 might well be the nail in the coffin for the capercaillie, but a vote for the amendment would be a proactive step in ensuring that we do not erode the toolkit used by countryside custodians in effectively managing our wildlife.
Amendment 58 aims to outline measures that should be taken for the welfare of dogs being used below ground. Although the bill seeks to address issues in the 2002 act—as identified by the Scottish Government—that relate to animals being hunted, it also provides the opportunity to introduce measures to safeguard the welfare of dogs deployed in those activities, particularly when dogs are used below ground. By requiring the use of locating equipment and making it clear that nothing other than netting should be used to prevent an animal coming out from below ground, the amendment would protect dogs’ welfare and would ensure best practice.
The Conservatives will not support the amendments in this group from Ariane Burgess and Colin Smyth, but we are minded to support the amendments from the minister.
I will begin with amendments 19, 25, 28, 31 and 59, in the name of Ariane Burgess, which seek to remove section 5, and the provision for using dogs below ground, from the bill.
In developing the bill, my officials and I have sought to pursue the highest possible welfare provisions while balancing that with the need for farmers, land managers and environmental groups to carry out legitimate wildlife management in our rural nation.
I know that the use of dogs below ground is a polarising issue and therefore understand why Ariane Burgess has lodged the amendments. I, too, have heard evidence about the use of dogs below ground and about how that can pose a risk to the welfare of both dogs and wild mammals.
I have sought to respond to that in many ways. That is why this bill seeks to change the law so that no more than one dog can be used below ground, which is in line with comments made by Lord Bonomy.
It is also why we are placing strict limits on the purposes for which a dog may be sent below ground. It is why I supported amendments at stage 2 to remove mink, thereby again narrowing the situations in which dogs may be used below ground, and it is why I lodged amendments 5 to 8, which we are discussing today. They seek to add further provisions to ensure that there will be best practice on welfare.
I want the provisions on the matter to be drawn as narrowly as possible. On the other hand, in the work that I and my officials and colleagues have undertaken in developing the bill, it has not been clear that there is a viable alternative when it comes purely to fox control. No more humane methods have been put to me that would fulfil the same function. In fact, something that has preyed on my mind significantly is that it has been put to me that some less humane methods could be used in the absence of an opportunity to put a dog underground. They include blocking up a den, resulting in starvation, which is something that everybody would want to avoid. After giving a great deal of thought to the matter, I am therefore unable to support Ariane Burgess’s amendments, which would remove the provision.
Colin Smyth’s amendment 54 would require that a person who used section 5 intended to kill the wild mammal
“by shooting it as soon as reasonably possible”.
I appreciate that he has changed a similar stage 2 amendment to seek to remove inconsistent language. However, amendment 54 still presents a legislative anomaly. First, because intention is very difficult to prove, it would open up a subjectivity that was problematic under the previous act and that we must try to avoid. Moreover, there is a practical problem, because it is possible that a person will search for a wild mammal below ground but that it will not emerge, so the person cannot shoot it. The person may have intended to shoot it, as per Colin Smyth’s amendment, but that will not always materialise or happen in practice. It would be wrong to have legislative provision that did not acknowledge that.
In any case, section 5(3)(d) of the bill states that,
“if the fox ... is found or emerges from below ground”, it must be
“shot dead, or killed by a bird of prey, as soon as reasonably possible”.
I think that that provides much of what I suspect Colin Smyth is seeking to do, but it does it in a realistic way that takes account of changing circumstances. For those reasons, I cannot support Colin Smyth’s amendment 54.
Rachael Hamilton’s amendment 55 seeks to expand the number of purposes for which a dog may be used below ground to include provisions for environmental benefit. As I said in the context of Ariane Burgess’s amendments, I have considered the issue very carefully and sought to strike a careful balance. Because of that, just as I could not support Ariane Burgess’s amendment to remove section 5 completely, I cannot support Rachael Hamilton’s amendment 55, which would extend the purposes for which dogs may be used underground.
I have not heard any evidence on allowing the use of dogs below ground for the purposes that are listed in the environmental benefits section. I listened to what Rachael Hamilton said, but I do not think that the section that she quoted from Lord Bonomy’s report is necessarily evidence of that. Moreover, the 2002 act, which we are of course seeking to update and improve, does not allow the use of dogs below ground for the purposes that Rachael Hamilton would suggest. If I was to accept her amendment, I would be going even further than what is provided under the 2002 act. I do not wish to do that, so I cannot support amendment 55.
I turn to my amendments 5 to 8. I referred to them earlier. They seek to bolster and make very clear in the bill the welfare provisions that must apply to the use of any dog underground. They provide that anyone who uses a dog to search or flush a fox from below ground must, as well as complying with all other conditions, take “reasonable steps” to prevent the dog from becoming trapped, fit it with a suitable tracking device and not take any steps to prevent it
“from being flushed or emerging from below ground”.
Again, this is about my desire to draw the provisions as narrowly as possible and ensure the welfare of the animal as far as possible.
Rachael Hamilton’s amendment 58 seeks to address many of the same issues as my amendments 5 to 8. They are similar precisely because I agreed with Rachael Hamilton’s stage 2 amendment and confirmed that I would bring something back at stage 3 that addressed it. The amendments are similar, but I ask Parliament to support the wording of my amendments, which is more precise and is consistent with the rest of the bill.
For example, my amendment 6 refers to
“a device to allow tracking of the position of the dog below ground”, whereas Rachael Hamilton’s amendment 58 refers to
“suitable electronic locating equipment”, which is clearly subjective. Our amendments are similar, but mine are more precise, and I would be grateful if Parliament would support them.
I remind the Parliament that I have an interest, in that I own and manage land and have been involved in wildlife management for more than 40 years.
I thank the minister for listening to some of the debates around the bill. I know that, in some of those, she has struggled to find a solution to some of the problems that she feels as a matter of conscience. However, her amendments are refreshing, because they take into account what is, after all, the good practice that is practised on the land by most people who are using dogs underground.
I am disappointed with Ariane Burgess’s amendment, because she seems to seek to defend it by suggesting that it will stop dog fighting and badger baiting. There is never any excuse for dog fighting, and never any excuse for badger baiting. The badger is one of the most protected animals in the United Kingdom and the offences for interfering with or causing injury to badgers are probably some of the most stringent offences that someone can be charged with. I therefore do not find those arguments compelling, or a reason to stop the use of dogs underground.
Those people who work in the countryside know that, when a fox gets a taste for lambs, it becomes a very difficult animal to control. Often, as we heard during the committee debate from Jim Fairlie, older foxes with fewer teeth become more susceptible to predation on lambs. If members have seen a few lambs with their back passages eaten out, tongues chewed out, or soft underbellies ripped apart while they are still alive, they will know why foxes need to be controlled. Therefore, controlling them underground, by using dogs to flush them from under the ground to be shot, is entirely appropriate and is necessary across the farming community.
