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Sunday, 18 February, 2001, 17:59 GMT
SSPCA split by foxhunting row
Foxhunt
Foxhunting with dogs has split the SSPCA
The leading figure in a Scottish animal welfare charity has resigned in protest at its stance on foxhunting.

Lady Sara Johnstone resigned as president of the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) over what she called its "increasingly hostile approach" to foxhunting.

In a letter to the society, she said she could no longer tolerate its "blinkered and uninformed" view that hunting with dogs is cruel.

The SSPCA said it regretted her decision but did not agree with her reasoning.

Lady Sara Johnstone
Lady Sara Johnstone
Lady Johnstone, who has been honorary president of the society for three years, said: "I cannot take any more of the nonsense that is being put forward about hunting in the name of the society.

"This is simply not a wildlife welfare issue. Hunting with dogs is not cruel. In my view a ban on hunting will have an adverse, not a beneficial effect on animal welfare."

She said the foxhunting debate was being misdirected by people "who do not have a clue what they are talking about", and accused the SSPCA of shying away from the important issues for fear of losing membership.

"The society's brief should be to address the crucial issue of animal welfare, not to become embroiled in a debate clouded by politics and propaganda," she said.

'Hostile approach'

"The society is trying to widen its membership and it is clearly frightened that to stand up and state the true facts - that hunting with dogs is a legitimate practice and is not cruel - would impede that cause."

In her letter of resignation, Lady Johnstone said: "I find I can no longer reconcile the society's increasingly hostile approach to hunting with dogs with its stated intentions in regard to animal welfare.

"The now well-documented alliance of the SSPCA with the anti-hunting faction is making it increasingly difficult to garner this support - financial or otherwise - for the society."

A spokeswoman for the SSPCA said the organisation very much regretted Lady Johnstone's resignation and that it did not agree with her reasoning.

"It has been our policy for eight or nine years to oppose hunting with dogs but we have tried to avoid hostility because we are conscious of our responsibilities to animals across the board," she said.

Hunting bill

But the Countryside Alliance, which is campaigning to keep foxhunting with dogs, said the resignation signalled a split within the SSPCA.

A spokesman for the rural pressure group said: "We don't think this will be the last resignation. We are told there is deep disquiet within the SSPCA about its support for this politically-correct and deeply flawed bill."

The Scottish Parliament has been considering a bill to ban hunting with dogs for the past 10 months.

The Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Bill is currently being considered by the Rural Development committee.

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See also:

25 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Minister avoids 'hunting' march
22 Jan 01 | Fox hunting
How many livelihoods at stake?
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