Rural Affairs Committee
Tuesday 28 November 2000
[THE CONVENER opened the meeting at 14:09]
The Convener (Alex Johnstone): Good afternoon, ladies
and gentlemen. We are joined today by Jamie Stone, whom I welcome
to the committee. John Farquhar Munro has informed me that he
is likely to be late. I have received no other apologies.
The Convener: The first
item is the consideration of subordinate legislation. First, we
have two negative instruments: the Dairy Produce Quotas Amendment
(No 2) (Scotland) Regulations 2000 (SSI 2000/391) and the Potatoes
Originating in Egypt (Amendment) (No 2) (Scotland) Regulations
2000 (SSI 2000/393).
It would be appropriate for me to declare an interest in the
first instrument, given that I hold milk quota and have been known
to do the odd deal on it.
Members should have a copy of the regulations. The Subordinate
Legislation Committee report was published on Friday and the relevant
extracts have been posted to members. That committee made no comment
on the instrument on potatoes. On the dairy produce quota regulations,
however, the committee drew our attention to defective drafting
points and to a potential devolution issue regarding the need
for European Community approval. Are there any comments on the
Mr Jamie Stone (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross) (LD):
I should probably declare an interest.
The Convener: We do not want any mention of cheese, Mr
Is the committee agreed that we should make no recommendations
in our report to Parliament?
Members indicated agreement.
The Convener: The next two instruments must be agreed
by affirmative procedure. The first is the Mink Keeping (Scotland)
Order 2000 (SSI 2000/400). I welcome Rhona Brankin, the Deputy
Minister for Rural Development, and Mrs Eileen Kennedy, of the
Scottish Executive rural affairs department, who has come to support
The statutory instrument and the Executive note have been circulated
to members. I will ask the minister to make a brief opening statement.
Following that, I will allow questions from anyone who wishes
to clarify matters. At that point, I will ask the officials to
withdraw and will ask the minister to move motion S1M-1369, which
may be debated prior to a decision. We can allow up to 90 minutes
for that debate, although, if members are satisfied with the minister's
replies, I would expect the committee simply to approve the motion.
The Deputy Minister for Rural Development (Rhona Brankin):
I have been asked to keep my remarks brief because of the
pressure on the agenda today. Therefore, I do not propose to go
over the ground that is covered in the Executive note. My purpose
is to introduce the Mink Keeping (Scotland) Order 2000. At the
outset, I should say that the order does not introduce new legislation
but rolls over existing legislation that will cease to have effect
on 1 January 2001.
Mink have been kept for their fur in Great Britain since the
late 1920s. Escapes from mink farms led to the creation of a feral
populationmink were recorded as breeding in the wild in
the late 1950s. In 1995, it was estimated that there were 52,000
feral mink in Scotland. Mink are semi-aquatic carnivorous mammals
that are a pest in the wild, causing a threat to wild fowl, sea-bird
colonies and vulnerable mammals such as water voles. They also
predate on farmed fish and small livestock such as poultry. Restrictions
on the keeping of mink were first introduced in 1962, in order
to prevent further escapes from fur farms and additions to the
feral population. Between 1965 and 1970, the Government mounted
a feral mink eradication campaign. Total eradication proved to
be impossible and the campaign was abandoned.
Two pieces of legislation control the keeping of mink for their
fur: the Mink Keeping Regulations 1975 and the Mink Keeping Order
1997. Both are made under the Destructive Imported Animals Act
1932 and are intended to ensure that mink are kept in secure conditions.
The 1975 regulations are not under consideration today. The order
before the committee is concerned with ensuring that mink are
kept securely to prevent their escape into the wild. It ensures
that mink may be kept only under licence in certain areas of Scotland.
The Mink Keeping Order 1997 requires to be renewed to ensure
that the Scottish ministers continue to have the power to prevent
mink farms from being set up indiscriminately. That would ensure
that any mink legally kept are retained under stringent security
conditions to prevent them from escaping into the wild. Failure
to renew the order would lead to deregulation of the keeping of
The Convener: How many mink are kept in Scotland commercially?
Rhona Brankin: As you know, there are no mink farms in
Scotland. A number of mink are kept for scientific and demonstration
purposes. I am informed by Eileen Kennedy that there is only one
keeper at the moment. How many animals are kept for display purposes,
Eileen Kennedy (Scottish Executive Rural Affairs Department):
One animal is being kept for exhibition purposes at the moment.
The Convener: But there is no mink fur farming in Scotland
at the moment.
Rhona Brankin: That is correct.
However, we are worried that, after the introduction of the Westminster
bill to outlaw fur farming, fur farmers might move to Scotland.
We intend to introduce legislation to ban fur farming but we do
not have a slot for that in the parliamentary timetable.
The Convener: Do you believe that the instrument will
give ministers the power to deal with that eventuality?
Rhona Brankin: Yes.
Alex Fergusson (South of Scotland) (Con): I come from
an area in which there used to be a mink farm. When mink farming
became unprofitable, the owner simply opened the doors of his
cages and let the mink go. Does the order provide for punitive
measures to be taken if a licence holder did such a thing?
Brankin: We will have to think about that question for a moment.
Mr Mike Rumbles (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine) (LD):
While you are doing so, I would like to ask a question that
follows from the previous answer. Has only one licence been granted
to allow someone to keep mink in Scotland?
Rhona Brankin: Yes.
In response to Alex Fergusson's question, I can say that the
mink keeping order that we are renewing makes provision for the
secure conditions under which mink are kept. Currently, the conditions
are inspected twice a year. We are satisfied that the existing
order ensures that mink are kept in suitably secure conditions.
Alex Fergusson: I accept that, but I do not think that
it answers my question. I am not trying to put you on the spot,
but I asked whether the order contains any punitive measures to
deal with a highly unprofitable licensed mink farm that opens
its cages and lets the mink into the wild, as has happened in
many parts of rural Scotland.
Rhona Brankin: That is covered in the existing order,
which states that the mink must be kept in escape-proof cages
or other containers and that, except when they are in transit,
they must be kept in an enclosure or building that satisfies the
requirements of the regulations. The order also states that each
enclosure must have an appropriate number of cage traps in case
minks should escape. I realise that you are asking about deliberate
attempts to release the minks, but I stress that we intend to
introduce a bill to outlaw fur farming. Furthermore, as there
is no fur farming in Scotland at the moment, I am satisfied that
the regulations are sufficient.
Alex Fergusson: Thank you. I see that your mink think
was worth while.
Fergus Ewing (Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber) (SNP): Minister,
you said that, in 1995, there was a recorded feral mink population
of 52,000. Is it the Executive's view that mink are a pest and
require to be controlled? If so, are existing measures satisfactory?
Is the Executive considering any new measures in that regard?
The Convener: I am almost tempted to outlaw that question,
given that it seems to have come about an hour early. Perhaps
we could have a brief answer.
Rhona Brankin: We regard feral mink as a pest. Responsibility
for their control rests with landowners; it is at landowners'
discretion whether they wish to control feral mink on their land.
Advice for landowners can be obtained from the local agricultural
offices of the Scottish Executive rural affairs department. The
mink keeping order was made under the Destructive Imported Animals
Act 1932, which prohibits the keeping of mink, except under licence.
Fergus Ewing: Would that responsibility be affected by
Mr Watson's bill, which we are considering later?
Rhona Brankin: Mink are usually cage trapped rather than
hunted with dogs, so I do not think that that responsibility is
relevant under Mr Watson's bill. We can clarify that for you.
Rhoda Grant (Highlands and Islands) (Lab): Why does the
order treat the Isle of Arran differently from other islands?
Rhona Brankin: Some islands are being treated differently
because they are mink free.
Mr Rumbles: Will you confirm that there are no current
applications for mink farms and that it is not the intention of
the Executive to encourage such applications?
Rhona Brankin: We would have to consider any applications,
but there are no current applications for mink farms in Scotland.
The Convener: If there are no further questions, we will
progress to the legislative stage. I ask Eileen Kennedy to withdraw
and invite Rhona Brankin to move the motion.
That the Rural Affairs Committee recommends that the Mink Keeping
(Scotland) Order 2000 (SSI 2000/400) be approved.[Rhona
Motion agreed to.
The Convener: The second order is the Welfare of Farmed
Animals (Scotland) Regulations 2000 (SSI 2000/draft). We welcome
SERAD officials Mary Bradley, James Douse and Mike Watsonhe
is not the Mike Watson who introduced the hunting bill.
Before we start on the item, I understand that there may be a
couple of problems with the paperwork. Have all committee members
received the appropriate papers? I received some of them in duplicate.
If we are all content, I invite the minister to make her opening
Rhona Brankin: When the UK held the presidency of the
Council of the European Union in 1998, we introduced some important
measures, one of which was directive 98/58/EC, covering the protection
of animals kept for farming purposes. It is commonly known as
the general farm animal welfare directive. An adoption of that
measure was rightly acknowledged to be an important step forward
in welfare terms because, for the first time, common standards
now apply throughout the European Union. That was important not
only for the resultant welfare of farm animals but for countries
such as ours, which have traditionally had a high standard of
farm animal welfare and have had to compete commercially with
other countries where welfare standards have, in some cases, been
much lower. The regulations before us implement the general directive
into Scottish law. They also revoke and consolidate existing legislation
in this field.
In drafting these implementing regulations, we followed four
basic principles, the first of which was to ensure their user
friendliness. We are conscious that a variety of people will need
to use the regulations, so it was clear that they needed to be
structured carefully. We decided to set out in schedule 1 the
requirements that apply to all animals, with subsequent schedules
containing further, species-specific requirements.
Our second principle is to ensure that we departed from the wording
in the current EU legislation only when it is sensible to do so.
Our third principle is to retain our national standards where
they go beyond the EU requirements. Our fourth principle is to
keep the burden on industry to a minimum. It might appear, on
the face of it, that a new raft of measures applying to all farmed
animals would imply a cost to our industry, but I should make
it clear that that is not the case, as the new measures simply
put into legislation the good practice that the vast majority
of our farmers already follow.
When we originally went out to consultation last June, we proposed
building in three additional provisions to those contained in
the directive. The first was the serving of a notice to formalise
a situation that already exists unofficially. At present, state
veterinary officers often send letters to farmers outlining all
that needs to be done following a welfare inspection. Regulation
11 allows for a formal notice with a specified time limit to be
issued requiring a person in charge of animals to take the necessary
action to resolve identified welfare problems. In consultation,
that was welcomed on all sides as a positive measure. We are proceeding
with it, as it will ensure effectivebut not more burdensomeenforcement.
The second issue relates to well-drained lying areas. It is anomalous
that the existing law requires such areas for animals kept indoors
but not for those kept outdoors. We thought that we should rectify
that and give legal effect to a provision that was already in
our statutory welfare codes.
We decided, on reflection, to leave out of the set of regulations
on the third of the extra provisions that we had originally proposedprohibiting
the beak trimming of hens kept in cages. That will be dealt with
under the species-specific directive.
The regulations must be seen as a welcome step forward in the
improvement of farmed animal welfare. We are proud of our national
standards of farmed animal welfare but we cannot be complacent
about what needs to be done to ensure that they are upheld.
Mr Rumbles: The heading of the instrument contains the
words "prevention of cruelty". What is the Executive's
definition of cruelty? The instrument refers to
"unnecessary pain, suffering or injury."
Have I interpreted that correctly?
Rhona Brankin: My understanding is that the definition
used is "unnecessary pain or distress".
Fergus Ewing: The minister referred to the fact that it
was seen as desirable on policy grounds to widen the duties so
that they refer to animals kept outdoors as well as indoorswe
would support that. I direct the minister to paragraph 17 on page
6 of the instrument, which states:
"Animals not kept in buildings must, where necessary and
possible, be given protection from adverse weather conditions,
predators and risks to their health and, at all times, have access
to a well-drained lying area."
It is plain, minister, that a legal duty will be imposed on custodians
of animals to protect from predators those animals that are kept
outside. Does the Executive consider that Mike Watson's member's
bill is compatible, or incompatible, with the fulfilment of the
legal duty that will be imposed if this draft order becomes law?
Mr Mike D Watson (Scottish Executive Rural Affairs Department):
The wording in paragraph 17 is "where necessary and possible".
If animals such as sheep are up the side of a hill, we do not
expect farmers to keep their eyes on them all the time. As I am
not sure what Mike Watson's bill will say about that situation,
I cannot comment on whether it would be compatible with these
Fergus Ewing: I believe that the bill will stop the use
underground of various types of dogs. Many people, such as the
Scottish Gamekeepers Association, which made an informal presentation
to some committee members about an hour ago, argue that if the
use of dogs underground is stopped, it will be difficult, if not
impossible, to protect animals from predators. Does the Executive
have a view on that matter? If so, what is that view?
Mr Mike D Watson: These regulations will apply to animals
that are kept for farming purposes. They will not apply to wild
animals that live underground.
Fergus Ewing: I know that, but we are concerned about
the welfare of lambs and sheep, for example, which spend a great
deal of their time outdoors. Those animals must be protected once
this statutory instrument becomes law. Does the Executive believe
that, in order to protect such animals from predation, it is helpful
for dogs to be used underground, as they have been used traditionally,
to flush out foxes to the gun?
Mr Mike D Watson: I am sorry, but I do not know the answer
to that question.
Fergus Ewing: Would the Executive consider that important
point, which is germane to the issues that we will consider later,
and provide the committee with an answer?
Rhona Brankin: The matter that Fergus Ewing raises is
related more to the bill than to these regulations.