Colin Smyth’s amendment 54 does not need supporting, because, as the minister has pointed out, that is what people are attempting to do when they flush a fox from underground: to shoot and kill it.
I support Rachael Hamilton’s amendments 55 and 58 because they are good practice.
I am concerned that, if members decide to support Ariane Burgess’s amendments to remove section 5, we will make a problem for ourselves that will prevent us not only from looking after domestic livestock but from looking after the flora and fauna of Scotland.
I rise in support of Rachael Hamilton’s amendments 55 and 58. I appreciate that the minister acknowledges the need for using dogs underground. Her amendment on that matter would improve the bill slightly on that front. However, Rachael Hamilton’s amendments are based fundamentally on stakeholder engagement with the Scottish Countryside Alliance, the British Association for Shooting and Conservation and the Kennel Club, whereas the minister’s seem to be based on what her Government thinks is best.
I therefore ask the minister to reflect on who is best placed to decide on those improvements, rather than on welfare concerns over dogs.
I fully understand and sympathise with farmers’ need to protect their livestock and crops. Removing section 5 will not prevent farmers from doing that; it just means that they have to use another method that is less likely to result in agony and injuries for the dog and for any wild animals involved. In its report, the Rural Affairs, Islands and Natural Environment Committee has expressed its concern a bout using even one dog underground, as have several animal welfare organisations and the Government’s Scottish animal welfare commission. It is clear that the exception should be removed from the bill.
The minister has stated her concern that removing the exception for foxes could lead to an increase in other cruel practices. However, we should not shy away from outlawing cruel practices for fear of the adoption of other cruel practices. The mentality should not be, “What is the least worst?” We should turn that on its head and actively seek better.
I turn to Rachael Hamilton’s point on the need to protect capercaillie. The Rural Affairs, Islands and Natural Environment Committee heard from the RSPB that it has
“limited evidence that fox and crow control benefits capercaillie”, and that it explores
“all non-lethal options before moving to lethal control.”—[
Rural Affairs, Islands and Natural Environment Committee
, 8 June 2022; c 38, 40.]
It always brings in trained marksmen to conduct fox control on its land and it does not use dogs to control foxes.
In response to Edward Mountain, I say that if badgers are so well protected, why does Scottish Badgers advocate removing exceptions to the use of dogs below ground?
I press amendment 19.
The Presiding Officer:
There will be a division. As this is the first division of this stage, I will suspend for around 5 minutes to allow members to access the digital voting system.
14:40 Meeting suspended.
14:47 On resuming—
We will now proceed with the division on amendment 19. Members should cast their votes now.
I call Kaukab Stewart to cast a proxy vote on behalf of Stuart McMillan.
The Presiding Officer:
The result of the division is: For 24, Against 96, Abstentions 0.
Amendment 19 disagreed to.
We move to group 2, which is on field sports. Amendment 20, in the name of Rachael Hamilton, is grouped with amendments 21, 26, 27, 29, 30, 32, 33, 60, and 63 to 68. I point out that, if amendment 64 is agreed to, I cannot call amendment 65 because of pre-emption.
Amendments 20, 21 and the other amendments in my name seek to allow exceptions for rough shooting and field trials. Throughout the passage of the bill, we have heard a strong and sustained case for those two activities to be exempted from the two-dog limit, in the light of the inclusion of rabbits in the bill. At the heart of the proposed exemptions is the right for people to continue lawful and legitimate activities that effectively manage wildlife and ensure that pests are controlled humanely. I do not use the word “pests” in the lightest sense, in that description.
There has, throughout the process, been a lack of evidence to show that using two or more dogs during a rough shoot has any impact on the welfare of rabbits or foxes. We know that gun dogs do not operate in packs—that argument has been made many times throughout the bill’s passage—nor do they chase wild mammals. The process of flushing and humanely dispatching wild mammals is done effectively, efficiently and with the highest regard for the highest animal welfare standards.
The amendments in my name reflect the minister’s wording in correspondence with the RAINE Committee. To put it simply, if an exception is not accepted, rough shooters will find themselves falling foul of the bill, which creates a grey area around rough shooting. Whether in relation to the implementation of the ethical principles in wildlife management, a possible snaring ban or the limiting of hunting and rough shooting to two dogs, it is an important argument to make and we should consider the matter with an evidence-based approach to wildlife management.
My amendments in the group offer a way round that that could help to strike the right balance within the bill. Amendments 63, 65 and 66 would remove references to sports from section 6. Those references in that section completely and deliberately misunderstand the nature of hunting, and reinforce the impression that land-management activities such as deer stalking or game shooting are only about sport. However, we know that they play a vital role in relation to harvesting of food, pest control and wildlife management in general. That evidence was set out as clear as day to the RAINE Committee by stakeholders including the NFU Scotland, the British Association for Shooting and Conservation, the Scottish Countryside Alliance and Scottish Land & Estates. However, the Scottish Government has chosen all along to listen but, ultimately, to ignore the evidence.
The argument that was advanced 20 years ago by the opponents of hunting was that they had no problem with dogs being used for pest control—using a pack to flush to guns—but wanted to end what they called “hunting (for sport)”. It is unhelpful, unnecessary and misleading to reduce those activities to the single purpose of sport when, in reality, they are undertaken for a variety of purposes. Moreover, those purposes are essential to Scotland’s food security and biodiversity.
Colin Smyth’s amendments 60 and 64, which seek to remove exceptions for falconry, would treat falconry solely as a sport. For the reasons that I have set out above, that notion should be removed from the bill. As my colleague Edward Mountain said at stage 2, we need look no further than the roof of the chamber in which we sit, where falcons are used to keep pigeons out of gutters, for an example of use of falcons that does not relate to sport. Although that does not involve mammals, there are examples in which falcons are used to control predators that have been searched for or flushed from cover by dogs.
I tried to intervene on Ariane Burgess to help her, as she perhaps bent the truth in one of her statements in the debate on the previous group of amendments. One of the primary drivers of population decline of capercaillie, among other ground-nesting birds, is predation by foxes. That is stated by NatureScot on its website. I give Ariane Burgess the opportunity to correct her statement on that point for the record.
I move amendment 20.
Amendments 60 and 64 in my name would remove providing quarry for falconry as a permitted use of dogs.
Falconry creates welfare concerns for both the bird of prey and the animal that is being hunted. The RAINE Committee questioned the inclusion of falconry in its stage 1 report, commenting that it required more information as to
“why an exception for falconry has been included in the scope of the bill.”
It also raised concerns about section 6(2)(e), which requires that
“the wild mammal which is being searched for, stalked or flushed is shot dead, or killed by a bird of prey”.
