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26 May 2015, 16:10
At least half of Scotland's registered hunts are breaking the law on fox hunting, campaigners claim.
The League Against Cruel Sports said it has captured video evidence that suggests hunts are routinely using dogs to hunt foxes and not merely "flush'' the animals from cover for shooting, which is permitted under the Protection of Wild Mammals Act.
Investigators carrying out surveillance on five of Scotland's hunts saw no shotguns in use over 16 days of filming, the group said.
Robbie Marsland, director of the League in Scotland, said: "Our footage suggests that at least half the hunts in Scotland are flouting the law with impunity and are operating as if the ban doesn't apply to them.
"While the hunts we observed claimed to be 'flushing to guns', our investigators did not see a single shotgun either used or even brandished.''
Fox hunting with dogs was banned in Scotland in 2002, with the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act stating that a person who deliberately hunts a wild mammal with a dog is committing an offence.
An exception is made whereby dogs under control may be used "to flush a fox or mink from below ground or ... to flush a fox from an enclosed space within rocks or other secure cover above ground''.
This process is known as "flushing to guns''.
The League, which filmed hunts across Scotland from mid December to mid March, is now calling for an amendment to the law to reduce the number of dogs used in flushing to guns to two and the addition of a clause outlawing reckless behaviour.
Campaigners will show MSPs a video containing some of the footage at Holyrood tomorrow. Information on one of the hunts has been passed to Police Scotland.
Mr Marsland said: "Scotland led the way on legislating to ban hunting with dogs in the British Isles.
"We are calling on the Scottish Government to lead the way once more and make two simple amendments to the law.
"These changes would make it extremely difficult for Scottish hunts to use cynical subterfuge to mask packs of hounds being encouraged to chase foxes and eventually kill them.''
The League recently commissioned a poll which suggests 84% of people in Scotland believe that fox hunting should not be made legal again.
Just over half (53%) believe that the ban has not worked and that fox hunting still takes place in Scotland, it said.
Ipsos MORI conducted the telephone survey of more than 1,000 adults in Scotland in March.