Dr Elaine Murray (Dumfries) (Lab): Although it is tempting
to talk about other committee business, I will ask about the beak
trimming of battery hens, which is to be dealt with under separate
legislation. In an e-mail, the Scottish Society for the Prevention
of Cruelty to Animals expressed some disappointment to us that
regulations did not deal with beak trimming. Could you explain
in more detail why the decision was taken to address that issue
in a different way?
Rhona Brankin: The EU directive that covers beak trimming
does not need to be implemented until 1 January 2002. We are still
discussing the best way of implementing that directive and will
draw up separate draft regulations. Opportunities for further
discussion will be available, as we will consult on the directive
and the committee will have the opportunity to comment on it.
The issue of beak trimming is not included in these regulations.
Mr Duncan Hamilton (Highlands and Islands) (SNP): Minister,
could you clarify whether you are saying that, procedurally, beak
trimming did not fit in with these regulations? In other words,
is the Executive committed to prohibiting beak trimming, but just
not now, or is it undecided on the issue?
Rhona Brankin: Our view was that implementing the measure
would amount to gold plating, given that we do not have to comply
with the directive until it comes into force in 2002. We will
consult on it and will introduce regulations
Mr Hamilton: Will you consult on the best way of bringing
in such a prohibition, or will you consult on the Executive's
view? In other words, are you for or against debeaking in principle?
Rhona Brankin: Our position is that there are a number
of reasons why it is inappropriate to introduce a ban at present.
In one sense, such a step could be seen as gold platingthere
could be a compliance cost for industry that might not be borne
by competitors in other European countries. The time to consider
the merits of a ban is when regulations are introduced in 2002
to implement the directive on laying hens.
When that directive comes into force, we will not be obliged
to ban beak trimming of caged birds. Member states are allowed
to introduce derogations from a blanket ban when they consider
it appropriate to do so. We intend to apply the directive's ban
on beak trimming of caged hens but to allow beak trimming of hens
in alternative systems. That will minimise the risk of injury
to birds through feather pecking, which can be a serious problem
in alternative systems. I emphasise that we will consult widely
on that measure before we introduce draft regulations.
Rhoda Grant: My point is similar to the one that Elaine
Murray raised. We also received representations on tail docking.
Legislation says that tail docking is allowed if there is evidence
of injury occurring because tail docking has not taken place.
The e-mail that we received said that about 80 per cent of piglets
have their tails docked. Tail docking has become the norm rather
than the exception. Will inspections take place to ensure
that tail docking does not continue to be the norm?
Rhona Brankin: We intend to tighten up existing regulations.
Farmers must demonstrate that there is evidence of damage before
they are allowed to dock tails. We do not think that docking should
be carried out as a matter of course.
The Convener: As we appear to be ready to move to the
next stage, I invite the officials to withdraw and the minister
to move motion S1M-1337.
That the Rural Affairs Committee recommends that the draft Welfare
of Farmed Animals (Scotland) Regulations be approved.[Rhona
Motion agreed to.
The Convener: Thank you, minister.
Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Bill:
The Convener: We are ready to progress to today's most
time-consuming business. It will take a moment or two to get the
first team of witnesses in place, but I ask members not to leave.
I invite members to retake their seats for item 3 on the agenda,
which is the taking of evidence on the Protection of Wild Mammals
(Scotland) Bill. Today is the third of four days of oral evidence
on the bill. Last week, we heard views on what constitutes humane
and effective means of pest control and we examined falconry,
hare coursing and traditional fox hunting in the light of those
The purpose of today's session is to continue our examination
of the extent to which various activities are cruelthat
is, whether they are necessary and whether they cause suffering.
I intend to hear individually the witnesses and advisers from
each organisation that we have invited today. That means that
we must be fairly brisk and concise with questioning to give each
witness adequate and fair representation.
All members of the committee have, or will have, a copy of the
full written submission that each organisation made in August.
Summaries have also been circulated with today's agenda in order
to avoid lengthy introductions.
We will start with Barry Wade, who is chairman of the National
Working Terrier Federation. He is accompanied by John Waters and
Thomas Parker, who will be able to assist Barry if we move into
areas that require additional answers. I invite Mr Wade to make
a brief opening statement. We will then move straight to questions.
Barry Wade (National Working Terrier Federation): The
National Working Terrier Federation is extremely grateful for
this opportunity to present oral evidence. We are opposed to the
Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Bill, which would criminalise
the use of terriers to control foxes and mink. It would also affect
adversely people who use terriers to control rats and rabbits,
because those people would be required to justify their actions
or run the risk of falling foul of the law. We believe that the
bill is based on ignorance, misinformation and misguided political
bigotry, and that it is influenced by animal rights, rather than
animal welfare, considerations.
Until he was advised otherwise, Lord Watson, the bill's main
sponsor, believed that terrier worksomething that he sought
to banis an activity that is carried out during the night
with the aid of a
lamp. In fact, when he was shown video footage to clarify matters,
he commented that if that was terrier work, he had no problem
with it. However, here we are today, discussing a bill that seeks
to ban terrier work.
The bill's supporters from the Scottish Campaign Against Hunting
with Dogs allege, to justify their case, that terrier work causes
mental cruelty to an animal that is trapped underground. In reality,
that animal is not trapped, but living in its natural environmentthe
den where it chooses to live. The terrier's role is simply to
flush the animal out. That is a natural process, which equates
to the territorial challenges that a fox encounters throughout
its natural life and which is, therefore, relatively stress free.
That fact was confirmed by recent research that was commissioned
by the Swedish Government and conducted by the Swedish National
Veterinary Institute, in relation to the behaviour of underground
mammals when confronted below ground by dogs.
SCAHD also claims that terrier work is unnecessary. In reality,
it is the only method of dealing with foxes while they are below
ground. That fact was confirmed by the Burns inquiry, which concluded:
"In upland areas, where the fox population causes more damage
to sheep-rearing and game management interests, and where there
is a greater perceived need for control, fewer alternatives are
available to the use of dogs, either to flush out to guns or for
The bill's supporters contend that terrier work could be replaced
by ethical shooting at the fox's earth. In reality, it takes but
a few minutes for a terrier to identify whether a den is occupied,
but even after many hoursor even daysof observation
with a rifle, one might still be unsure.
The necessity for terrier work was borne out by the Burns inquiry.
It concluded that, even if a rifle is used to kill adult foxes
at their earth, there is still a case to be madeon welfare
groundsfor the subsequent use of terriers to ensure that
cubs are not left without parental care. That opinion was reinforced
by the Scottish Agricultural Science Agency, which stated:
"Young cubs cannot be controlled effectively or humanely
by shooting adult foxes above ground . . . the most effective
method of controlling young cubs is the use of terriers below
The Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
"If there is not to be a closed season (for shooting foxes),
the SSPCA would have to support the allowing of terriers below
ground in order to avoid cruelty".
The Convener: Can I stop you there, Mr Wade? We are keen
to get on with questions, and we have the remainder of your statement
before us. Is that okay?
Barry Wade: That is fine, convener.
Alex Fergusson: In the opening sentence of your submission
"The NWTF is opposed to this Bill which would criminalise
the use of terriers to control foxes and mink."
During earlier consideration, the Deputy Minister for Rural Development
gave the committee to understandI am not blaming the minister
herethat dogs and hounds were not, to her knowledge, much
used in the control of mink. Can you inform the committee about
the degree to which terriers are used to control mink?
Barry Wade: Terriers are used frequently to control mink
and so are hounds. Hounds from down south have visited north of
the border. I used, about 15 years ago, to go to the Stair estate
near Stranraer. We took hounds and terriers to control mink on
that estate. We made an annual two-week visit, with a view to
reducing the population of mink.
Alex Fergusson: Does that continue?
Barry Wade: No. However, terriers are used to control
mink. They are particularly effective for locating mink, once
they have learned their scent.
Alex Fergusson: Forgive me for addressing this question
to you if you feel that it should not go to the NWTF. I am sure
that all members have had considerable representations from lurcher
men during the past week. Are you qualified to answer questions
on lurcher work?
Barry Wade: I have owned lurchers. John Waters uses them,
Alex Fergusson: It has been made plain to me in correspondence
that lurcher menas they call themselvesdo not consider
that their views have been represented to the committee. Can you
inform the committeeas briefly as possibleabout the
work that lurcher men carry out and its relevance to pest control
and/or to the sport-related matters that the bill affects? If
you are unable to answer that, I will understand.
Barry Wade: The question is fine, although I will field
it to John Waters. I point out first that John is a lecturer at
the North Highland College at Thurso. That college is publicly
funded, but John is speaking today on his own behalf as a professional
gamekeeper, rather than as a representative of the college.
John Waters (National Working Terrier Federation): Lurchers
play a very important part in pest control and have done so for
hundreds of years. I saw on the television the representation
that was made by the deerhound-coursing people and I saw snippets
about greyhound coursing. I
have seen nothing about the use of lurchers.
A lurcher is a greyhound or deerhound crossed with some other
breed of dog. It is a running dog crossed, for example, with a
collie to give it some intelligence. Lurchers are widely used;
I use them to control foxes. I use a pack of terriers with some
beagles to hunt gorse bushes and small plantings and to flush
foxes out to standing guns. The idea is to kill cleanly with one
shot, but nothing is perfect and although that is okay in theory,
sometimes it does not work in practice.
My terriers are only 12 in to 14 in high and would be unable
to catch a fox if it went away wounded. However, behind the guns,
I have guys with lurchers. If a fox got through the line of guns
and was fired at and hit, a lurcher would be slipped. Lurchers
are very fast and can catch and kill a fox very efficiently.
Alex Fergusson: Are lurchers used where guns are not also
John Waters: Yes.
Alex Fergusson: Can one hunt foxes with lurchers alone?
John Waters: Yesit is possible to go fox hunting
with lurchers and many people do that. Many Highland gamekeepers
have lurchers on the hills. If they were going over a hill and
a fox raised at a distance, they would be able to slip the lurcher.
A lurcher can run a fox in and kill it very quickly.
Lurchers are also widely used in rabbit control. People who go
out with ferrets get lurchers to mark the holes, which tells them
that there is a rabbit there. They net the holes up or stand by
to shoot the rabbits and a lurcher can be slipped on anything
that gets away. Those dogs provide a very efficient form of control.
Alex Fergusson: I was told in one letter that there are
11,000 lurcher ownersor perhaps lurchers. If all lurchers
played a part in vermin control, I would think that that part
was quite large. Is that correct?
John Waters: Yes.
Barry Wade: Lurchers are also used at night, in conjunction
with a spot lamp. That is particularly effective for controlling
rabbitsmany rabbits are caught that way.
Dr Murray: As those who have kept terriers are aware,
the term terrier covers a variety of dogs, from little Yorkshire
terriers to Airedale terriers. Could you say something about the
types of terriers that are appropriate for fox control? Mr Waters
mentioned the use of small terriers. Do you think that those dogs
would be capable of fighting a fox? What is your view of people
who use more aggressive animals for fox baiting, rather
than for pest control? There might be a distinction between what
you do with terriers and what other people use them for.
Barry Wade: In practice, almost any type of terrier can
be used for fighting, from a Yorkshire terrier to an Airedale.
The main factor is the way in which the terrier is worked, rather
than its breed. That is why there is a National Working Terrier
Federation code of conduct.
I will give a relatively simple example. I have no doubt that,
if one loosed half a dozen Yorkshire terriers on a fox in a confined
spacewhether someone had dug into a block end with a spade
or had transported a fox into a shed or a barrelthose terriers
would attack the fox. If one loosed one large Airedale on such
a fox the effect would be similar. The important factor is that
terriers should be worked single-handed wherever possible.
I have worked terriers around the world and I know that their
natural instinct is to stand back and bark. Their actions depend
on the way in which they are worked. Next week, I will be in Germany,
where terriers have been used to pursue wild boar that weigh 200
lb. If a terrier's natural instinct were to attack, as has been
suggested, the end result of such an activity would be carnageno
terriers would survive that. In Germany, however, terriers do
not get killed as a matter of course. It is a terrier's natural
instinct to stand back and bay at its quarry.
Dr Murray: There are some people who make use of the terrier's
fighting instinctpossibly in a sporting capacityrather
than its barking instinct. Is there a need for legislation to
control further terrier work? Would you favour legislation that
sought to control the use of terriers to ensure that they were
worked single-handed and used only for pest control, to prevent
people from being able to use them to fight wild animals underground?
Barry Wade: I think that Dr Murray seeks to ensure that
such activities are carried out in the most humane way possibleeither
through legislation or through voluntary codes of conduct. It
is fair to say that the code of conduct has been accepted or endorsed
by almost every organisation whose members are involved in terrier
work. We promote the code, as do other organisations, such as
the Scottish Hill Packs Association.
Some 20 years ago, the standard in terrier work slipped considerably,
but it has now moved on. The Protection of Animals Act 1911, the
Protection of Animals (Scotland) Act 1912 and the Wild Mammals
Protection Act 1996 all impose conditions on people's behaviour
in this context. Although some of those acts are quite old, some
recent court cases in which I have been involved
have shown that the implementation of the acts has changed slightly.
What might have been acceptable 40, 30 or even 20 years ago, would
not be allowed by the courts today. People who were prosecuted
would be found guilty of many of those old activities.
Dr Murray: Is the current legislative framework sufficient
to prevent the cruel use of terriers in sport?
Barry Wade: The legislation contains the opportunity to
cut out bad practicethat is what has tended to happen south
of the border. For example, there have been some prosecutions
by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
South of the border, if someone went on to land without permission
to work their terriers and a terrier got injured, that person
would be liable to be found guilty under the Protection of Animals
Fergus Ewing: Mr Watson's bill draws a distinction between
the use of dogs, including terriers, above ground and their use
below ground. Any use of dogs below ground is apparently cruel
and would be made illegal. On the other hand, their use above
ground is, I presume, not cruel and would be made legal in limited
circumstances. If Mr Watson's bill were passed, would you be able
to operate in compliance with the lawthat is, could you
avoid the use of terriers underground?