I lodged an amendment at stage 2 that the minister said she could not support because it would ban by the back door an otherwise lawful activity, given that because there had been no consultation on a proposal to ban falconers from hunting, falconry does not fall within what it is intended would be covered by the bill. However, the issue was widely discussed; evidence was heard at stage 1, otherwise it would not have featured in the committee’s stage 1 report. To say that there should be no action against something that is clearly cruel because it was not included in the first draft of the bill is not a strong argument.
I remind the minister that during the passage of the Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Act 2020, the Government introduced amendments at stage 2 to ban shooting of seals, and subsequently supported an amendment at stage 3 to protect mountain hares. Both those amendments were welcome, although neither had been the subject of consultation by the Scottish Government when the bill was introduced. They were the right thing to do. The Government has completely failed to answer the basic question of how flushing a wild mammal to be killed by a waiting bird of prey can be considered to be less cruel than that bird being killed by a dog.
Amendments 20, 26, 29, 32 and 67, in the name of Rachael Hamilton would introduce a new exception for rough shooting, and amendments 21, 27, 30, 33 and 68 would create a new exception for gun-dog field trials. Neither of those has a two-dog limit as long as the intention is not to use the dogs as a pack. That is inconsistent with the rest of the bill and risks the creation of loopholes. However, there is legitimate concern; the bill lacks clarity in relation to rough shooting, so there is a need for far more explicit guidance on the matter.
I note that the Government has amended the explanatory notes to the bill, which state that
“under this exception several people could each use one or two dogs to flush separate wild mammals as quarry for shooting, providing they did not allow the dogs to join together” with other groups of one or two dogs to, for example, flush out the same quarry. There are practical challenges in enforcing such measures when there are more than two dogs. I hope that the minister will say more about that for the benefit of those who carry out rough shooting and those who are concerned that loopholes could emerge.
I urge members to support the amendments in my name to remove falconry from the exceptions in the bill. I will listen carefully to what the minister has to say regarding rough shooting.
I speak in support of Colin Smyth’s amendments 60 and 64. The amendments would remove the exceptions for use of up to two dogs in falconry for sport. It is true that falconry is legal in Scotland, but that does not justify use of dogs in falconry. The bill seeks to constrain the situations in which dogs can be used to hunt wild mammals. If hunting must occur, use of dogs should be a last resort, so why should there be an exception from the offence for sport of all purposes? We cannot allow such an exception to be another loophole for fox hunts, as is the case in England where hunts have been known to carry birds of prey as a token presence in order to circumvent the two-dog limit. I urge members to consider every exception from this point of view: could it be used as loophole?
Amendments 20, 26, 29, 32 and 67 in the name of Rachael Hamilton relate to rough shooting, which has been discussed at length throughout the bill process. I have listened very carefully to the arguments that have been made today, and I listened to all the contributions that were made throughout additional scrutiny of section 6, that was organised by the committee and specifically dedicated to rough shooting .
I have heard a lot of evidence about the behaviours of dogs that are involved in rough shooting. They are gun dogs. The evidence included statements that they would not chase and kill wild mammals or form packs and would always be under strict control. That is exactly what the bill will require of them; it gives me confidence that they will be able to behave in a way that complies with the provisions of the bill, should it be passed today.
As drafted, the bill allows for most permutations of rough shooting to continue, within the new rules. Although some people might need to adapt behaviours, that will usually involve a minimal change. A minimal change is justified for the sake of consistency, when set against the risk of creating new loopholes with which people would be able to take as many dogs as they like and say they are rough shooting when, in fact, they are illegally hunting. That could besmirch the legitimate activity of rough shooting.
Equally, I could not justify creating an exemption for regulation of rough shooters, because although rough shooting is not an unimportant activity, it is largely recreational. On the other hand, I would be asking farmers to comply with a very strict two-dog limit when they need to protect their livestock, or asking environmental managers to do so when they are seeking to control invasive non-native species. It is a strength of the bill that we regulate everyone who would purport to use dogs in the course of hunting in the countryside. Of course, as I said, there is also a risk that allowing an unlimited number of dogs would create a smoke screen.
For those reasons—just as I could not do so at stage 2—I cannot support amendments that would create an exception. However, I have already made the commitment that I will, if the bill is passed, work with the sector to develop guidance on rough shooting so that the sector and the public can understand what to expect in the countryside following enactment of the bill. That will meet some of what Colin Smyth has asked for.
My comments on Rachael Hamilton’s amendments 21, 27, 30, 33 and 68 are similar. I do not think that an exception for field trials is necessary or justified. I spoke to stakeholders, including the Kennel Club, very recently to discuss the implications of the bill for field trials. Those discussions led me to conclude that the bill will not prevent field trials from taking place, and the Kennel Club acknowledged that. Therefore, I will not support the amendments.
My comments on Colin Smyth’s amendments to remove falconry from section 6 are much the same as they were at stage 2. Falconry is a permitted activity in Scotland, and as long as it is done in accordance with all relevant legislation—for example, the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981—that will remain the case. Dogs are sometimes used in falconry to flush wild mammals into the open where they can be taken by birds of prey. It is therefore right that that comes within the scope of the bill and will be regulated, as other uses of dogs would be in the course of hunting.
Colin Smyth’s amendments would remove altogether the ability of a person to use dogs. I understand why some people do not agree with hunting mammals for recreational purposes, but as things stand falconry is a lawful form of hunting, and as long as dogs are used within the requirements of the bill, it is not justifiable to single it out. For those reasons, I cannot support his amendments.
Rachael Hamilton’s amendments 63, 65, and 66 would remove the reference to “sport” from the definitions of game shooting. I am conscious that there are many motivations to undertaking such activities, and during the discussion of Edward Mountain’s very similar amendments on the topic at stage 2, I explained that, for example, activities such as deer stalking that are being done to protect trees would fall under section 7. If such activities are done to prevent serious damage to crops, they would fall under section 3.
The term “sport” has been included to distinguish between recreational pursuits and wildlife management and environmental purposes. It will be up to the individual to determine which of the exceptions in the bill their activity falls under. I continue to believe that the term “sport” is helpful in the context, and I do not support the amendments for that reason.
First, I am concerned about some of the comments that have been made during the passage of the bill by individuals who will not support my amendments. I believe rough shooting has not been defined and that the Government has struggled to explain what a rough shoot is. I also believe that rough shooting has been overlooked in the context of the bill, and that it was considered only as we approached the end of stage 2, when we had to bring together a round table in committee to hear from stakeholders who were concerned that rough shooting would be captured by the bill.
