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20 November 2016, 10:46
The Scottish Government is being urged to strengthen hunting laws amid claims that a fox suffered a "dreadful and repugnant'' death after being killed by a pack of hounds.
Animal charities OneKind and the League Against Cruel Sports said they were notified of the animal's death, said to have happened on November 5 at Harelaw, close to Bridge of Weir in Renfrewshire.
They arranged for vets to carry out an autopsy on the dead animal, which they said found "the fox had suffered severe trauma consistent with that caused by a dog or dogs''.
While the fox had been shot, the examination by SAC Consulting Veterinary Services is said to have concluded that it was unlikely this was the cause of death.
Instead the charities claimed the animal had been killed by dogs from the Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire Hunt.
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'' - a practice known as "flushing to guns''.
Campaigners at OneKind have previously claimed that ''loopholes'' in the legislation mean it is not ''worth the paper it is printed on''.
Director Harry Huyton said: "Despite a law which supposedly prevents foxes from suffering negative welfare impacts from hunting with hounds, this unprecedented post-mortem of a hunted fox makes it clear that suffering continues.''
He added: "The level of trauma experienced by the fox prior to its death and the manner in which it died is completely unacceptable and debunks the myth that foxes killed by packs of hounds are dispatched with a 'quick nip to the back of the neck'. The pathology report highlights a catalogue of gruesome injuries leaving no doubt to the extent to which this animal suffered.''
Robbie Marsland, director of the League Against Cruel Sports in Scotland, stated: "We look forward to the Scottish Government strengthening the law to make sure that no other foxes are killed in this dreadful and repugnant way.
"The law was intended to put an end to the cruelty of hunting foxes with hounds but it isn't worth the paper it's written on if wild animals are continuing to suffer in this manner.''
Lord Bonomy is working on a review of fox hunting legislation for the Scottish Government.
A Government spokeswoman said: "We're grateful to those who made a submission to the Rt Hon Lord Bonomy's Review.
"Scottish ministers will carefully consider his report and, as previously committed, will consult on any consequent proposals for change to the current arrangements.
"Lord Bonomy's report will be published shortly.''
Mark Crichton Maitland, the chairman of the Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire Fox Hounds, said the claims from OneKind and the League Against Cruel Sports were a "stunt'' ahead of the publication of Lord Bonomy's review.
He said: "We certainly don't recognise that description of the incident and neither have they released the pathology report.''
He stated: "As far as what happened on the day, the fox was shot pretty cleanly, death was pretty instantaneous.
"I spoke to my senior master who was out that day, and he said the time between the gun going off and the fox being dead was about 10 seconds.''
Mr Crichton Maitland also said the hunt operated within the law, saying: "We work with the police, we always work within the law.''