Barry Wade: Last week, the SSPCA made the point succinctly
that, if a terrier is shown a hole, it will find some way of getting
into it. That is a simple fact of life. Many of our terrier clubs
run a rescue service for terriers that get trapped below ground.
Today those dogs tend not to be working terriers, but pet terriers
that have gone hunting of their own accord.
Fergus Ewing: One of our witnessesDouglas Batchelor
of the Scottish Campaign Against Hunting with Dogssuggested
that the use of dogs underground is cruel because it is a form
of fox baiting.
Barry Wade: Fox baiting seems to be a new term that has
been generated over the past couple of years. As I understand
it, baiting is defined as an animal being taken from its natural
environment, being made captive under the dominion of man and
having another animal set upon it. Under the present laws, that
practice is illegal.
Fergus Ewing: The Scottish Campaign Against Hunting with
Dogsand in particular Mr Bill Swannput it to the committee
that lamping could be used as an alternative to your practices.
Lamping would not require dogs to work underground, but is lamping
an acceptable and adequate alternative for the use of terriers?
Barry Wade: Do you mean lamping with rifles?
Fergus Ewing: Yes.
Barry Wade: I have a little experience of lampingthe
problem is that it is not as exact a science as has been suggested.
It has been suggested that foxes are almost transfixed in a powerful
beam of light, but that is not the case. Foxes are less cautious
under cover of darkness and so, instead of using cover as they
would in daylight, they will be out in the middle of a field.
Spotlights are used to find out where the foxes arethe lights
catch the reflection of their eyes rather like cat's-eyes on the
road. At that point, one would attempt to call the fox into close
proximity by sucking the back of the hand to imitate the call
of a wounded rabbit, so that the fox could be shot. Foxesparticularly
older cubswill tend to come running to that noise.
However, once a fox has been shot at and missed, it learns very
quickly that the lamp is a danger signal and becomes what we call
"lamp shy". I have found many times when I have been
out at night with a lamp that, as soon as the light is flicked
on, the fox either runs away or becomes very suspicious in his
behaviour and starts to use cover.
Fergus Ewing: When he described the process of lamping,
Mr Swann said that
"a bullet from a high-powered rifle will do so much damage
that the fox will not escape. There is a remote chance that it
may be hit on a limb. With lamping and rifling, the success rate
is extremely high."[Official Report, Rural
Affairs Committee, 14 November 2000; c 1322.]
What are your comments on that?
Barry Wade: I know that Mr Waters would like to comment.
There are professionally produced videos by experts in lamping,
which show foxes that have been injured, but which are still alive.
John Waters: Barry Wade said that he does not have much
experience of lamping. However, he has explained the situation
perfectly to the committee. I do quite a lot of lamping and I
know that the perfect shotthe mythical marksman who can
hit everythingdoes not exist. If he does, I have never met
him. A fox can be fired at and missed. As Barry Wade said, he
then becomes very lamp shy, so that one has a devil of a job getting
If a fox is lying in cover during the day, that is the time to
hunt him out. If lamping is done at night, the fox can be woundedeven
by the best shots. When I go lamping, I take a dog with me. If
there is any chance that a fox has been wounded, I track him down
with the dog. Without the dog, I would not be able to find him.
Barry Wade: I would like to correct my colleague. In fact,
I have done quite a bit of lamping.
Fergus Ewing: Thank you for that correction.
The SSPCA has suggested that a way forward might be to have a
close season, during which control of the vixen population would
be prohibited. How effective do you think that would be?
Barry Wade: In practice, the season that the SSPCA is
arguing should be the close season is the season during which,
typically, there is the greatest need for control. It is the time
when most damage is being done and when birds are nesting. I am
sure that John Waters will want to comment from the point of view
of a gamekeeper. Tom Parker is also fairly actively involved in
that side of things.
John Waters: Dr David MacDonald did an in-depth study
of the red fox and concluded that one of the best times for controlling
it is den time. Professor Peter Hudson, who worked for the Game
Conservancy Trust for 10 years, wrote a book called "Grouse
in Space and Time". He said that spring was the best time
to control foxes to preserve ground-nesting birds. He added that
year-round control of foxes was essential to maintain numbers
of game birds and other ground-nesting birds. Some of the greatest
predation can occur in winter, with the result that insufficient
breeding stock is left over to the following spring.
Thomas Parker (National Working Terrier Federation): We
carry out a systematic programme of fox control, mostly in the
central belt. We operate on a four to six week programme, visiting
the farms that have called us in. Our highest number of call-outs
comes during spring lambing, when there is a high incidence of
farmers finding occupied earths. Farmers tend not to notice the
earths until they see signs of occupation. That is when the phones
Cathy Peattie (Falkirk East) (Lab): Would you describe
terrier work as pest control or as a sport?
Barry Wade: I would describe it as pest control.
Cathy Peattie: I am interested in the issue of cruelty.
You may have heard Mike Rumbles ask the minister to define cruelty.
Do you think that terrier work is cruel? How would you define
Barry Wade: The legal definition of cruelty is the causing
of unnecessary suffering. The courts have interpreted that as
meaning that, if suffering occurs for necessary reasons, no cruelty
I have no wish to see my dogs injured at any
time. While I am in Scotland, my wife does not sleep very well,
because she does not like to be on her own. My working terriers
sleep on my bed when I am not therethey are very much part
of our family. I have no vested interest in seeing those dogs
injured in any way.
Terrier work is carried out in accordance with our code of conduct,
which was drawn up by people who had considerable experience,
and every word was agreed by a large committee of terrier men.
A hell of a lot of experience went into drawing up that code of
conduct, which minimises the risk of injury to either the terrier
or its quarry.
The accepted indicators for cruelty are factors such as body
temperature and heart rate, which were talked about last week.
As I mention in our detailed submission, research was conducted
in Sweden in January, whereby badgers were implanted with remote
transmitters. Measurements were taken on a computer that was located
5 m away and the variations in body temperature and heart rate
were recorded. The measurements that were registered when a terrier
entered the artificial earth that contained the badger were similar
to those that were recorded during that animal's normal functions
such as feeding. Some of the highest measurements during the test
were recorded when the badgers were caught up and put into the
box that they were transported in from the enclosures to the artificial
sets. The conclusion was that there were no visible signs of stress
using the accepted scientific indicators.
We contacted the chief veterinarian in Sweden in May 1999 to
ask his opinion on the relevance of those tests, given that they
were conducted on badgers rather than foxes. In his opinion, the
situation was the same for foxes. Badgers were used in the experiments
only because they were easier to keep in captivity.
Cathy Peattie: We have received reportsalthough
probably not concerning organisations such as yoursof terrier
men whose terriers suffer frequent, sometimes fatal, injuries.
What are your thoughts on that? Elaine Murray asked earlier about
the need for legislation and regulations to ensure that such injuries
are not sustained. What is your view on that?
Barry Wade: Standards in terrier work slipped badly some
20 years ago. We addressed that through establishing our code
of conduct, and the standard of terrier work that is carried out
today is probably higher than at any time in living memory.
Thomas Parker: Was that report based on terrier work in
Cathy Peattie: Scotland and Wales.
Thomas Parker: I have worked terriers in Scotland for
more than 30 years and I have never
seen a fatality when terriers have been worked properly. Injuries
are minimal: there is no future in having an extremely valuable
animal damaged. On the issue of cruelty, the fox must be killed
as swiftly and humanely as possible, and we try to control the
environment so that that is generally what happens.
Barry Wade: I am aware of the reports that have been issued
by people who are opposed to hunting with terriers. Some of those
reports date back 20 or more years and are taken from written
material that is not relevant today.
John Waters: I know of no one who carries out pest control
in the Highlands or in my area who goes round fox densas
they do in the springtimewanting their terrier beaten, chewed
and mashed up so that it cannot be worked again. They want a terrier
that can be worked from day to day. The intention is not to have
a battle underground; the intention is to bolt the fox, shoot
him, and get home.
Barry Wade: When foxes are lying naturally below ground,
they are very susceptible to being bolted. As a child, I used
to rabbit a lot with my father. On more than half a dozen occasions,
I have put a ferretwhich is only a small thinginto
a rabbit earth, and a fox has bolted. He has been lying there
quietly but, at the slightest disturbance or threat, he has bolted.
I have many friends south of the border who are hunt terrier men
and go out earth stopping of an evening. Just throwing soil into
the mouth of a hole will frequently make a fox bolt. It is very
easy to bolt a fox that is lying quietly in his earth.
The Convener: I am keen to get on to our next witness
and to get through our afternoon's work, but a few people would
like to ask questions.
Mr Hamilton: A number of my questions have already been
answered. I take the point that the use of a combination of dogs
is the quickest and most humane way of doing the work. It would
help the committeeand possibly take some of the heat out
of the debate on this billif we felt that best practice
was being adopted for terrier work. If standards are at the high
level that you suggest, why have only 25 per cent of the people
involved signed up to the voluntary code? You may want to dispute
that figure; it was supplied by the SSPCA. Might professionals
in your line of work accept legally binding national standards,
which could be monitored and enforced? Would that not be a way
of allaying people's fears about cruelty?
Barry Wade: The figure of 25 per cent is our own figure
so we do not disagree with the SSPCA on that. The National Working
Terrier Federation is made up of virtually all the major terrier
clubs in England, Scotland and Wales. Other professionals, such
as gamekeepers, have their
own organisations. In practice, all those organisations have
endorsed or adopted the National Working Terrier Federation's
code of conduct, so the percentage of people who work according
to that code is significantly higher than 25 per cent. The percentage
will, in fact, be very high.
Mr Hamilton: Is the 25 per cent figure for Scotland or
Barry Wade: It is for the UK. I will give you some examples:
the Scottish Hill Packs Association has adopted the National Working
Terrier Federation's code of conduct; the Scottish Gamekeepers
Association, like its colleagues south of the border in the National
Gamekeepers Organisation, has endorsed it; and the British Association
for Shooting and Conservation and the Master of Foxhounds Association
have taken it on.
Mr Hamilton: If so many of them have already adopted it,
it will be relatively easy to make its standards apply nationally,
without any great loss to anyone.
Barry Wade: I would not disagree with that. In your original
question, you suggested that statutory regulation might be better
than voluntary regulation. We have no power to make things statutory;
we operate a voluntary regulation system. We drew it up as a yardstick
because we realised that the day would come when mainland UK might
well come into line with the rest of Europe, where they tend to
have licensing. We felt that it was important to have a code that
people could adopt.
We have also heard oral evidence of another code of conduct for
terrier work and a voluntary licensing system. The SSPCA referred
to that last week and said that no adverse comments had been received.
That is true. However, no practitioners have been consulted on
that code of conduct or the voluntary licensing system. We support
the code of conduct that we operate, which we believe to be practical.
Furthermore, our code is very professional because it was drawn
up by practitioners.
Thomas Parker: I am a constituent of Mike Watson. I spoke
to him at his surgery and he mentioned the other code of conduct
that had been drawn up. I had already seen that code and told
him that it was totally unworkable. However, I asked him to send
me a copy of that code anyway. He sent me a copy of the National
Working Terrier Federation code of conduct. I do not know if Mike
Watson was confused between the two codes or if he thought that
ours was the better one.
Rhoda Grant: You said that foxes often bolted when you
were blocking up the earths. Why would you block up the earths?
Barry Wade: I would not block them up, but I have friends
who are terrier men who would. South of the borderperhaps
north of the border tooit is perfectly legal to block badger
sets to prevent terriers from entering them during the day's hunting.
Where the idea is to catch foxes with hounds, people are employed
as earth stoppers or hunt terrier men and they are authorised
to block lightly the entrances to badger sets. Sometimes foxes
lie in the entrances to those sets and if one entrance has been
blocked by loose soil the fox will bolt from another entrance.
Richard Lochhead (North-East Scotland) (SNP): I have a
question for Thomas Parker. You mentioned that you do not work
in particularly remote areas, but that you work for farmers.
Thomas Parker: That is correct.
Richard Lochhead: I presume that gamekeepers mainly control
pests on estates and that, as you run your own pack, you are called
out by farmers, who ask you to come and deal with foxes that are
causing a problem.
Thomas Parker: Yes.
Richard Lochhead: Is that run as a business?
Thomas Parker: No, it is voluntary. We have worked in
conjunction with the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology as well
as with farmers. We have provided the institute with a lot of
data, including six-figure map references for the location of
fox earths and badger sets. That work was carried out in the 1970s
to aid the institute with contingency plans in the event of an
outbreak of rabies. I mapped out every fox earth and badger set
of which we had knowledge at the time. I also included the dates
on which we took foxes from those places. All that information
was passed to Dr Kolb at the Institute of Terrestial Ecology.
I understand that the institute has since been burned down by
animal rights activists.
Richard Lochhead: Do you derive income from terrier work?
Do farmers pay you?
Thomas Parker: At one time in the mid-1970s we derived
an income from fox pelts. However, our main activity is the breeding
and working of terriers. It is a barter system. We began as a
group of guys who went out shooting. When we were dealing with
pests such as rabbits and pigeons, the farmers asked us to control
foxes as well. That is why we added an extra tool to our box.
The farmers contact us because we are known to be efficient.
We have a long-standing reference from the
Kilmarnock and Loudon branch of the National Farmers Union of
Scotland. That branch introduced us to farmers and gave them numbers
to contact us if they were having problems at lambing time. We
are trustworthy, we know what we are doing and we implement a
systematic programme of pest control.