I also do not agree with a number of comments that have been made in the chamber that rough shooting could be used as a cover for any activity. To those who know how rough shooting works, there are differences between dogs that are used in different activities. For example, when we took evidence, we heard from the Scottish Gamekeepers Association that there are differences between a lurcher, a spaniel and a hound, and that a working dog is under control. The minister agreed that she was confident that individuals are able to control working dogs that are trained to obey commands.
I welcome the minister’s commitment to produce guidance. We came to a conclusion on that in committee during stage 2.
Does Rachael Hamilton agree that rough shooting and gun-dog field trials are important for social cohesion and to the very fabric of rural life, that they contribute to a rural economy that is worth tens of millions of pounds to remote areas, and that they bring employment throughout the Scottish countryside? Protecting and promoting those activities is imperative if we are to preserve and protect the rural way of life.
Rachael Hamilton also agree that Labour and the Greens have little or no understanding and that, along with the Scottish Government, the minister and her civil servants, who admitted that their knowledge of rough shooting was gained by watching YouTube videos, they absolutely miss the importance of hunting and rough shooting to the rural economy? Does she agree that some of the amendments that they have lodged, including on the inclusion of rabbits in the legislation, have been ill thought out, without any valid or substantiated animal welfare concerns having been heard?
I agree. Many of us in the chamber represent rural constituencies. Colin Smyth from Labour represents a rural constituency, I represent one, and Màiri McAllan represents one. We all have individuals in our constituencies—in particular, gamekeepers—who rely on the jobs that are created by those activities. I also agree that there was a lack of evidence taking into account those aspects as the bill went through the committee stages.
In conclusion, I will not support Colin Smyth’s amendments, and I urge members to support mine.
There will be a division. Members should cast their votes now.
I call Kaukab Stewart.
Thank you, Ms Stewart. I will ensure that that vote is recorded.
The vote is closed.
T he result of the division is: For 28, Against 90, Abstentions 0.
Amendment 20 disagreed to.
Amendment 21 moved—[Rachael Hamilton].
The question is, that amendment 21 be agreed to. Are we agreed?
Thank you, Ms Stewart. I will ensure that that vote is recorded.
The vote is closed.
The result of the division is: For 27, Against 88, Abstentions 0.
Amendment 21 disagreed to.
We move to group 3, which is on the definition of a wild mammal. Before I call the first amendment, I make a plea to those who wish to speak. Rather than simply intervening during the debate, they should press their request-to-speak buttons as soon as possible, and certainly before the final speaker gets to their feet, as that would be helpful.
Amendment 22, in the name of Edward Mountain, is grouped with amendments 23 and 24.
I rise to speak to the two amendments in my name. Amendment 22 would remove mink from the scope of the bill, and amendment 23 would remove rabbits.
I will talk first about mink, but before I do so, I remind members that when I talk about controlling both those species, I have no intention—I have never had any intention in my life—of increasing suffering in dealing with a predator or an animal that needs to be removed. That must be done in a humane way.
Let us look at mink. Mink is a non-native invasive species. For members who may not remember this, I note that mink were introduced for mink farming, and when mink farming became no longer viable, they were released into the native, pristine environment of Scotland.
As such, mink are a danger to our flora and fauna. They are an aggressive animal, and members who have seen them operating on the banks of a stream, river or burn will have seen that they destroy birds and voles. Birds that they could destroy include ducks and important ground-nesting birds such as oystercatchers, sandpipers and redshanks. We need to protect those birds. Should mink ever get into a domestic environment, they would certainly kill every chicken in a pen. It is as simple as that.
Across Scotland, it is accepted that mink are not something that we should welcome. I remind members that the Cairngorms National Park Authority had a mink eradication scheme whereby it encouraged landowners across the national park to destroy mink. It provided mink rafts and, in some cases, traps to allow them to do that. That project was supported by Scottish Natural Heritage at the time and I believe that it is still in place.
The danger of not controlling non-native invasive species was demonstrated in Orkney—as you will know, Presiding Officer—when stoats got there in 2010. It is unacceptable that we allow that to happen in those environments, and sadly there is no way of being able to eradicate stoats. Why oh why is the Parliament considering making mink more difficult to eradicate when that species is destroying our native flora and fauna?
I also want to talk about rabbits. I have a real problem with rabbits being included in the scope of the bill. I listened to the minister speak at stage 2, and she said that rabbits should be included for a couple of reasons. The first was that they could be used as a cover for hare coursing. That is absolutely not the case. Rabbits and hares are significantly different; people who live and work in the countryside know that they are different and can identify them. People who seek to use rabbits as cover for an illegal activity should really have the book thrown at them, but rabbits do not need further protection.
The minister gave another reason for rabbits needing further protection. She said that they feel pain in the same way that foxes do. However, in the same breath, she is not protecting rats in the bill, because she does not feel that they are as good as rabbits or foxes. My problem is that, in most cases, if a constituent saw a wild rabbit come into their house, they would probably usher it out, but if they saw a rat come into their house, they would be straight on to the local council to demand that it be killed and that a rodent control officer be sent round.
On that point, the bill allows a dog to be used to kill a rat, but it cannot be used to kill a rabbit. Has the member heard any evidence that that is better in welfare terms?
I have heard no evidence that there is any difference. The only difference is that rats are not cuddly.
Rabbits present a real issue when it comes to land management. I am sure that I do not need to remind the minister of the expression “breeding like rabbits”. One doe rabbit can produce 100 kits a year. If we multiply that number throughout the year, we can see that we are talking about a huge number of rabbits.
When I managed a Scottish site of special scientific interest in relation to wild grassland and Scottish pinewoods, we had to resort to killing more than 10,000 rabbits a year for four years to allow the habitat to recover. We needed all the legal tools that were available to us to control rabbits. We engaged in shooting the rabbits, and we used long nets, which I have mentioned to the minister. That involves using dogs to flush rabbits, when they are away from their holes, into nets before they are culled, so flushing from cover when taking on rabbits is particularly important.
The minister said that she is concerned that people will say that they were flushing rabbits as a cover when they were hunting hares. I found that to be an odd contribution, because I am sure that she knows that hares and rabbits live in very different habitats. Hares live mainly in open fields, whereas rabbits live in closed vegetation so that they can go from one hole to another and can seek protection, so they cannot really be confused.
It is important that we are not squeamish about dealing with animals that need to be removed from our habitat. I am sure that I do not need to remind members that Scottish Natural Heritage sanctioned the killing of ruddy ducks—an invasive species—which were mating with our native ducks in Scotland, and the removal of hedgehogs from Barra.
In relation to native species, work is also being done to control deer. I question some of the headlines that members will have seen about controlling deer, but it appears that deer do not need the same protection. I have seen hinds that were heavily pregnant with calves being shot by Government agencies and, in some cases, by organisations that said that they were doing that in the public interest. I question that when the animals are left where they are shot.
