Scotland has banned fox hunting, so why are cubs being hunted right now?

Scotland passed the Hunting With Dogs (Scotland) Bill in January 2023, and it became an Act on 7 March 2023. So why are saboteurs catching hunters pursuing foxes red-handed?

On 6 September, Scottish Borders Hunt Sabs posted footage, taken from their drone, of the Berwickshire Hunt. The video shows some riders surrounding woodland with hounds on a scent, “marking to ground”. The footage then shows the huntsman appearing next to the hounds. He seems to be encouraging them. He dismounts from his horse, seemingly to hunt on foot, and is joined by the whipper-in.

The sabs wrote on Facebook:

“It was plain to see that they were cubbing (sending young hounds into a woodland to kill fox cubs), there were no guns present with the few riders they had surrounded the woodland on point.”

Before the Hunting With Dogs (Scotland) Act came into force, Scottish hunts didn’t use the same ‘trail hunting’ smokescreen that hunts over the border in England use. Instead they used the excuse that they were flushing to guns: that is, they were relying on an exception in the previous Act, which permitted the use of the pack to flush a fox from cover to be shot.

The sabs continued:

“We soon identified an area where the hounds were marking to ground. At this point we were confronted by an irate hunt supporter accusing us of eyeing up his cattle. (No cattle were harmed in the making of this video).
We decided to move position and continue to film. The hunt were in the same position. No guns were present and the hounds were still marking to ground. Again we were harassed! We continued on our mission to observe the hounds that were still in the same position probably due to a fox or fox family going to ground.”
The saboteurs’ presence ensured that no cub was killed:
“We decided to take a closer look to make them aware we were watching them. Once they realised we were watching very closely they thought better off continuing hence gathered the hounds and packed up with their tail between their legs.”

The new law has passed, so why are hunts still getting away with it?

On the 9th, the Berwickshire Hunt were out yet again. This time both the Scottish Border Sabs and Glasgow Hunt Sabs were in attendance. They took control of the hounds and ensured no animals were killed.

It is, perhaps, surprising to see Scottish hunts blatantly hunting foxes even after the new Act has passed. Scottish Borders Sabs said that this is because:

“NatureScot are working on the licencing details at present hence the delay of the new Hunting with Dogs, Scotland Bill.”

Protect the Wild contacted NatureScot, which is the non-departmental public body of the Scottish Government responsible for Scotland’s natural heritage. It told us:

“NatureScot is awaiting the Scottish Government’s introduction of commencement regulations for the Hunting with Dogs (Scotland) Act, after which the legislative provisions will come into force.

In preparation for this we have been working with stakeholders and Scottish Government officials to develop a licensing scheme which will allow farmers and other land managers to use more than two dogs, in limited circumstances, for appropriate and humane wildlife control. Licences may be granted for preventing serious damage to livestock, woodland or crops, preventing the spread of disease, or protecting human health.”

Give a hunt an exemption and they will always exploit it. With a ‘same old, same old’ loophole to the Act in the air until at least December, it’s perhaps less surprising to see hunts still blatantly hunting foxes after all…


A history of murder

The Berwickshire Hunt has a history of pursuing and hunting foxes. In 2021, the League Against Cruel Sports released footage of the hunt throwing a dead fox to hounds in Abbey St Bathans in November 2017. Also in 2017, hunt saboteurs released photos and videos of a sab retrieving a dead fox’s body after she had been killed by hounds. The sabs stated that the hunt terriermen assaulted the saboteur and stole the body from him. Grampian Sabs wrote at the time:
“terriermen of the Berwickshire Foxhounds [were] perverting the course of justice as this body was going to be used as evidence of illegal hunting. Hunts will stop at nothing to get kills.”
Then in 2018, the Berwickshire made national headlines when Ryan Mania, who was master of the hunt, called hunt sabs “a bunch of f*****g retards”, and used his horse to squash two people against a vehicle.

Support the sabs on the ground

While NatureScot and the Scottish government dither about bringing the new legislation into force, it’s evident that hunt saboteurs and monitors are still very much needed on the ground in Scotland.

  • You can donate to Scottish Borders Sabs here and to Glasgow Hunt Sabs here