Richard Lochhead: Farmers will phone you up because they
know that you are efficient. However, you will not be paid for
Thomas Parker: We will not be paid for it.
Richard Lochhead: Do you take the dogs out only when a
farmer calls you?
Thomas Parker: No. As I tried to explain, once a farmer
contacts us, we institute a systematic programme. We check the
earths on his ground every four or five weeks during the winter
months. We do it at that time because the cover is down and the
holes can be found more easily.
Richard Lochhead: We are trying to sort out which activities
are sports and which are legitimate pest control.
Thomas Parker: We are involved in pest control.
Richard Lochhead: Do you consider what you do as a sport?
Thomas Parker: No. My sport is fishing. The activity that
I am talking about today is pest control. Also, it allows me access
to places to fish and places to shoot. In the countryside, we
work an effective system of bartering.
The Convener: I thank our witnesses for their assistance
and welcome the next group of witnesses, who represent the Scottish
Hill Packs Association: Robbie Rowantree; Mark Naisby, who is
the secretary of the organisation; and Paul Crofts, who is the
Robbie Rowantree (Scottish Hill Packs Association): On
behalf of the SHPA, I thank the committee for inviting the practical,
hands-on guys to give evidence today.
When we were invited, we asked ourselves why there are hill packs;
we decided that it is because there is a need for them. The Government
recognises the need for this form of pest control and funds it
accordingly: SERAD pays a grant to the association members. Estates,
farmers and crofters pay subscriptions and call-out fees even
when agricultural incomes are at an all-time low. That is because
hill packs provide a highly effective means of fox control that
complements the other necessary control methods.
In the past 50 years, fox numbers have risen inexorably. There
are fewer shepherds and keepers in our straths and glens; moreover,
1959, the Forestry Commission has planted 1.1 million acres of
trees and there has been extensive private planting. In all those
circumstances, the hill pack is the most effective way of controlling
the predators in difficult and impenetrable terrain that is often
a haven for foxes.
We want to stress the fact that, in this essential form of predator
control, it is always our intention to minimise suffering. Hunts
are always ended as quickly and humanely as possible.
The Convener: You mentioned the fact that you hunt in
difficult terrain. What type of terrain do you cover apart from
the densely forested areas? Do you work steep and uneven ground
Robbie Rowantree: The two huntsmen with me work on steep
and uneven ground: one in Argyllshire and the other in Inverness-shire
and Sutherland. They are better equipped to answer that question
than I am.
Paul Crofts (Scottish Hill Packs Association): The average
size of the woods that we work in is between 100 acres and 3,000
acres. In big woods, the guns go inside the wood and try to shoot
the fox as it crosses a ride. In the smaller woods, the guns are
outside and try to shoot the fox as it is flushed out of the wood.
The Convener: So the job of the foot pack is to flush
out foxes to guns.
Paul Crofts: That is the primary intention. The fox is
shot at the first opportunity. Occasionally the hounds catch the
fox above ground; that is also part of what we do.
Fergus Ewing: In his evidence to the committee on 14 November,
Bill Swann of the Scottish Campaign Against Hunting with Dogs
suggested that the Scottish Hill Packs Association could operate
without needing dogs to go below ground. Would that be possible?
Mark Naisby (Scottish Hill Packs Association): No. We
could not operate without using terriers below ground. The farmers
and other people who subscribe to these schemes see them as a
total fox control operation. If a fox goes to ground, that fox
must be dispatched. We must have the means of dispatching foxes
that go to ground.
Fergus Ewing: I want to put to you the proposition that
I put to the witnesses from the National Working Terrier Federation:
that lamping might be an acceptable alternative. Is that the case?
I would like you to talk specifically about the type of terrain
in which you operate. I am thinking of forests and upland terrain.
Robbie Rowantree: I work as a gamekeeper on an estate
where two of us cover about 45,000
acres. Without a dog, it is almost impossible for us to locate
foxes. Lamping has its limitations, and those limitations are
increasing. In the early days, when I was a teenager and we shot
foxes in the spotlight, they were reasonably easy to get, because
the technique was new. However, foxes have begun to learn from
one another that a spotlight is bad news. In the early winter,
pairs run together. If we shoot one fox in a pair and the other
witnesses that shooting, it realises that spotlights mean danger.
From that point, it will not sit in a light. If a vixen escapes
with cubs that are big enough to walk at foot and she sees a light
and panics, she will educate her offspring to be light shy. Lamping
is not a 100 per cent effective technique for fox control. In
thick cover, such as woodland, lights do not work. We cannot use
a spotlight in trees.
Fergus Ewing: The SSPCA has proposed a closed seasonpresumably
in spring, although we are not sure what time limits, if any,
the society would want to place on a closed season. How would
that affect your activities?
Robbie Rowantree: For me, as a working gamekeeper, a closed
season for fox control would be a disaster. I would be unable
to control foxes effectively.
Fergus Ewing: The SSPCA argues that autumn and winter
are the most effective times for fox control.
Robbie Rowantree: That flies in the face of all the evidence,
particularly the work done by Dr David MacDonald of Oxford University.
He said that the most effective time for fox control is when the
vixen can be located successfully, at the breeding den.
Mr John Munro (Ross, Skye and Inverness West) (LD): I
am sure that you appreciate that the issue of fox hunting raises
a number of questions, some of which remain unanswered. There
are a lot of fancy ideas about the activity. It has been suggested
to us that hunting with dogs is a sport. At the outset, I was
inclined to accept that proposition, because I was thinking merely
of hunting with horses and hounds. I was not thinking of the Scottish
Hill Packs Association. Do you regard the activity that you undertake
with your hill packs as a sport or as a necessary part of the
conservation of the countryside? I am sure that when you flush
a forest or a plantation, you do so at the invitation of the owners
and that it is not an organised day for sport.
Robbie Rowantree: I can answer your question in two parts.
First, as a working gamekeeper I employ the three straths fox
pack to hunt on my ground. When I am doing my work, I invite Mr
Crofts to come with his hounds to do his work. If someone regards
their job as sport, they are very
fortunate. I happen not to. For us, this is a simple predator
As we explained, a number of guns are needed. We tend to work
on a swapping basis, whereby two of us will go to the help of
our neighbours when they hunt the pack on their ground. Two of
them will then come to us and so on. I may hunt 10 or 15 days
in a year, only two or three of which will be on my own ground.
On the other days, I am paying back neighbours. I am salaried
when I am doing that, so it is a job of work rather than a sport.
Mr Munro: When hunting is carried out with horses and
hounds, the untimely death of the fox occurs when the hounds eventually
catch up with it. In the plantations, the forests or the grounds
where you operate, have you ever known a hill pack dog to catch
Robbie Rowantree: Yes. On occasion, the hounds will catch
foxes. One of the advantages of that is that, in the event of
a wound, there is a guaranteed kill when the hounds catch the
fox. As an effective method of control, what we do is unsurpassed
in the woodland situation.
Mr Munro: I know from experience that the fox is a wily
old character. When he hears the hill pack away in the distance,
he can usually keep himself well in advance of the pack in a woodland
situation. Is that your experience?
Robbie Rowantree: I have seen a number of foxes shot when
they have been hunted in woodland. The fox keeps in front of the
hounds as best he can, but he runs into the line of guns and is
Dr Murray: I would like to ask about the selectivity of
the different methods of hunting when a farmer is having problems
with a specific fox rather than with foxes in generalit
may be a rogue fox that is predating lambs. How do you rate what
you doin terms of being able to locate and destroy a specific,
rogue foxcompared to the other methods that have been mentioned,
such as lamping?
Robbie Rowantree: As a gamekeeper, I would say that all
foxes are rogues. The hill pack can also be effective in a lambing
field. Mark Naisby will have had more experience of that, as most
of his subscribers are hill sheep farmers in Argyllshire. The
hill packs can go to a place where a fox is killing regularly,
pick up its scent, track it to where it is laying up and deal
with it accordingly. Is that correct, Mark?
Mark Naisby: That is correct. In one place that I cover
every year, there is lamb killing. The farmers phone me up when
they lose even one lamb. They are good at animal husbandry; every
marked and they know when one has gone. Straight away they will
ask whether I can come down in the morning. They will often ask
me to bring a dozen or 15 hounds, as they know where the fox is
coming from. I take my hounds and unbox them, and the farmers
tell me exactly where the lamb has gone missing. A drag is taken
away and the hunt usually ends up in the forest. The same farmers
will have arranged for neighbours to turn out with guns, and the
fox is either shot or put to ground for the terriers to dispatch.
Dr Murray: Would the alternative methods, such as lamping,
which are preferred by some of the organisations from which we
have taken evidence, be equally selective in picking out the foxes
that are causing problems?
Mark Naisby: We usually take the lamp to the place that
I am talking about, but in that area people do quite a lot of
lamping and the fox is usually lamp shy. There are not many gamekeepers
in my area, and some of the people who go lamping are not professionals.
Dr Murray: Many people in my constituency follow the mounted
hunts by foot, in cars or on horseback. They enjoy the spectacle,
which they say is not the killing of the fox but the use of the
dogs. When you take the hill packs out, do people come to watch
Mark Naisby: No.
Robbie Rowantree: Imagine standing on the top of a hill
in Sutherland in Januaryit is not very popular.
Dr Murray: So, what you do is purely a matter of pest
Mark Naisby: In Argyll, in the past eight weeks, I have
had two dry days. I am sick of drying out waterproofs. People
do not go to the hunt for fun.
Mr Hamilton: In your submission, you mention Government
funding; I am sure that many people will not have realised the
extent of Government funding for the packs. You say that there
"39 Fox Destruction Associations, of which 32 are part funded
by the Scottish Executive."
Is that correct?
Mark Naisby: That is correct.
Mr Hamilton: Can you give us a sense of the amount of
money that is involved? You said that the amount of Government
support had been cut recently.
Paul Crofts: Until three years ago, when the Labour Government
came to power, we received 50 per cent of all our costsif
we spent a pound, the Government gave us a pound. That funding
has been cut. We are given 50 per cent of our costs for three
months of the year. The three
months of the year that are stipulated are February until the
end of April or beginning of May, which is the breeding season
Mr Hamilton: Has there been any discussion about the impact
of the bill on future funding? Under the bill, what you do will
not be allowed, so presumably your funding will end.
Paul Crofts: As you can imagine, it was a big shock to
lose the funding of 50 per cent of our costs. That loss was made
up only because people who subscribed to the hill packs put their
hands in their pockets and continued to pay for what we do.
I would like to pick up on a previous question. It is not only
pest control that is going on. People pay us to hunt for the day.
Sport does not come into it at all. People pay for a service,
which is what we provide.
Mr Hamilton: My second question is unrelated to my first,
other than that it involves Government agencies. I think that
you mentioned the Forestry Commission. I understand that the Forestry
Commission has no form of pest control on its land and does not
allow hunts. If the bill is passed, there will be a major impact
there, too. Could you say more about that?
Robbie Rowantree: I can answer that because my brother
is a chief ranger with the Forestry Commission, so I have inside
Mr Hamilton: Two for the price of one.
Robbie Rowantree: The Forestry Commission will act on
complaints from a neighbour if there is a fox coming out of its
land to predate on livestock. It is not quite so helpful in cases
of predation on ground-nesting game birdsthere is more argument
about that. Many decisions are left to the local line managerthe
forest district managerwho can decide whether to give packs
access to his ground. They tend to stipulate the presence of an
independent scrutineer to ensure that reasonable levels of animal
welfare are maintained.
Rhoda Grant: When you locate a fox, what is your usual
success rate in dispatching it?
Paul Crofts: Over a season, we will account for 90 per
cent of the foxes that we find. I estimate that 80 per cent of
those foxes will be shot dead; 10 per cent will be peppered and
wounded, and will be caught by the hounds; and 10 per cent will
be caught by the hounds under their own steam.
Rhoda Grant: We have heard a fair amount of talk about
voluntary codes of practice and licensing. I dare say that you
already have voluntary codes of practice. How do you feel about
them? How would you react to their being legislated for and put
into a licensing scheme?
Robbie Rowantree: Our submission addressed the licensing.
We follow a fairly rigorous code of conduct, which is scrutinised
in places such as Forestry Commission land. Our only concern about
licensing was that any licensing operation under Lord Watson's
bill would have to be self-financing. As we have explained, our
grants have been cut and we are struggling financially. Placing
on us the burden of a licensing system with open-ended costs could
be punitive; it could lead to our being abolished because we would
be too expensive. Making it unviable for us to operate could be
a back-door way of banning us. The details of any licensing system
would have to be made clear before we could say yes or no to it.
The Convener: As there are no further questions, I thank
the witnesses for their time. They have been very helpful.
Robbie Rowantree: Thank you.
The Convener: Our next witness is Alex Hogg, chairman
of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association. He is accompanied by
Archie Dykes and Peter Fraser. Would you like to make a brief
opening statement, Alex?
Alex Hogg (Scottish Gamekeepers Association): Good afternoon.
Thank you for asking the Scottish Gamekeepers Association here
to discuss the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Bill. I am
Alex Hogg, the chairman of the association. On my left is Archie
Dykes and on my right is Peter Fraser.
We are wildlife managers, charged with protecting Scotland's
rich biodiversity and maintaining a balance to benefit wildlife
and rural communities. We take that responsibility seriously.
The fox, for which we have the greatest respect, is a cunning
and intelligent predator. It has a strong instinct to survive
and a sixth sense that humans have lost. The hill fox is a particularly
difficult animal to control. Losing use of our dogs would mean
an even greater rise in the fox population, with devastating consequences
In the past two weeks, I have attended the committee's meetings
and heard the phrase "mental cruelty" crop up time after
time, yet nobody seems able to define that phrase or to show that
a fox suffers mental cruelty when chased. The concept of necessary
suffering has also arisen. From the evidence that we have heard
so far, it appears that it is fine for one type of mammal to suffer,
but not for another. However, it has been established that fox
numbers need to be controlled in many areas.
