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Political correspondent Elizabeth Quigley
"Concerns were raised from day one."
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Wednesday, 11 July, 2001, 14:52 GMT 15:52 UK
Hunting bill hits major setback
A parliamentary committee rejected the proposals
Proposals to ban fox hunting in Scotland have failed to pass their first parliamentary hurdle.

A report from the Scottish Parliament's rural development committee has recommended that the bill should be shelved.

It said the Wild Mammals Bill, which seeks to ban the practice of hunting with dogs, was too wide-ranging and that it would be difficult if not impossible to make it workable.

The bill - put forward by Labour MSP Mike Watson two years ago - is the first piece of proposed legislation that has failed to be recommended by a Scottish parliamentary committee.

Hunting dogs
The use of dogs is a key issue in the bill
It has provoked a fierce debate and more than 4,000 people submitted evidence to the committee.

However, it is not the end of the road for the proposals, as the report will go to the full parliament after the summer recess and MSPs will decide on the future of the bill.

The report said: "The principle of this bill is focused on the use of dogs which, while well-intentioned, misses the point that dogs can be used in both a cruel and a humane way, and are not the common factor in determining cruelty."

It said MSPs felt it was difficult or impossible to amend the bill into a form that would adequately meet the aim of ending cruelty - and for that reason they were recommending that the general principles of the bill should not be agreed.

The committee said MSPs supported Mr Watson's aim of ending cruelty, but questioned whether the bill set about it in the best way.

It warned that it could contribute to a possible increase in the use of snaring but did not address this concern, nor did it regulate the scope of gassing.

Orphaned cubs

"The committee has been convinced by evidence which has shown that some activities which may at first seem cruel are in fact carried out to avoid unnecessary suffering," said the report.

These included the use of lurchers to follow and kill a fox that has been shot and only wounded and the use of terriers to kill orphaned cubs, which were methods more humane than leaving vulnerable animals to another fate.

The report said it was not the use of a dog alone that implied cruelty but the method and intention with which it was used.

Alex Johntone
Alex Johntone: Casting vote
"To encourage a terrier to fight with an adult fox either above or beneath the ground is despicable - but we do not agree that this should prevent the beneficial use of terriers by those who care both for wildlife and the safety of their dog," said the report.

The committee was unable to find consensus on hare coursing and mounted hunts.

The future of the bill went to a close vote by committee members at a meeting on 1 May.

MSPs were equally split - five votes each - on the question of whether to make a recommendation to parliament at all on the bill.

This fell to the casting vote of the convener, Tory Alex Johnstone, who supported making a recommendation.

The question was then put as to whether they should agree or not to the general principles of the bill. This resulted in six votes against, three in favour and one abstention.

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See also:

11 Jul 01 | Scotland
Hunting bill MSP 'optimistic'
04 May 01 | Scotland
Hunting bill falls at first hurdle
02 May 01 | Scotland
Hunting ban bill stumbles
01 May 01 | Scotland
Outbreak delays hunting bill
18 Jan 01 | Scotland
Hunt vote 'will assist' Scots ban
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