However, we should not be squeamish about controlling animals if we do it in the right way and format. Therefore, I ask the Parliament to allow land managers to be able to kill mink—an invasive non-native species that is destroying our flora and fauna without control—and to give its approval for the removal of rabbits from the scope of the bill, because there is no need for them to be in it, just as there is no need for rats to be in it.
I move amendment 22.
Amendment 24, which is in my name, would add an exemption in the bill for hunting wild rabbits. There is an established need to control rabbit populations by that means. However, I recognise that simply creating a blanket exemption would potentially provide an excuse for the illegal act of hare coursing, although I am yet to be convinced of that. By exempting rabbits, but only where the landowner’s permission has been explicitly obtained, amendment 24 would prevent those who are engaged in hare poaching from being able to avoid liability by claiming to be hunting rabbits. The amendment would therefore more effectively meet the Government’s policy objective and it would assist Police Scotland with enforcement—it is obviously struggling with that right now—without harming the ability of land managers to effectively and humanely control rabbits.
The bill will mean that all rabbits will have to be shot. There is no evidence to support the assumption that flushing rabbits to be swiftly dispatched by dogs is a welfare concern, and I would like to hear more from the minister on that. As my colleague Edward Mountain eloquently set out, there is a failure to understand the fundamental differences between rabbits and hares. Rabbits do not engage in long chases, unlike hares, which live permanently above ground. As Edward Mountain described, rabbits spend most of their time below ground, coming up only to graze and feed. There are fundamental differences between the two species, so I support amendment 23 by my colleague Edward Mountain.
A couple of members wish to participate. I invite them to be relatively brief.
Amendment 22, which is in the name of Edward Mountain, would remove mink from the protection afforded by the bill, and amendments 23 and 24 would remove rabbits from that protection. I fear that those amendments could create a loophole that would allow the unlimited use of dogs to chase and kill rabbits. Control is absolutely deemed necessary in many cases, but I believe that far more humane methods are available, so Labour cannot support the amendments.
As we have heard from Rachael Hamilton, there is a failure to understand the fundamental differences between rabbit hunting and hare coursing. The facts were confirmed by the evidence of Professor Stephen Harris, a well-known opponent of hunting, in his evidence to the hunting hearing that was conducted by the Westminster Government in September 2002. In respect of the use of dogs to control rabbits, he stated:
“This process is very different from coursing hares. First, the quarry is very much smaller ... and this means that it is much easier for dogs to kill a rabbit quickly. Secondary, the distance over which the hunt occurs is much shorter; rabbits and hares are spatially separated, with hares remaining in the middle of open spaces, rabbits the edges of fields. Hares try to escape by outrunning their prey; they have no natural predators that chase them over long distances. Rabbits, in comparison, do not normally move more than 10 metres from cover, and their means of escape is a short dash to their warren. So the pursuit is extremely short”.
He went on:
“Whilst the aim of rabbiting with dogs is primarily pest control (as opposed to hare hunting, which is solely sport), it probably makes an extremely small (if any) contribution to population control. The vast majority of rabbits are killed by ferreting, gassing and shooting, and it is unlikely that rabbiting is less humane than any of these forms of control.”
The evidence clearly shows that, in terms of welfare and the necessary control of rabbits, the Scottish Parliament was right to exclude rabbits from the scope of the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002. The assumption that shooting rabbits is somehow better in welfare terms than the use of dogs is simply wrong. Flushing and dispatching rabbits with dogs is effective and humane.
The second argument that is advanced in favour of including rabbits in the bill is that the measure will prevent rabbit control from being used as an excuse for illegal hare poaching, which is commonly known as hare coursing. That is desirable, but it could be achieved by recognising that trespass is the primary ingredient of the offence where the activity occurs on land without its owner’s permission, and by exempting rabbits, but only where the landowner’s permission has been explicitly obtained. I believe that the amendments that have been made to the bill are lazy ones, and that we should look at other alternatives rather than including rabbits solely to prevent hare coursing.
The definition of “wild mammal” that is used in the bill was discussed extensively during stages 1 and 2. When amendments similar to the ones in this group were lodged at stage 2, I made it clear that I could not support any amendment that sought to exclude rabbits, mink or any other wild animal from the definition and therefore from the protections that they are afforded under the bill.
The majority of RAINE Committee members were of the same view as me and the amendments were defeated at stage 2 by seven votes to two. I have not changed my opinion in the intervening period and I will not be supporting either Rachael Hamilton’s or Edward Mountain’s amendments today. I am happy to say just a very quick word, with reference to both mink and rabbit, as to why that is.
Removing mink from the scope of the bill would allow them to be chased and killed by dogs. There is no rationale for that and doing so would, I think, certainly have negative welfare implications. It is worth pointing out that mink can still be controlled under the bill, for many of the reasons that Edward Mountain set out, including if they require to be controlled as part of an invasive non-native species scheme. We heard during stage 2 that mink can be effectively managed by other means such as trapping. I ask Parliament to note that mink are currently included within the definition of wild mammal under the 2002 act. That means that it is currently illegal to chase and kill them and that Edward Mountain’s amendments would therefore represent a step backwards. I want to move forwards, so I will not be supporting the amendments.
Equally, on rabbits, the policy rationale for including them within the definition of wild mammal has been set out clearly in the process of the bill and it has been rehearsed by some members today. I have spoken at length about why rabbits have been included. It is for two reasons: first, to close the loophole whereby persons who seek to engage in hare coursing were claiming that they were hunting rabbits and, secondly, for animal welfare reasons.
The minister may remember that, during our evidence session, Detective Sergeant Telford told the committee:
“That is a difficult one” with regard to rough shooting. He went on:
“That is where intent would come into it, and it might be difficult to differentiate. That opportunity is always going to be there, if dogs are flushing game legally but encounter a mammal and chase it. That risk is there. I do not know whether that is necessarily addressed by the bill.”
Further, when pressed on the possibility of reports of illegal hunting to the police in connection with shoots involving dogs, DS Telford replied:
“We will not know until the new regime is introduced.”—[
Official Report, Rural Affairs, Islands and Natural Environment Committee,
22 June 2022; c 14.]
Is that a good way to introduce new laws?
I was listening very carefully, but I am struggling to attribute what Finlay Carson has quoted to the issue of rabbits and hare coursing. Rough shooting was the subject of a previous group, but I take it that all those things are connected. Since Finlay Carson mentions DS Telford, let me point to something that he said in the course of our discussion about rabbits. He said:
“Police Scotland welcomes the inclusion of rabbits, because it would, to an extent, negate the excuse that the dogs were hunting rabbits rather than hares.”—[
Official Report, Rural Affairs, Islands and Natural Environment Committee,
22 June 2022; c 6.]
He went on to say, at stage 2:
“In relation to the enforcement of hare coursing offences, the addition of rabbits would aid police investigations.”