What constitutes the acceptable suffering of any animal? We are
not scientists, but we are professionals. We have no doubt that
what we do benefits the broad spectrum of wildlife, and that our
predator control methods are necessary and
humane. A fox has no preconceived notion of the threat that a
dog might pose, but it understands instinctively that man is its
predator. Human scent is anathema to a fox. Only its instinctive
desire to kill emboldens it to risk encounters with man.
The SGA committee has combined experience of more than 500 years
of working in the countryside. We all agree that one of the worst
cases of mental cruelty inflicted on a fox was depicted in a recent
well-known and popular vet programme on family television. We
were entertained to the sight of a truly terrified fox that had
been covered in oil; it was taken to a vet's surgery, examined
by a human and repeatedly washed. Between the washing and further
examination sessions, we saw the creature immobilised in a cage
and stricken with fear. From the fox's perspective, that prolonged
handling must have been as bad, if not worse, than being chased
by a hound, yet that is considered acceptable suffering, in the
name of good television.
The mental cruelty incurred by a hound's chasing and killing
a fox or by a terrier's bolting a fox from underground to an instantaneous
death by waiting marksmen is no more stressful or cruel than any
other compromising situation in which the fox might find itself.
The fox cannot intellectualise the concept of death or differentiate
between levels of danger. I know that if my car skids off the
road and into a ditch I may sustain bruising and that if my car
skids off the road and over a cliff I may be killed. The fox is
incapable of making such distinctions.
We ask the committee to take seriously the petitions that call
for an investigation into the long-term economic, environmental
and social impacts of the bill on rural communities. Our unique
countryside and biodiversity is our legacy for the generations
to come. It is the Parliament's responsibility to ensure that
those generations can enjoy it tomorrow as we do today.
Mr Rumbles: When Mike Watson gave evidence to the committee,
he made it clear that the general principles of his bill were
aimed at ending mounted hunting, hare coursing and terrier work.
We are focusing on that third element. He said that the real purpose
behind his bill was to end cruelty and cruel practices. This afternoon,
we heard the Executive's definition of cruelty, which was unnecessary
pain or distress. I want to ask the Scottish Gamekeepers Association
whether it feels that, in the pest control operations that it
carries out, it is engaged in a practice that causes unnecessary
pain and distress.
Alex Hogg: We always try to carry out our
operations to the best of our professional capabilities. Gamekeepers
look after animalswe have dogs and pets, and we see to a
wide range of wildlife throughout the year. We would never want
to be unnecessarily cruel to any animal.
Mr Rumbles: This question is directed at Peter Fraser,
who is a gamekeeper at Invercauld in the Cairngorms, in the uplands
of Scotland. If the bill goes through, what would be the effects
on your work, and on the landscape and the environment, over five
or six years?
Peter Fraser (Scottish Gamekeepers Association): If we
are not allowed to put a terrier below ground, our fox control
will cease. You can kill a few foxes with a spotlight and a few
with a snare, but the terrain that we work in is a large area
of 40,000 acres. There are big fox cairns and many sand earths.
If we are not allowed to control foxes, their number will rise,
which will have a disastrous effect on all ground-nesting birds.
We still have some capercaillie in our area, which will suffer.
There will be a knock-on effectjobs will go. Our area depends
on grouse moors, which take in sporting clients from all over.
If there is no surplus of grouse every year, within a few years
men will be laid off. The bill will have grave consequences for
everybody who is involved in our type of work.
Mike Rumbles: We saw some of the landscape when members
of the committee went up to Braemar. For the benefit of those
who did not, will you explain whether there are any real alternatives
to the use of dogs on the slopes of those large hills? Are shooting
and snaring real, practical alternatives or do you really need
to use the dogs?
Peter Fraser: We have sheep and deer where we are. We
have to think carefully about where we set our snareswe
are greatly limited in that. The spotlight was a success early
on, after the gin trap was banned. We killed quite a few foxes,
but if you miss a fox it learns not to stop for a second shot.
If there was anything we could try, I think we would have done
it by now. I get no pleasure from lying out on the hillside for
days on end at a fox den, freezing my backside, shivering, wet
and thoroughly miserable. If we could do something else, we would
have done it by now.
Dr Murray: Are there times of year when there is greater
need of fox control? When do you find foxes the greatest problem?
Alex Hogg: Spring is when the need to control foxes is
greatest. Birds that nest up a tree are safe, but curlews, ring
ouzels, lapwings and grouse all nest on the ground, so they are
defenceless. The fox has to rear cubs in that area. A lot of people
in the room today will have owned puppies and will realise how
much food they need
to get them to eight weeks old. Imagine the vixen hunting to
feed her cubs. She devastates the wildlife within two or three
miles of her den.
Dr Murray: So a nursing vixen might be the greatest nuisance
in respect of wildlife, lambs and so on?
Alex Hogg: Yesand she has her husband; she has got
Dr Murray: That brings me on to the problem with orphaned
cubs, which the committee has discussed a couple of times. There
is a likelihood that in controlling foxes that are causing a nuisance
you will sometimes orphan cubs.
Alex Hogg: Are you asking me how to deal with those?
Dr Murray: I know that they are often dealt with by dogs.
Bill Swann made the point in an e-mail that it is kinder to allow
the fox cubs to die underground than to use a dog to locate them
and dispatch them. What is your view on that?
Alex Hogg: How would you feel if you were left to starve
to death in a room over a period of two or three weeks? It is
much kinder to dispatch them with terriers.
Dr Murray: That was not my view. It was a view that was
put to members of the committee by somebody else.
Bill Swann also put another view to us. I quote from his e-mail:
"The use of terriers to kill cubs is, in my experience,
done solely to increase the 'head count' of foxes killed and in
no way relates to attempts to match earths, containing orphaned
cubs, to shot vixens".
Is that true?
Alex Hogg: Can you repeat that question?
Dr Murray: He is saying that in his experiencehe
is a veterinary consultant to the RSPCAthe use of terriers
to kill cubs is done solely to increase the head count of foxes
killed. He is saying that terriers are being used to bump up the
cull of foxes and it is not a co-ordinated attempt to ensure that
cubs who are orphaned are targeted.
Alex Hogg: That is a lot of nonsense. Most times when
we are at a den and we bolt a vixen, the cubs are with her in
the den. We are not trying to bump up the number of foxes killed.
We are there to do our job and control them.
Dr Murray: So the vixen and her cubs are generally killed
at the same time.
Alex Hogg: Yes, usually. On odd occasions a vixen may
be shot in the spotlight, but 90 per cent of the time she will
be with the cubs. That is why we go round the cubs at cubbing
time. We always set our date at about 15 April. That is when she
will be with the cubs. If she were not with the cubs, she would
have to come into the den in the early morning or late evening.
We would wait and shoot her with a high velocity rifle or a shotgun.
Mr Stone: I thank you, convener, especially as I am not
a member of the committee, although rumour has it that I might
I have heard people such as Mike Rumbles and John Farquhar Munro
put forward eloquently the effect that a ban might have on rural
jobs such as Mr Fraser's. Have you thought through the economic
In Caithness and Sutherland, we get some rich and grand people
such as Alex Salmond, who appeared briefly and spoke to Mr Robbie
Rowantree. I think he thought today was Wednesday, not Tuesday,
as he did not stay around for long. Such people spend a lot of
moneyespecially their wives, who go to the tweed shops and
buy local produce. That is a good thing in remote areas. Have
you quantified the potential financial loss to those areas if
people are discouraged from visiting due to a perceived drop in
the quality of shooting and sporting?
Archie Dykes (Scottish Gamekeepers Association): An American
gentleman, who is a professor of biology, has shot with us for
about 20 years. He is interested in the Watson bill and its effects
on the rural economy. He estimated for me this year that his group
alone has spent £3 million over the past 20 years. That is just
one group, who come with their wives, stay in hotels, go shopping
and the rest of it. If you multiply that out by the other groups,
it would amount to a considerable amount of money.
Mr Stone: Will you advance that argument more loudly in
future, or have you done so already? I ask because the argument
is new to me.
Archie Dykes: Yes. From the mathematical point of view,
if there are more foxes, there will be less game, and if there
is less game, there will be less sporting income from visitors.
It is as simple as that: less game means less income and less
money with which to provide jobs.
Mr Stone: I do not know the answer to this question, and
I will forgive you if you do not know it either, but if the fox
population rises, what will be the effect on other carnivorous
mammals such as badgers? We have heard about the effect on birds,
such as ring ouzels, but what about badgers and otters? Have you
done sums on an increase in foxes leading to a decrease in the
Archie Dykes: No; we learned that badgers in big sets
will share the set with foxes. It is not unknown for that to happen
when there are a number of holes in a set, and foxes may cub in
the same holes as badgers. However, while they can
live together relatively well, a badger will usually send a fox
packing if it is not welcome. As to the effects on the animals
if they live in the same area, the fox is probably more resourceful
than the badger as far as food is concerned.
Richard Lochhead: Given that you use a variety of dogs
in different circumstances, but have mentioned only terriers and
their use underground, is it fair to assume that gamekeepers would
be able to carry out the pest control part of their job if they
were allowed to continue to use terriers underground? Do you see
a need to use other dogs in different circumstances?
Alex Hogg: Most gamekeepers have terriers, but some have
lurchers. As you can imagine, we would definitely still need the
hounds to carry out our job properly in large tracts of forest
and in the other areas that you have heard about.
Richard Lochhead: Is it safe to say that you could carry
out effective pest control by using terriers underground?
Alex Hogg: Yes, but we would still need to use other types
of dog in the battle against the fox. It would be a big plus for
us if we could use our terriers underground. If an estate has
large tracts of forest next to it, hounds are needed.
Richard Lochhead: Are they needed to flush out the foxes
so the foxes can be shot?
Alex Hogg: Yes.
Richard Lochhead: What are Peter Fraser's comments? I
presume that, in Braemar, the area is mainly hilly but that it
also has some wooded land.
Peter Fraser: As Alex Hogg said, we need to use a variety
of dogs for different work. We would definitely be stuckwe
would be finishedwithout the terriers and the foot packs.
There is no way we could operate without the foot packs. In our
district, as in many others, we have large areas of forest. The
Forestry Commission no longer controls foxes unless a neighbour
complains. We must have different dogs for different usesit
is as simple as that.
I work dogs to run the ground when I am looking for fox earths.
If we have a problem and cannot find the earth, I work two terriers
over perhaps 200 or 300 yds around me. If, should the bill become
law, the terriers were to pick up a fox's scent and go back to
a cairn or a sand hole, I would be breaking the lawthere
is nothing I can do about that. Our job will be much harder if
we cannot use terriers and hounds.
Richard Lochhead: Do you use hounds in Braemar?
Peter Fraser: Yes.
Archie Dykes: An aspect of terrier work has not yet been
mentioned. Often you cannot tell whether a den is occupied; with
more and more hillwalkers appearing in the hills, a growing problem
is that a vixen will shift her cubs if one comes within a quarter
of a mile of a den. Although there might be carcases lying about,
she will be gone. A vixen disturbed in that way will often split
her cubs up and put them in two or three different places. Without
terriers, it would be impossible to find them, as she can pop
them in any handy hole.
Alex Hogg: I endorse Archie Dykes's comments. Our grounds
are covered in rabbit holes. It would be impossible for me to
find out which hole the fox is in without my terriers.
Alex Fergusson: Before you took the standso to speakRobbie
Rowantree told us that, as a gamekeeper, he sees every fox as
a rogue fox. Do you agree?
Alex Hogg: Yes.
Alex Fergusson: In that case, do you agree with a point
that was made last week: that the mounted hunt is the one land
user or land manager in Scotland with an interest in keeping a
healthy fox population?
Alex Hogg: I cannot comment on that point. We are not
close enough to the mounted hunts.
Alex Fergusson: Right. In your view, is the only good
fox a dead fox?
Alex Hogg: That is a really hard question. I have so much
respect for a foxit is a really cunning animal. However,
what has not been mentioned is that quite a few gamekeepers in
the association have consulted old game records, some of which
from 40 or 50 years ago show that only one fox was killed in a
certain year. Indeed, I know of one estate where that total has
risen from one fox killed in a year to 200. It is a constant battle;
every time a fox is killed, three or four come to the funeral.
Perhaps foxes keep piling in because gamekeepers have created
an oasis of land in the middle of other land that has been mismanaged
and has no wildlife on it. We have to try our hardest to keep
on top of the situation. I should repeat that the most crucial
time of year is when the birds are nesting on the ground.
Alex Fergusson: In the presentation that he gave some
of us at lunch time, Ronnie Rose said that if the bill were passed
it would have the gravest effect on Scotland's current biodiversity.
Do you agree that, as Ronnie Rose slightly touched on, biodiversity
means the balance of nature?
Alex Hogg: I agree totally. If this bill goes through,
I think that we will see something close to
the second Highland clearances.
Alex Fergusson: That is a very strong statement and it
is not the first time we have heard it. How do you back up that
Alex Hogg: For example, nine or 10 gamekeepers and stalkers
and their families might live up in a certain glen in the Highlands
with children who attend the local school. If the fox became such
a predator that we could no longer have grouse shoots, the landowner
would probably sell the ground or turn it over to sitka spruce,
the gamekeepers would be paid off and the school would close.
The situation would be on-going, as the committee can well imagine.
Alex Fergusson: I should declare an interest as an ex-farmerone
who is, according to some press reports, becoming fat, along with
the convener. [Laughter.]
