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Friday, 15 February, 2002, 17:55 GMT
Fears for dogs after hunt ban
Fox hounds
The SSPCA fears for the well-being of hunt hounds
Animal welfare activists are worried that fox hounds may be destroyed if they are put out of work by a future ban on hunting with dogs.

The Scottish Parliament passed the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Bill on Wednesday, paving the way for a countrywide ban on the practice by this autumn.

Pro-hunt campaigners have vowed to challenge the decision in court but now the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) says it fears for the future welfare of hunt dogs if the ban goes ahead.

One critic of the bill, which was introduced by Labour MSP Mike Watson, said the SSPCA should have thought of these concerns while it was actively supporting the bill.

Pro-hunt protesters
Pro-hunt groups have vowed to challenge the bill
Libby Anderson, the SSPCA parliamentary officer, said: "As a provider of care and shelter for animals at risk, we have been extremely concerned at the possible fate of animals put out of work as a result of the end of hunting with dogs.

"But mass destruction or abandonment of hounds should be the last thing on their owners' minds."

Ms Anderson suggested that countryside sport enthusiasts should explore drag hunting, where mounted hunts follow a scent rather than an animal.

Her comments were welcomed by Tricia Marwick, the Scottish National Party MSP who led the bill through parliament after Mr Watson was promoted to tourism minister.

She said: "The SSPCA are quite right to highlight their concerns and I hope they will be offering their support and expertise to the hunts about the best way of looking after their hounds.

'Drag hunting'

"There would be no need for hounds to be put down if the hunts went across to drag hunting. The ball is now in the court of the hunt masters themselves - they are the ones who have set their face against it.

"If they went across to drag hunting, no one would lose their jobs. It is sheer, utter intransigence that stops that from happening."

Labour MSP for Livingston Bristow Muldoon, a co-sponsor of the bill, said he hoped its passage would not lead to animals being destroyed.

Alex Fergusson
Alex Fergusson: "Fox hounds will be slaughtered"
He said: "I would hope that people who have previously been using foxhounds examine all of the options. Obviously one is drag hunting.

"Another one is whether or not hunts in England and Wales require them. Obviously I hope to see a ban there, but until then, that is another option.

"I wouldn't want to see them all destroyed and I think really that's a test of the hunts themselves, as to what care they have for the animals."

But Scottish Conservative rural affairs spokesman, Alex Fergusson, dismissed the idea and said the SSPCA wanted to "have its cake and eat it".

"Firstly it's not yet been banned because it's not been introduced, so this season's hunt will, I imagine, continue," he said.

'Specialised sport'

"But secondly the SSPCA should have thought about that before some of the recommendations designed to take care of animal welfare were removed from the bill.

"It seems they want to have their cake and eat it. I'm as keen on animal welfare as the next person but if this bill is enacted fox hounds will be slaughtered."

Mr Fergusson rejected the idea that drag hunting could serve as a substitute saying it was "a specialised sport" which required far less hounds and participants.

The bill must receive Royal Assent after which ministers will announce the date it will take effect, thought to be before the start of the autumn hunting season.

Background and analysis of one of the most contentious issues in British politics

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The Scottish ban

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See also:

13 Feb 02 | UK Politics
13 Feb 02 | UK Politics
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