Rachael Hamilton asked:
“Is that based on evidence?”
DS Telford replied:
“I would say that it is.”—[
Official Report, Rural Affairs, Islands and Natural Environment Committee,
23 November 2022; c 35.]
For those reasons—because it is important for the welfare of rabbits, which are sentient beings like hares, and to seek to overcome the excuse for hare coursing—I cannot support the removal of those species from the definition of wild mammal.
I invite Mr Mountain to wind up and to press or withdraw amendment 22.
I will keep my comments short. I am sorry that we are moving on without considering the real issue here, which is, as I think we all accept, that mink, as a non-native invasive species, is a real challenge to Scotland’s flora and fauna. By passing this bill, we are going to limit the control of that species, which I think is against Scotland’s interests. It is certainly against the interests of some of the iconic species.
If I may just point something out, I know that Ariane Burgess mentioned earlier that foxes do not predate capercaillie and that the RSPB said that that was not the case. I would respectfully suggest that they do in the same way that mink do. If Ms Burgess needs evidence of that, there was a period of two years when the RSPB did not control foxes on Abernethy, and then it went back to controlling them because they do predate. Mink are the same problem as foxes and they need to be controlled. We should not be limiting that.
I understand the minister’s reluctance to remove rabbits, based on the fact that she thinks that people will misidentify them. I say, as a countryman, that I have thought that the only time when rabbits were misconstrued as hares, or hares were misconstrued as rabbits, was when people were watching Bugs Bunny, because clearly—
Yes, I will, after I finish my point. Clearly, as we all know, Bugs Bunny is not a bunny but a hare.
I thank Edward Mountain for bringing a wee bit of humour to the debate.
Does the member recognise that the bill is not about people who are carrying out legitimate activity but about people who are trying to break the law? The latter know the difference between a rabbit and a hare, but they are using that as a cover.
That is an extremely weak argument. If you are changing the law—[
.] Sorry, but it is very difficult to give you an answer to the question if you are talking at the same time as I am, because you cannot possibly be listening to it.
If you are—[
.] Changing the law on the grounds that the existing legislation on coursing is insufficient and that the police do not have the resources or the knowledge to implement it is a weak reason if people who are abiding by the law and controlling animals that are a problem in Scotland are disadvantaged.
I will say no more because it is obvious that people have made up their minds. I think that both those species should not be within the—[
.] I will close because there is little possibility that I will get anyone to listen to me, given the barracking that is going on. [
The result of the division is: For 28, Against 91, Abstentions 0.
Amendment 22 disagreed to.
Amendment 23 moved—[Edward Mountain].
The question is, that amendment 23 be agreed to. Are we agreed?
The result of the division is: For 28, Against 90, Abstentions 0.
Amendment 23 disagreed to.
Amendment 24 moved—[Rachael Hamilton].
The question is, that amendment 24 be agreed to. Are we agreed?
The result of the division is: For 27, Against 91, Abstentions 0.
Amendment 24 disagreed to.
Section 2—Offences of knowingly causing or permitting another person to hunt using a dog:
Amendment 25 moved—[Ariane Burgess].
The result of the division is: For 24, Against 94, Abstentions 0.
Amendment 25 disagreed to.
Amendment 26 moved—[Rachael Hamilton].
The question is, that amendment 26 be agreed to. Are we agreed?
Thank you. We will ensure that that is recorded.
The vote is now closed.
On a point of order, Presiding Officer. My app was not working. I would have voted yes.
The result of the division is: For 28, Against 89, Abstentions 0.
Amendment 26 disagreed to.
Amendment 27 moved—[Rachael Hamilton].
The question is, that amendment 27 be agreed to. Are we agreed?
The result of the division is: For 28, Against 89, Abstentions 0.
Amendment 27 disagreed to.
Amendment 28 moved—[Ariane Burgess].
The question is, that amendment 28 be agreed to. Are we agreed?
On a point of order, Presiding Officer. I could not connect to the platform. I would have voted no.
On a point of order, Presiding Officer. My app did not connect. I would have voted yes.
The result of the division is: For 25, Against 92, Abstentions 0.
Amendment 28 disagreed to.
Amendment 29 moved—[Rachael Hamilton].
The question is, that amendment 29 be agreed to. Are we agreed?
The result of the division is: For 28, Against 90, Abstentions 0.
29 disagreed to.
Amendment 30 moved—[Rachael Hamilton].
The question is, that amendment 30 be agreed to. Are we agreed?
The result of the division is: For 28, Against 90, Abstentions 0.
30 disagreed to.
Amendment 31 moved—[Ariane Burgess].
The question is, that amendment 31 be agreed to. Are we agreed?
The result of the division is: For 25, Against 94, Abstentions 0.
31 disagreed to.
Amendment 32 moved—[Rachael Hamilton].
The question is, that amendment 32 be agreed to. Are we agreed?
The result of the division is: For 28, Against 91, Abstentions 0.
Amendment 32 disagreed to.
Amendment 33 moved—[Rachael Hamilton].
The question is, that amendment 33 be agreed to. Are we agreed?
The result of the division is: For 28, Against 89, Abstentions 0.
33 disagreed to.
Group 4 is on “Exceptions: condition of killing the wild mammal”. Amendment 34, in the name of Colin Smyth, is grouped with amendments 1, 35, 36, 56, 9, 57, 61, 10, 62, 11, 70, 12 and 71.
Amendments 34, 56, 61 and 70 would remove the use of a bird of prey as a permitted method of killing, as it is neither humane nor efficient and there is no more justification for its being a permitted method than there is for using dogs to kill. In its response to the RAINE Committee’s consideration of the bill, the Scottish Animal Welfare Commission said that it was
“not aware of any evidence that killing by a bird of prey is more humane than killing by a dog” and that it
“would certainly doubt that it could be more humane than competent shooting.”
It is clear that the exception is not in line with the intentions of the bill, so I urge members to support my amendments to remove the practice of using a bird of prey as a method of killing wild animals.
My amendments 1, 9, and 10 to 12 would specify that dogs should not be used to kill an injured wild mammal. That would ensure that more humane methods were used to kill a wounded animal, and it would avoid the use of the scenario as a cover story if a dog was used to kill. It is crucial that we do not allow any loopholes to remain in the bill that might allow people to continue to use dogs to kill wild mammals.
I lodged amendments at stage 2 that sought to make the same changes to sections 3, 5, 6 and 7—section 6A was added to the bill at that stage. The minister offered to work with me on the wording of the amendments to ensure that the language was consistent with the rest of the bill, and I am grateful for the work that has been done to achieve that.