I would like to direct a question at Peter Fraser. From your
curriculum vitae, I see that for some years you have been involved
in hill shepherding. As an ex-hill sheep farmer, that interests
me. Last week we were told in evidence from the SSPCA that foxes
take only lambs that are weak or already dead. Having worked as
a shepherd, do you agree with that? How can one tell that a lamb
that has been lost has been taken by a fox?
Peter Fraser: Usually the victims of fox killing are twins.
When a shepherd goes into the field the morning after an attack,
he can tell that something has happened because the ewes are uneasy
or nervous. When he mothers up all the twins, he will see a ewe
with one lamb, being very protective of it and keeping it close
to her side. That ewe has lost a lamb.
There is no doubt that a fox will take a sick or dead lamb. However,
he will also take a healthy lamb. He will do it as quickly and
as efficiently as a hound will kill a fox.
Rhoda Grant: Earlier you mentioned badgers. Would you
normally block up badger sets before going out to look for foxes?
Alex Hogg: We have nothing to do with badger sets. We
are concerned solely with finding vixens at their dens.
Rhoda Grant: Would you at any time block up holes or dens?
Alex Hogg: As I mentioned earlier, we would block up a
hole only if we were at the dens and the vixen was not there with
her cubs. If we had to go home to fetch a rifle or more people
to wait for the vixen to return, we would put a jacket or a game
bag in the mouth of the hole to prevent her from going in and
taking her cubs away.
Archie Dykes: It is usually quite easy to tell whether
a den is being used by a badger or by a
fox. Apart from the legal issue, we would not want a terrier
to go near a badger, as they are seriously bad news. They can
do a lot a damage to terriers.
Rhoda Grant: However, you would not block up a badger
hole to stop a terrier going down.
Archie Dykes: Badgers use their holes all year round and
sleep in them. Foxes do not usually sleep in their holes, except
at cubbing time. We get to know where the badger sets are and
in spring we avoid them. A badger is usually at home every night,
but a fox is not.
Mr Munro: Thank you for coming to give us your evidence.
How do you see the activities of the fox over the past couple
of decades? Twenty or 30 years ago there was a proliferation of
rabbits in the countryside. Then we had myxomatosis, which almost
wiped out the rabbit stock. As a result, foxes have begun to forage
and maraud in a different area. Increasingly, they have come on
to the domestic scene. In many areas, the number of foxes is getting
out of control. Do you think that those developments are the result
of a shortage in the environment of the food to which they were
Peter Fraser: After the gin trap was banned, the fox population
started to rise slowly. About 30 years ago, many of the lowland
estates, particularly in our areaDeeside and Donsidewere
broken up, and the tenant farmers were given the chance to buy
them. The estates might previously have employed one or two keepers,
but they were paid off. There was no fox or vermin control at
all. That contributed to another rise in the number of foxes.
Over the past 10 years, the Forestry Commission has been toning
down its vermin control policy. That is why we have more and more
foxesit is never ending.
Mr Munro: Many groups have told us that controlling fox
numbers is a sport rather than a legitimate occupation. As gamekeepers
you lie out on a ridge or by a den, early in the morning, waiting
for the vixen to come inperhaps she does not come that day
or even the next. I am sure that you do not consider that a sport.
Alex Hogg: We do not.
Fergus Ewing: The SSPCA has suggested that there should
be a close season. If there were a close seasonignoring
for a moment that the SSPCA has not yet specified when it would
begin and endhow would your activities as gamekeepers be
Archie Dykes: On average, a bird must sit on her eggs
for 24 days to hatch them. During that time she risks foxes, crows,
stoats and weasels; she lives in danger the whole time she is
incubating the eggs. Even when the eggs are hatched it takes up
to two weeks for the wee
chicks to learn to fly and so escape danger. I have sat on a
hill and watched a vixen clean up a load of young lapwing chicks,
picking them up one by one and filling her mouth with them. That
is a scene of devastation. A close season at that time of year
might mean that some bird populations of the uplands would become
Fergus Ewing: I gather from your submission that foxes
prey on a wide variety of ground-nesting birds. You have 90 years'
experience of gamekeeping between the three of you. Do you know
whether RSPB Scotland uses any method to control foxes?
Archie Dykes: About three years ago, RSPB Scotland stopped
controlling the fox populations as some kind of experiment. Fox
control was reintroduced this year because of the decline in capercaillie
and black cock. RSPB Scotland does not use snares or terriers,
but it carries out some lamping.
Most people think that birds nest in trees, but at least 70 per
cent of Scottish birds nest on or near the ground. Many different
birds are vulnerable to fox predation. The ITE used to carry out
grouse research on ground next to us until the land was sold.
There were around seven golden plover nests every year. Within
five years of the ground being sold and the keeper being made
redundant, there were no golden plovers left. If fox control were
not carried out at nesting time, the effect on many birdsnot
just game birdswould be very serious.
The Convener: Thank you, gentlemen.
Our next witness is Dr Colin Shedden, director of the British
Association for Shooting and Conservation Scotland; he is accompanied
by Alastair MacGugan, who is the conservation training officer
for BASC Scotland. Thank you for coming along, gentlemen. Do you
have a brief opening statement that you would like to make?
Colin Shedden (British Association for Shooting and Conservation):
Yes, and I assure you that it is brief. Mike Watson has stated
on several occasions that it is not the intention of this bill
to affect shooting. As recently as 14 November, he stated to this
"Let us be clear that there is nothing in the bill that
would affect shooting".[Official Report, Rural Affairs
Committee, 14 November 2000; c1355.]
I hope that the points that we make in our written submission
show clearly that a great deal in the bill would affect shootingnot
only for gamekeepers, but for the 100,000 Scots who enjoy shooting
and the large number of owners of working gun dogs and terriers.
The Convener: Who would like to begin the questioning?
Dr Murray: Mike Watson has said that he would be prepared
to lodge an amendment to exclude rough shooting from the bill.
Would that be sufficient to address your concerns?
Colin Shedden: The proposals for an amendment that I have
seen have addressed some of our concerns, but they have by no
means addressed them all. Although they have removed some of our
members' serious concerns about rough shooting, there are still
provisions that directly affect shooting and concern us enormously.
The bill includes a legal requirementas I read itto
shoot flushed mammals as soon as possible. A number of mammals,
such as deer, currently enjoy close seasons but the requirement
would be that a flushed mammal must be shot. A lot of work would
remain to be done even if the proposed amendment were lodged.
There are other points, which some may regard as fine tuning,
which the shooting community is concerned should be addressed
before the bill can be made acceptable to it.
Dr Murray: Do you think that the shooting community's
concerns about the bill could be addressed by an amendment? Would
it be possible to amend the bill so that all your concerns were
Colin Shedden: Nothing is impossible, but the scale of
the amendment that would be required should be borne in mind.
One of the fundamental principles of the bill is to make shooting
with one dog good and shooting with two dogs bad. That is a massive
component of the bill, the removal of which would weaken the structure
of the bill as it is drafted. Would that weakened structure then
be capable of supporting further amendments? I do not know. Rebuilding
the bill after such a massive weakening of its skeleton would
The Convener: Would the provisions on the use of dogs
to flush mammals that are to be shot have an effect on shooting
activities in Scotland generally?
Colin Shedden: Yes. Whether one dog is being used or more
than one are being used, the bill makes it an offence to use dogs
to hunt for wild mammals. It should be borne in mind that 62 per
cent of those who shoot in Scotland have at least one working
gun dog. In the majority of shooting situations for our members
and others, there will inevitably be mammals present on the ground.
The bill makes it clear that the intentional hunting of those
mammals would be a criminal offence. I am concerned that someone
who has three hunting dogs that take off after a mammal for a
short period of time would not be able to prove his
innocence in a courthe was hunting with hunting dogsand
that it could be established that he has used those dogs for the
flushing of hares, rabbits, foxes and other mammals.
The Convener: No matter how good a marksman someone is,
they are fallible. When a mammal is shot and injured, under current
circumstances it may be normal for that mammal to be pursued,
retrieved and possibly killed by a dog.
Colin Shedden: Yes.
The Convener: Does that add to or take away from the cruelty
of the situation?
Colin Shedden: All the codes of practice that we produce
for a wide range of shooting exercises require those who are taking
part to have with them a dog for such contingencies. There is
only a low incidence of wounding in a lot of situations. Some
research that has been undertaken on rifle shooting has found
that, in deer stalking, the level of wounding is as low as 2 per
cent. We have heard other reports, and other reports have been
received by this committee, of higher levels of wounding.
The use of high-powered rifles in lamping could result in some
wounding. We would argue that that may happen in around 2 per
cent of cases, but no categorical research has been done. However,
wounding can happen and we would like to be able to use dogs to
follow up wounded animals.
Fergus Ewing: If Mr Watson's bill becomes law, it will
not be permitted to use dogs underground. Virtually all today's
witnesses have said that they could not continue their activities
without being able to use dogs underground. Lamping has been proposed
as an alternative method of pest control. It would involve the
use of high-powered rifles. Do you know how many licences exist
in Scotland for the use of such firearms? Has the number of people
with such licences reduced? Those are the people who would be
able to carry out lamping.
Colin Shedden: The only people who would be able to use
a rifle for lamping would be those with a firearm certificate
and the landowner's permission. Off the top of my head, the 1999
figures are that about 32,400 people in Scotland have that certificate.
Five or 10 years ago, perhaps five or 10 per cent more firearm
certificates were issued. There has been a progressive decline
in the number of firearm certificates, so fewer people are able
to undertake that form of fox control.
Fergus Ewing: Of those 30,000 or so, how many would be
interested in carrying out lamping?
Colin Shedden: Some people will have their firearm certificates
for target shooting, but the majority will have them for rabbit
shooting with a
0.22 rimfire rifle, which is small calibre and not suitable for
foxes. The rest will have their licence for fox control and deer
Surveys that we and the Scottish Gamekeepers Association have
carried out, and work that has been undertaken by the Macaulay
Land Use Research Institute, have shown that shootingoften
with a spotlightis the most common means of fox control
in Scotland. The figure that is quoted is that between 44 and
70 per cent of foxes that are killed are shot. Snaring is the
second most common means and, interestingly, the use of terriers
underground comes out third. However, the use of terriers is the
only means of fox control that is seasonal; one would therefore
not expect it to be as common as the others. From our work, we
know that 62 per cent of our gamekeeper members in Scotland have
terriers and will use them when necessary for fox controlfor
instance, in areas where the terrain is unsuitable for the use
of a rifle and spotlight.
Fergus Ewing: The MLURI report suggested a possible loss
of the equivalent of 114 full-time jobs; in your written evidence,
you suggest the loss of the equivalent of 228 full-time jobs.
Why are you right and MLURI wrong?
Colin Shedden: I would probably argue that we are both
right to a certain extent. MLURI worked out a methodology for
predicting the percentage of job losses within the working gamekeeping
community. Our work, based on our membership figures, indicates
a total employment of 1,300 gamekeepers and deerstalkers in Scotland.
I am sure that the Scottish Gamekeepers Association's membership
figures will bear out the fact that more than 1,000 gamekeepers
are currently employed. The MLURI report came up with a total
employment figure of 534that is off the top of my headand
our figures were about double that. Applying its logic of interpretation
to our more accurate figures would indicate a higher loss of gamekeeper
employment than MLURI predicted.
The Convener: I do not think that there are any further
questions, but I would like to raise one other point. No, I am
wrong, there is a further question, but Alex Fergusson will have
to wave a bit quicker. I will finish what I was saying and come
back to him.
You have spoken about the number of firearm certificates held
in Scotland and the fact that the number is falling. For an entirely
unrelated reason, there is pressurecertainly political pressure
if not governmental pressurefor a reduction in the number
of firearms that are legally held. It is being suggested to us
that foxes ought to be shot rather than dealt with in any other
way. Is that compatible with the political pressure for a reduction
in the number of firearms in the country?
Colin Shedden: Primary firearms legislation is reserved
to Westminster, and the clear political will is to reduce the
number of firearms or shotguns in private ownership. That will
have an impact on the ability of people living or working in the
countryside to manage a wide range of pest species, of which the
fox is one. We have consistently argued that, although shooting
is undoubtedly the most commonly used means of fox control in
Scotland, and probably one of the most successful, it is but one
of four tried and tested methods that are legally available. The
removal of any one of those four components could have a serious
effect on necessary countryside management.
Alex Fergusson: Please forgive me if you dealt with this
point while I was out of the room, but at the fourth bullet point
on the A4 sheet that you submitted, you say that you
"are opposed to . . . the total restriction on the use of
That implies that you are not opposed to some restrictions in
the use of terriers underground. The committee is struggling with
this issue. As Elaine Murray said, there are different types of
terrier and different reasons for putting them underground at
different times of year. It is a muddling concept. Could you expand
on the statement in your submission?
Colin Shedden: That is very difficult actuallyI
had not noticed that I had chosen those particular words. It was
very observant of you to pick them out. I will bring in Alastair
MacGugan to explain why we are opposed to a total restriction.
The Convener: Did he write it then? [Laughter.]
Alastair MacGugan (British Association for Shooting
and Conservation): All day we have heard that lamping is the
method that we should use so that we do not have to use terriers.
We have also heard that the SSPCA says that we should have a close
season. It is no mistake of nature that foxes decide to have their
cubs when the greatest food resources are around. If you are lamping,
the only way you can ensure you get the cubs is by using terriers.
Having all the types of pest and predator control available is
important. Timing is also important. A document that has gone
to the Scottish Executive on the capercaillie has, as a top management
priority to be implemented, the control of foxes and crows in
the period between March and August. You could not do that if
you were limited to lamping or snaring, because you need the terriers
to get down to take the cubs.