I have a quote:
“the weight of the evidence, as noted in the Burns Report at paragraph 6.48, is that in the vast majority of cases the time to insensibility and death in these situations is no more than a few seconds. These provisions were enacted in the knowledge of the terms of the Burns Report. No evidence has been presented ... to indicate the abuse of these provisions by using dogs to despatch seriously injured or orphaned wild mammals.”
That quote comes from the Bonomy review’s report, which has been used to inform the bill. Can Colin Smyth provide any evidence contrary to those findings?
I am sure that Finlay Carson would use the same argument about hunting in general. He wants to see dogs being used to kill animals, and I fundamentally disagree with him on that. Alternatives can be used that are far more humane, certainly in the case of shooting, so I disagree with him on that point.
As I said, I am grateful for the work that has been done on my amendments to section 3, particularly in relation to not allowing dogs to be used to kill injured animals.
Amendments 35, 57, 62 and 71, in the name of Rachael Hamilton, would add the caveat “in the circumstances” to the requirement to kill an injured wild mammal in a way that causes “the minimum possible suffering”. The existing condition refers to “reasonable steps” being taken, so I believe the condition has already been caveated.
I urge members to support my amendments, to ensure that only the most humane methods are used to kill wild mammals and that under no circumstances are dogs used to do so.
I move amendment 34.
I will speak first to Colin Smyth’s amendments in this group. It is, of course, important that we are all looking at the bill from the angle of animal welfare. I am envisaging an animal that has been injured. Is Colin Smyth saying that a dog handler should just allow a fox to run injured if it has gone through a line of guns? Perhaps Colin Smyth should consider that point.
We will not support amendment 34, and I ask Colin Smyth to answer that question in his summing up.
Amendments 35, 57, 62 and 71, in my name, aim to address a potential problem in the existing wording, which leaves unclear what amounts to taking “reasonable steps” to use a method that causes “the minimum possible suffering”. It needs to be made clear that causing “the minimum possible suffering” in the context in which the person is operating constitutes taking “reasonable steps”. The addition of “in the circumstances” makes it clear that the method of minimum suffering will vary depending on circumstances. Even if there was a method that could objectively be said to cause less suffering, it might not be possible to use that method in the circumstances. The addition would also avoid arguments as to which method is, in fact, the one that causes “the minimum possible suffering”.
The bill will otherwise put unreasonable expectations on those who are using dogs for the purposes of hunting wild mammals—for example, farmers protecting livestock or gamekeepers controlling populations of wild species. It is important that those people’s work, which is vital to Scotland’s food security and the preservation of its biodiversity, is set in its proper context throughout the bill, and that is what my amendments seek to do.
I will support Edward Mountain’s amendment 36.
I state again that we surely must all want to ensure the humane dispatch of animals, and my amendment 36 seeks to do just that. When one gets into thick cover, it is sometimes very difficult to track down a wounded animal—Mr Fairlie used that example during committee debates.
I ask the cabinet secretary about animals that have been injured. For example, it might be possible to follow a deer with a broken leg over open ground, although one would have to move quickly. However, in closed ground, where the deer could move around within, say, bracken or rhododendrons, following it would be virtually impossible using just two dogs, despite the fact that the deer would be moving on only three legs. When a deer has a broken jaw—that does happen, sometimes, because a shot has gone astray or the deer has been injured in a road traffic accident—it is virtually impossible for two dogs to keep pace with the deer in cover. That is why I would like more dogs to be available to deal with injured animals.
That came home to me at the weekend, when I went over to Gairloch. I saw a stag on the edge of the road that had been struck by a lorry or a car. Its antler was lying on the road and it was standing on the edge of the road with a broken leg. In this case, because it was snowy and open hill, it was possible for the stalker I contacted to come out and dispatch the animal. If it had been a woodland setting, a stalker going out with two dogs could have spent days—literally days—looking for that animal. That is why I support people being given the opportunity to catch up with an injured animal and dispatch it as quickly as possible, and it is why I support not only my amendment 36 but Rachael Hamilton’s amendments.
There is a misconception in Colin Smyth’s amendment 34 that falconry results in the prolonged suffering of animals. I have never seen this in real life, but I know for a fact that golden eagles often hunt in the winter. They separate younger calves from their mothers and harry them until they are driven over a cliff face and killed. The eagles then eat the carrion down below. That is not what we are talking about. What we are talking about in this case, with falconry, is falcons—possibly not even native species—being used to kill an animal, which, as in most cases I have seen, is done extremely quickly and with little suffering. I therefore cannot support Colin Smyth’s amendment 34.
I ask members to remember that, if they vote against my amendment, they are possibly prolonging the suffering of an animal, which is not something that I would ever seek to do.
I speak in support of Colin Smyth’s amendments in this group. Colin’s amendments 34, 56, 61 and 70 seek to remove, throughout the bill, “bird of prey” from the permitted methods of killing a wild mammal. Several stakeholders told the Rural Affairs, Islands and Natural Environment Committee about the animal welfare impact of killing with a bird of prey. The Government’s own Scottish Animal Welfare Commission stated:
“The impact on the welfare of the hunted animal is likely to be similar whether killed by a dog or a bird of prey.”
Further, if a fox is the target species, there is also a risk to the bird of prey. That is why the SSPCA does not support falconry for population management, and it is why it questioned
“why birds of prey are included when the purpose is wildlife control after all other options have been exhausted.”
It is also why the committee’s stage 1 report states that it is
“not clear to the Committee why birds of prey are one of the two permitted methods of killing under the Bill.”
I also support Colin Smyth’s amendments 1, 9, 10, 11 and 12, which stipulate that, if a wild mammal is injured, a dog cannot be used to kill it. Instead, a more humane method must be used.
Conversely, I oppose Rachael Hamilton’s amendment 57, which would weaken the requirement to minimise suffering when killing an injured mammal by adding “in the circumstances”.
I begin by addressing Colin Smyth’s amendments 34, 56, 61 and 70, which would make it unlawful for a person to use a bird of prey to kill a wild mammal that had been searched for, stalked or flushed by dogs. As dogs play an important role in falconry, those amendments, if agreed to, would, in effect, ban certain types of falconry by the back door.
I said in relation to Colin Smyth’s amendments 60 and 64 that although I appreciated that some people would like falconry to be banned, it is currently a permitted activity in Scotland, as long as it is done in accordance with relevant legislation. As we seek to come together and end illegal hunting, we must guard against our actions impinging on otherwise lawful activity. Therefore, I cannot support those amendments.
However, Mr Smyth’s amendments 1, 9 and 10 to 12 elaborate on methods of dispatch that cause the minimum possible suffering. I listened carefully to his reasons for similar proposed amendments at stage 2. I said then that, although they did not work as proposed, I would be happy to work with him to bring something back at stage 3.
I have been clear throughout the progress of the bill that the chasing and killing of a wild mammal by a dog has no place in modern Scotland. Amendments 1, 9 and 10 to 12 make that clear by stating that killing a wild mammal
“in a way that causes it the minimum possible suffering”, as required by the bill, will never allow for it to be killed by a dog or dogs. That is an important provision that goes to the heart of the bill, and I am pleased to have worked with Colin Smyth on it.
On Rachael Hamilton’s amendments 35, 57, 62 and 71, the bill provides the condition that, if an attempt to kill a wild mammal
“results in it being injured but not killed, reasonable steps” must be
“taken to kill it in a way that causes it the minimum possible suffering.”
Rachael Hamilton’s amendments seek to caveat that requirement by adding the words “in the circumstances”.
I listened to what Rachael Hamilton said, but I remain of the view that those amendments are not necessary, and I fear that they could weaken the provision. As worded, the bill already implicitly provides that “the minimum possible suffering” might depend on the circumstances. A person can only ever act in the circumstances in which they find themselves.
When it comes to Colin Smyth’s amendments on killing with a dog, what does the minister suggest should happen if a fox was shot and injured as it passed through a line of guns and took off over open ground? Should the dog handler just stand and watch the fox disappear, potentially to die an agonising death under cover, when they have the means to deal with it humanely and quickly?
I suggest that Colin Smyth and others are considering how to deal with a circumstance that might arise infrequently with regard to misuse of the legislation, but welfare issues that will arise are falling on deaf ears. That begs the question whether welfare is at the heart of the decisions that are being taken in relation to Colin Smyth’s amendments.
The key point of Finlay Carson’s intervention is important. I understand that, if an animal is injured or killed, there has to be provision for it to be located and dispatched as quickly, effectively and humanely as possible. That is why, at stage 2, I introduced amendments to allow the use of two dogs to search for an injured or dead animal. What will never be acceptable and has not been legal for 20 years is to allow a dog to chase and rip apart a wild mammal, and that should remain the case.
Will the minister clarify whether, if she is supporting Colin Smyth’s amendment 12, which she worked with him on, she believes that the amendment in relation to which she listened to individuals who talked about the injured animal would be covered under that amendment rather than this one, which contradicts the animal welfare at that point?
I am sorry, but I cannot follow the point that Rachael Hamilton is making. I am more than happy to take another intervention if she wants to put it to me again.
It is in reference to Finlay Carson’s intervention with regard to not allowing an injured animal to be dispatched by a dog at the point at which it was injured.
I appreciate Rachael Hamilton clarifying that point, but it brings me back to my previous point that, thanks to amendments that were made at stage 2, if the bill is passed, there will be provision for dogs to search for an injured or dead animal so that it can be dealt with in the most humane and effective way possible. However, if we pass the amendments on which Colin Smyth and I worked together, that will never constitute killing by a dog.
I cannot support amendment 36 in the name of Edward Mountain, either. It appears to seek to allow a pack of dogs to kill a wild mammal without any caveats at all. Under amendment 36, a person need only attempt to kill a wild mammal before they could set a pack of dogs on it. I have been very clear that banning the chasing and killing of wild mammals with packs of dogs is the fundamental premise of the bill.
I am grateful to the minister for giving way. That is definitely not my intention. The amendment makes it clear that the intention is to allow more than two dogs to hunt for an injured animal. It is not a question of hunting and killing the animal; it is about hunting and flushing it in order to allow it to be dispatched humanely. Does she not agree that that is the way that all people in the countryside believe that animals should be dispatched? Will she not reconsider the issue? If it were something that people had a long time to do, maybe they could get a licence to be allowed more dogs, but this relates to a situation that is urgent, when an animal is suffering and it is necessary to dispatch it. I believe that the minister may have misunderstood the amendment.
I want to clarify that, in this instance and in the other instances in which Edward Mountain suggests that I have misunderstood him, I have not done so; I am simply exploring the multifaceted issues that he raises. I understand that the situation that he presented is one in which someone wants to find an injured animal, but I am telling him that the provisions that were proposed at stage 2 to enable dogs to be used to search for a dead animal are sufficient to rise to the circumstances that he describes.
The other side of that is that we have to guard against any prohibition that we introduce being used as a loophole, as we know happened with the 2002 act. I fear that the amendment that he is proposing, which would allow a pack of dogs to search for an injured animal, would be used as a loophole in the aftermath of the bill and therefore, for that and other reasons, I cannot support it.
Members will note that we have passed the agreed time limit for the debate on this group of amendments to finish. I exercise my power under standing orders rule 9.8.4A(c), to allow the debate on the group to continue beyond the limit in order to avoid it being unreasonably curtailed.
I call Colin Smyth to wind up and to press or withdraw amendment 34.
I welcome the Government’s support for my amendments to stop dogs being used to kill an injured wild mammal. The minister has addressed the scenarios that were raised by Finlay Carson and Rachael Hamilton. There is genuine concern that allowing dogs to be used to kill animals in any circumstances could be used as a cover for the use of dogs being dispatched to kill animals in all circumstances, which would undermine a key aim of the bill.
However, I am disappointed that there was not more support—
I accept that Colin Smyth is opposed to certain aspects of rural country sports, but he needs to consider the fact that the bill could undermine the highest standards of animal welfare—being able to dispatch a wild predator efficiently and effectively is an important tool, particularly for farmers.
I am not opposed to sport; I am opposed to intolerable animal cruelty. It was probably more than 20 years ago that the Parliament had a debate on whether it was acceptable to use dogs to tear mammals apart. We thought that that issue was settled but, in the eyes of Rachael Hamilton, it seems not to have been.
I am disappointed that there was not more support for my other amendments to remove the use of birds of prey as a permitted method of killing. As I said during the debate on the second group of amendments, the Government’s argument that preventing wild mammals from being killed by a bird of prey cannot be included seems to centre around the idea that it is already a permitted activity. However, the Parliament has the power to change that, so it is a weak argument. This is a missed opportunity to ensure that the bill is as strong on animal welfare as it could be.
The minister argued that such a ban was not included in the original scope of the bill. As I said in my opening comments, it is the right thing to do and the Government has form for introducing additional amendments to legislation when it suited the Government to do so. For that reason, I will press amendment 34.
The result of the division is: For 25, Against 92, Abstentions 0.
Amendment 34 disagreed to.
Amendment 1 moved—[Colin Smyth].
The question is, that amendment 1 be agreed to. Are we agreed?
The result of the division is: For 88, Against 27, Abstentions 0.
Amendment 1 agreed to.
Amendment 35 moved—[Rachael Hamilton].
The question is, that amendment 35 be agreed to. Are we agreed?
The result of the division is: For 29, Against 89, Abstentions 0.
Amendment 35 disagreed to.
Amendment 36 moved—[Edward Mountain].
The question is, that amendment 36 be agreed to. Are we agreed?