Rhoda Grant: I repeat a question that Elaine Murray asked
earlier: which is less cruelsending a terrier after cubs
or leaving cubs to starve underground if you get the vixen?
Alastair MacGugan: I have spent many a night trying to
ensure that my terriers could get at cubs, and I know that that
is preferable to leaving the cubs to starve. I have come to terms
with the fact that we need to have some form of control over foxes.
I must carry out that control in the least cruel way. In my mind,
during the denning season, which is the important period for fox
control, it is less cruel to put a terrier below ground than to
take the vixen away and leave the cubs to starve to death over
a week or two.
Richard Lochhead: I notice that in a policy statement
a few days ago, the SSPCA said that
"The prospect of cubs starving to death below ground was
unacceptable in welfare terms"
and that in such circumstances it would allow the use of terriers
below ground. Given the evidence of a previous witness that only
10 per cent of foxes that were killed were killed by hounds, if
the bill were changed to allow the use of terriers, could you
live with that?
Colin Shedden: We oppose the bill in detail, which is
what we have discussed this afternoon. We also oppose the bill
in principle, because it places a restriction on the use of dogs
in the countryside and on the number of dogs that can be used.
Although, as a shooting organisation, we give full support to
other legal countryside activities, we would be very concerned
that, if such a bill were introduced, it could be amended later
to impose further restrictions on the use of dogs in the countryside.
Similar things have happened on previous occasionsfor example,
the Firearms Act 1968 has been amended to introduce further restrictions.
The shooting community would examine seriously a bill that was
said to affect only one or two activities, anticipating that in
subsequent years there would be further restrictions on the use
of terriers or other species of dog.
The Convener: If there are no further comments, I thank
the witnesses for giving evidence.
We were going to have a cup of tea at this point in the meeting,
but we are now behind schedule as a result of the detailed questioning.
Is it the view of the committee that we should plough on?
Members indicated agreement.
The Convener: We will take our final groups of witnesses
together. I am told that it will take a couple of minutes to bring
the witnesses in, but I do not want any members sneaking off now
that we have agreed to continue.
The Convener: The witnesses are Mr David Coulthread, the
head of public affairs of the League Against Cruel Sports, who
is accompanied by Bill Swann, whom we have met before. We will
also take evidence from James Morris, the chief executive of the
Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, who
is accompanied by Libby Anderson, the society's parliamentary
officer, and Mike Flynn, its chief inspector.
How do you react to the views that have been expressed today
on what constitutes necessary activity?
David Coulthread (League Against Cruel Sports): When the
League Against Cruel Sports was formed, there was very little
information about the ecology of animals that were hunted, and
in particular of foxes. It is telling that we now have a mountain
of evidence, including the Burns inquiry, which served a tremendous
purpose by bringing together the pool of knowledge. It is quite
clear from that inquiry that hunting plays a very minor part in
the overall control of the fox population that is exercised in
Scotland and elsewhere. The post mortem evidence shows that all
the animals that had been supplied by fox hunts had endured unnecessary
suffering before their deaths. It is not surprising that the inquiry
concluded that the welfare of those animals was significantly
compromised. In our view, hunting is a minor part of population
control, which causes unnecessary cruelty. Under any definition,
it is cruelty.
James Morris (Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty
to Animals): I heard nothing today that I would not have expected
to hear. That is because you were questioning people who are deeply
committed to what they do. We have heard their arguments and discussed
the matter with them. We work with gamekeepers and everyone else
who works with animals in Scotland. I heard nothing unexpected.
My only concern is that there is an all-pervading tendency to
do things in the way in which they are done because that is the
way in which they were done.
I was worried by one of the final comments of the previous witness
that he was concerned about the bill because it would or could
lead to further restrictions on the freedom of people to operate
dogs in the countryside. That is one approach. Another is to regard
that as a fear of progress. Society moves on and we have continually
to re-examine how and why we do things.
The Convener: I understand that Bill Swann wishes to react
to a particular point.
Bill Swann (League Against Cruel Sports): Elaine Murray
quoted from an e-mail that I sent to her. In that e-mail I made
it clear that its purpose was to say that orphan fox cubs represent
a no-win situation from an animal welfare science perspective.
My e-mail made it clear that leaving orphan cubs to starve to
death causes suffering. However, I also said that if cubs are
a little older and are aware and are able to defend themselves,
they will put up a spirited fight against a terrier. That, too,
causes suffering. I do not believe that animal welfare science
can say which is the worst scenario, as both cause suffering that
is unacceptable. That is why I supported the SSPCA's call for
a close season.
I said that it was a matter for individual conscience to determine
what was the kindest death in those circumstances. Very tiny fox
cubs will starve to death so quickly through dehydration that
some people might think that that was kinder. I do not know what
is the kinder action where there are older fox cubs, which are
much more mobile. I made the point that that is a moral and ethical
decision, which welfare science cannot really help. I sent that
e-mail to clarify whether there was a scientific balance. I want
to make it clear that I do not advocate leaving cubs to starve
to death. This is a no-win situation, in which one cannot find
Cathy Peattie: We have heard much evidence in the past
couple of weeks. How do you react to claims that the ban would
cause a new Highland clearance, would be devastating for rural
communities and would be bad for the land and for animal welfare?
We have heard such worrying statements.
David Coulthread: We heard many similar claims south of
the border. When those claims were investigated, they were well
and truly nailed. In the evidence that was supplied by studies
such as the MLURI report, we heard claimsif they were to
be believedthat thousands of dogs would be lost. We now
know that the number would be in the low hundreds, or even less.
I think that a static view of the rural economy is taken which
does not reflect the way in which it works. Sean Rickard, a former
senior economic adviser to the National Farmers Union, has supplied
evidence about that. A point that he made, which was reinforced
by Dr Neil Ward of the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, was
that the agricultural economy, like all other economies, changes
and moves with the times. Saying that a job lost is lost for ever
does not reflect reality. The Scottish economy is advancing in
exactly the same way as the economy elsewhere.
Fergus Ewing: On a point of order, convener. Will we have
some evidence about the position that prevails in Scotland rather
than reliance on such reports as that which was just mentioned?
Will the witness be directed to answer the question that was asked?
The Convener: I take my lead from David Steel, who says
that he controls the questions, but cannot control the answers.
Have you finished, Cathy?
Cathy Peattie: No. This might be a fairly obvious question.
Do we need to kill foxes?
David Coulthread: Some say yes, some say no. Considerable
evidence shows that when fox culling stops, the number of foxes
may decrease. I will restrict my answer to Scotland. A study was
conducted on the large Eriboll estate, where all fox control was
stopped for a couple of years. On the estate, the number of sheep
rose, and the number of foxes declined slightly. There are several
explanations for that.
The main conclusion that I reached, having read that study, was
that foxes needed to breed less when they were not being culled.
Either the breeding population was smaller, or fewer foxes were
produced. Therefore, there is Scottish evidence that fox populations
need not be controlled, in some cases. However, you can conclude
that, whether or not they need to be controlled, people will probably
continue to control them. The argument concerns the most effective
and most humane methods. Our argument is that hunting with dogs
is one of the cruellest methods.
Cathy Peattie: What is the best method?
David Coulthread: We recommend shooting with a high-velocity
rifle. Like the Burns inquiry, we prefer lamping.
The Convener: Mr Morris, do you have any comments?
James Morris: You will not be surprised to hear that I
do. The SSPCA recognises fully the fragility of the Scottish rural
economy in some areas. It is not even right to talk about the
Scottish economy as a whole, because the Borders, the central
belt, the Highlands and the islands must be treated separately.
All have different economies. I worry whether a job lost, in some
areas, could really be replaced. However, that is a matter for
bodies other than welfare organisations such as mine. MLURI was
asked to conduct a study for the Scottish Executive and duly completed
it. That evidence must be taken into account. It is not the place
of a welfarist to provide such evidence.
Cathy Peattie asked whether it is necessary to control foxes.
The rural situation is varied. In some areas, it may be unnecessarysome
islands have no foxes, so it would be totally unnecessarybut
in others, predation may be much greater. Each part of the country
must be taken individually when considering the need for fox control.
Mr Rumbles: Evidence this afternoon has largely focused
away from sporting activity and on pest control. I noticed that
David Coulthread from the League Against Cruel Sports began by
talking about fox hunts and hunting. I was rather surprised at
his dismissive attitude to people working in the rural economy.
I am thinking in particular of people in the Highlands such as
Peter Fraser, who gave evidence this afternoon about his gamekeeping
activities on the hills above Braemar, where many committee members
have visited him. I would like to know from the witnesses, and
particularly from David Coulthread, what experience they have.
You made somewhat dismissive comments about jobs in the most fragile
rural areas of Scotland.
David Coulthread: As you know, Mr Rumbles, my base is
in England, so I will pass you on to Bill Swann, whose base is
Mr Rumbles: But I want to know from you whether you regret
the comments that you just made.
David Coulthread: I stand by my comments, because I was
endorsing a report by Sean Rickard, who has considerable expertise
in the matter.
Mr Rumbles: In that case, I will focus on my main questions.
I understand where you are coming from. You are from the League
Against Cruel Sports. However, do you recognise a difference between
the culling, if you want to use that word, or the dispatch of
foxes for sport and the dispatch of foxes by members of the Scottish
Gamekeepers Association as part of their job? Members of that
association gave evidence today. They said that they do not do
that for fun; it is part and parcel of their work. Do you differentiate
between those two roles? Do you realise that the bill, as presented
to the committee, will hit not only sporting activity, but jobs
that focus on pest control, which would affect the rural environment?
David Coulthread: I am grateful for the chance to clarify
our position. It is important to state from the outset that we
are primarily an animal welfare organisation.
It has concerned us over the years, and has been shown by the
evidence that we have produced, that the control, if you want
to call it that, of foxes and most other animals that are dispatched
by hounds compromises their welfare seriously.
First and foremost, our concern is for animal
welfare. If hunting were a sport that did not involve cruelty,
we would not be concerned. We oppose fox hunting because it compromises
the welfare of the animals. For that reason, we also oppose most
of the conventional methods of culling animals with hounds, simply
because it is difficult to control dogs that are hunting as a
pack or terriers when they are in holes. We have heard claims
that no damage is inflicted on the fox. We dispute that. Enough
post mortems and videos have been produced to provide evidence
that when a terrier is underground in a hole with a fox, underground
dog fights ensue. It is pertinent to the committee's inquiries
to point out that the only legal form of dog fighting takes place
underground when terriers are in the same hole as a fox.
Mr Rumbles: I will pursue my point. Many members who visited
the Scottish gamekeepers in Braemar were impressed that, when
we were openly shown the terriers, there was not a mark on them,
or on the retired terriers. This afternoon, we heard evidence
that it is not in the gamekeepers' interests to fight terriers
and foxes. The dogs are valuable, loved animals. Do you accept
that when the Scottish gamekeepers flush foxes from underground
for predator control, the terriers simply instinctively locate
the fox, which departs to be shot?
I have another more important question, on cruelty. You obviously
understand the Scottish Executive's definition of cruelty, which
the Deputy Minister for Rural Development gave us this afternoon.
She said that cruelty was the causing of unnecessary pain or distress.
The gamekeepers told us that, in their opinion, they do not cause
unnecessary pain or distress. I would like you to make a value
judgment on whether the activities that the Scottish Gamekeepers
Association described to us this afternoon cause unnecessary pain
David Coulthread: I will ask Bill Swann to answer that.
Bill Swann: I would like to answer the question as I have
first-hand experience of terrier work on both sides of the border.
As I stated in the evidence that I gave on behalf of the Scottish
Campaign Against Hunting with Dogs, which includes the League
Against Cruel Sports, we do not believe that gamekeepers set out
wilfully to be cruel. I hope that that was entirely clear in what
I said at that time.
Mr Rumbles: Do you think that they are cruel?
Bill Swann: I do not think that they intend to be cruel,
but I think that what they do includes cruelty. I hope that that
Mr Rumbles: It is not clear. Are you saying that what
they do is cruel or not?
Bill Swann: The activities that are involved in terrier
work contain intrinsic cruelty. However, gamekeepers are not cruel
people. That disparity has arisen because, as Mr Morris said,
time and scientific knowledge have moved on and our appreciation
of an animal's capacity to suffer has changed. Everything that
we have heard from the gamekeepers today has emphasised the intelligence
of the fox. Because we have a greater awareness of the animal's
sentience, we have a better understanding of its capacity to suffer.
Terrier work is a specific practice that was formulated at a
time when the fox's degree of sentience was not fully appreciated.
In the light of current scientific and behavioural knowledge,
I contend that terrier work involves unacceptable cruelty. However,
I do not think that a gamekeeper who is involved in that traditional
activity intends to cause cruelty to animals. Gamekeepers want
to kill foxes and, because they have been brought up with the
practice and trained in it, they do not believe that it is cruel.
We should re-evaluate that assumption in the light of the knowledge
that we have today, not the knowledge that we had 20, 50 or 60
years ago. I do not think that I can be clearer than that.
Mr Rumbles: Nevertheless, I would like some clarification.
Correct me if I am wrong, but I understand that you are saying
that the gamekeepers do not think that they are doing anything
cruel. That is not what I asked about. I asked you whether you
think that the gamekeepers are engaged in a cruel practice. Yes
Bill Swann: Yes.
Mr Rumbles: Thank you.
Bill Swann: I think that Mr Rumbles asked a second question
that I have forgotten in the course of that exchange. I ask him
to repeat it.
Mr Rumbles: I am resting at the moment. I believe that
that answer was effective.
The Convener: Mr Morris, would you like to comment?
James Morris: I dare not.
David Coulthread: I am not surprised.
James Morris: A certain hostility is developing that I
do not think is necessary.
The Convener: Before you answer, I should say that we
are aware that the organisations that we have before us have slightly
differing positions. For that reason, I am happy to allow vociferous
exchanges to take place and to allow the witnesses to comment
on them from a relatively peaceful position.
Mr Rumbles: I would like to ask a follow-up
The Convener: Will it be short, Mike?
Mr Rumbles: In Mr Morris's evidence the last time
Richard Lochhead: On a point of order. I would like to
point out that there are other members of the committee.
Mr Rumbles: Excuse me, but I think that Richard Lochhead
has asked more questions than I have this afternoon. We shall
check the Official Report.
Richard Lochhead: Mike Rumbles has not been here for most
of the afternoon.
The Convener: Gentlemen,
please. Carry on, Mr Rumbles.
Mr Rumbles: The last time
that Mr Morris appeared before the committee, he said that he
did not wish to ban the use of terriers for going underground
to dispatch young foxes, but that the bill would do so. I am confused.
Is Mr Morris saying that there is no alternative?
James Morris: Our basic position is that we would prefer
it if no terriers were sent underground. During my previous evidence,
I conceded that sending terriers underground to dispatch cubs
might be a sensible use of terriers. We would not promote that,
but I am prepared to accept that, to prevent cruelty to the cubs,
it might be necessary in certain situations.
Richard Lochhead: I would
like to take some evidence so that I can better understand the
We have heard from the gamekeepers that they find the use of
terriers for underground work essentiala position that the
SSPCA has accepted in relation to some situationsand that
they can see no alternative to the use of hounds in woodland areas.
Can James Morris say whether there is an alternative to the use
of hounds in woodland areas? Is the alternative cruel?
James Morris: The use of
hounds to flush foxes from woodlandflushing above ground
to gunsis not an offence and the bill would not make it
An alternative to such use of dogs would be to have a close season
following the intensive culling of animals in the breeding season,
prior to the birth of cubs. If attention were focused at that
time, the fox population would be reduced because breeding would
be stopped. Foxes do not mate again later and would not cause
a problem when lambs were born or when birds nested. However,
we have no proof that that would work and studies
would have to be done. However, agencies that answer to the Scottish
Executive are able to do that.
Richard Lochhead: You consent to sending terriers underground
even although, on occasion, the dog might encounter a vixen. Do
you accept that, if hounds are used in woodland areas, a hound
might occasionally kill a fox?
James Morris: Yes. If a dog that is chasing a fox catches
the fox, the dog will kill it. However, lurchers can kill a fox
quickly because of the difference in weight, but terriers and
foxes are of similar weights and our difficulty is with a situation
in which they might fight underground.
The gamekeepers from whom you have heard today are not the type
of people who block up fox holes in order to ensure that there
is a fight underground. However, we come across such activity
and we are aware that it goes on. We attempt to prosecute people
who are involved in such activity, which must be stopped.
Alex Fergusson: A fortnight ago, Mr Morris and I had a
brief conversation after evidence taking had finished, and we
talked about blocking up holes. I pointed out that I understood
that that practice was already illegal. Mr Morris and his officials
put it to me that cases had been brought to court under the existing
legislation, but that loopholes had been found and the prosecutions
were unsuccessful. In previous evidence today, we heard that the
Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals had conducted
several successful prosecutions. What is the difference between
England and Scotland that prevents successful prosecutions in
James Morris: I will hand over to Mike Flynn, who tracks
such cases closely.
Mike Flynn (Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty
to Animals): I spoke to Barry Wade from the National Working
Terrier Federation. His comments were based on a case in Fife
in which an individual put a fox down a man-made pipe, put two
terriers in behind it and closed the pipe. The charge was fox
baiting. He also was charged with cruelty to the terriers, because
both terriers were injured. He was found not guilty of fox baiting
because there was no evidence that the fox could not have escaped.
In the view of the court, the fox was not captive, although in
our view it was. However, the man was found guilty of cruelty
to the terriers.
In the English case, as it has been explained to me, the court's
view was that, because the person who put the fox and the terrier
together did not have permission to be on the land, it was not
necessary act and was, therefore, unnecessary. The prosecution
was successful in England because of a play on words. If the person
in the English case had been authorised to be on the land by the
landowner he would not have been prosecuted.
There was a similar incident four years ago in Bathgate. A fox
was caught by four individuals, placed on open land and four terriers
were set upon it for more than 20 minutes, during which time the
individuals also kicked the fox. All four were arrested because
the incident was caught by a security camera. There were four
convictionsthree of the men got community service and one
was jailedbut they were not charged with cruelty, because
the Crown said that the fox was not captive because it was in
the open. Instead, the men were charged with breach of the peace
because they had alarmed the security men who had watched the
I must emphasise Mr Morris's point. I feel sorry for the gamekeepers
who we have just seen. I am horrified to hear of people covering
40,000 acresit is not possible to do that. If there was
sufficient manpower on the ground, the problem could be dealt
with. I met two gamekeepers at the Kincardineshire foxhounds in
Mr Rumbles's constituency. One of them told me that five years
ago, five people were employed to do his job and that he cannot
cover his land alone. If there were more people, lamping could
be done to a greater extent.
To answer Mr Fergusson's question, the English cases were successful
only because the offenders were not authorised to be on the land.
Alex Fergusson: May I continue?
The Convener: A long time ago I promised Elaine Murray
that she could get in.
Dr Murray: The SSPCA submission states:
"The Society agrees with the recommendation by SCAHD that
culling is best practised in autumn, when the pre-breeding population
is lower and there are no dependent cubs."
However, we have heard evidence today that foxes are most problematic
in spring. I know that some of the witnesses do not agree that
foxes take lambs, but we heard evidence that foxes are a problem
for the conservation of certain ground-nesting birds. Do you accept
that there is a fox problem for wildlife, rather than farmed animals,
in the spring? If so, can a case be made for the control of foxesor
what might be considered rogue foxesin the spring?
James Morris: I appreciate fully the difficulties of protecting
game birdsthat is a fact with which no one can argue. We
took advice from Bill Swann, who is an expert in the field, on
time to control the fox populationwe do not claim to be
experts. As I said, science moves on and there is evidence that
the breeding season might be the time to do the majority of culling.
As was mentioned in previous evidence, RSPB Scotland apparently
does not need to use the same controls that others use, yet it
is protecting birds. I have not seen the details, but if one organisation
that has a great deal of land can protect its birds without using
certain traditional practices, re-examination is required.
Bill Swann: I am flattered by James Morris's faith in
my expertise. I will pass the buck even further down the line
and say that my expertise comes primarily from sitting through
all the sessions of the Burns inquiry, reading all the evidence
and taking part in all the specialist seminars. I feel reasonably
confident about commenting on the conclusions of the scientific
evidence that was passed to that committee.
Much evidence was produced by distilling submissions from gamekeepers,
landowner organisations and others in Scotland, England and Wales
becausealthough the Burns inquiry was an inquiry for England
and Walesit took evidence from a broad church. It also concentrated
on the work of two scientistsDr David MacDonald, who was
quoted earlier this afternoon, and Professor Stephen Harriswho
are pre-eminent in the field. Their joint conclusion, which was
incorporated into the Burns inquiry, was that shooting late in
the year has the greatest capacity to reduce the fox population.
That was determined partly by population modelling, in which all
the data are put into a computer that examines various scenarios
to determine how the fox population can be changed most effectively.
The conclusion was that shooting intensively at the end of the
year cuts into the following year's breeding population.
In the summer one can, within reason, kill as many foxes as one
wants, but that merely cuts into the number of foxes that will
die anyway, either as a result of road accidents, disease or starvation.
Thousands of foxes might be killed, but only those that would
be killed as a result of those other means. By cutting into the
breeding population, we can try to reduce the number of foxes
that are available to occupy earths and breed at the start of
the fox-breeding season.
The word "autumn" is perhaps ambiguous. We should say,
as Mr Morris made plain a few seconds ago, that culling should
be done just before fox cubs are born. If the intention is population
control, that is when it should be done.
We need to separate population controltrying to reduce
the number of foxes that breed in a yearfrom response to
damage. I realise that I have been waffling for quite some time
time is pressing, but dealing with damage is a totally different
matter. If one suffers from damage year in and year out and there
is a need to control the fox population, Lord Burns effectively
said that one should go out and kill as many foxes by lamping
as one reasonably canhe did say by rifle shootingin
the late part of the year to try to reduce the pre-breeding population
so that fewer cubs are born.
We accept that, as the gamekeepers have said, there is a problem
in spring when there is a high demand on food resources because
of pregnant and nursing vixens. We believeand I think that
this was in our International Fund for Animal Welfare submissionthat
this is a unique problem that is associated primarily with grouse
There is an alternative to trying to control pre-breeding foxes,
which is shooting foxes at earth. As an alternative to terrier
work, Professor Harris proposed that an effective way to kill
foxes would be to control shooting activities until the time that
foxes start to emerge from earths. That is widely practisedit
is nothing new. We heard from gamekeepers that they already spend
two or three days at earths looking for foxes. If the timing was
shifted slightly, the same effort could be expended, but the emerging
cubs could be shot as well as the vixen.
We are looking for more humane strategies that are based on strategic
timing, rather than the belt-and-braces approach of using terrierswe
cannot edit the cruelty out of terrier work. If every fox was
flushed and bolted from its hole, we would not have a problem,
but too high a percentage get trapped and have confrontations.
We are trying to find more humane alternatives, and we believe
that they are viable.
Dr Murray: Do you accept that there are incidents that
could result in cubs being orphaned underground? Your e-mail states
that you are
"totally opposed to the use of terriers in this way for
Would you find it unacceptable to use terriers, even in the case
of orphaned cubs?
Bill Swann: I would where I believed there were alternatives
that could avoid that situation. This is essentially an issue
of conscience and I expect fully that people will have different
views on it at different times. There are times when fox cubs
are orphanedthat can happen through road accidents. I have
been in the unfortunate situation of running a fox over. I must
say with all honesty that I did not stop to see whether it was
a pregnant vixen; that did not occur to me. I checked it over
to see whether it was dead and carried out the act of humanity
to ensure that it was dead. It did not occur to me at the time
to worry whether it had cubs.
I am sure that many farmers shoot foxes when responding to incidental
damage at lambing time. They will go out and shoot a fox and it
will never occur to them that the fox might have cubs elsewhere.
That does not make them cruel people; it is merely an oversight.
When the gamekeepers gave evidence, they made it clear why there
is such an incidence of orphaned cubsthat is something that
I have never been fully able to understand. They made it clear
that they put terriers into holes to bolt the vixens, but the
cubs remain in the holes. They said that, on almost every occasion,
the vixen will be shot first. She will defend her cubs. When terriers
are put in, the vixen will fight to defend her cubsthat
is what I find objectionable. I do not think that vixens should
be put in that position. The vixens bolt and are shot and the
terriers kill the cubs.
We will obviously have to check the Official Report, but
I do not think that there was any ambiguity about whether that
was the situation that the gamekeepers described. They stated
that it is probably a very rare event for cubs just to be left
in an earth and abandoned.
I accept that that sort of situation is a "no-win situation",
as I said in my e-mail. There is no humane way of getting round
it. I object to terrier work, so members know where I am coming
from. Members object to cubs being left in such situations, as
I do, but I cannot find a humane alternative. That is why we must
consider alternatives such as close seasons. That is something
that has been taken out of proportion, as if it is a massively
common event. The gamekeepers were quite clear that it is a rare
Dr Murray: My understanding of what the gamekeepers said
was that they bolted the fox cubs after they bolted the vixen
but, as Bill Swann says, we will have to look at the Official
On another matter, I want to ask the SSPCA about the welfare
of hound packs. James Morris suggested that, if we get rid of
hound packs, it might be possible to identify dogs that are suitable
for rehoming. How many pack hounds would be suitable for domestic
rehoming, given that they are not house-trained and that they
are quite large animals that are used to being in a pack and therefore
quite likely to suffer from separation anxiety?
James Morris: We have said that we would work with any
agency to attempt to rehome animals, rather than having them humanely
destroyed. We recognise the difficulties, but certain packs are
fed in different ways. Nothing appears to be standardised. I have
some difficulty about rehoming animals that have been fed on raw
meat. Their food is totally uncooked; part of a
lamb is thrown to them. That could make for a rather messy transition.
We would work with anyone. The younger dogs that are still in
the training phase might be adaptable, because they are, to a
point, puppy-walked and domesticated before they go to the hunt.
However, older dogs are likely to prove really difficult. We would
work as best we could with everybody to rehome as many dogs as
possible. If I were to give the committee a figure, it would simply
be off the top of my head and would have no validity. The intention
would be to rehome as many dogs as possible.
Mr Rumbles: In his answer to Elaine Murray, Bill Swann
mentioned his personal objection to terrier work underground and
referred to the percentage of underground fights between terriers
and foxes. Can Mr Swann tell us what that percentage is?
Bill Swann: If I had that information, I would impart
it gladly. The honest answer is that I do not know. I accept that,
for reputable gamekeepersand we accept that many gamekeepers
are reputabletheir preferred intention is that the foxes
bolt quickly, like flushing above ground. No animal welfarist
could have any great objection to that. If it is reasonable animal
welfare to disturb a fox from cover above ground, how could disturbing
it quickly underground be any different? There is no difference,
because both are quick. However, that does not happen all the
We object to the fact that one cannot guarantee that there will
be a quick, instantaneous bolt from a hole. I remind members that
such activity takes place during the breeding season and that
a vixen will try to defend her cubs. If she is in the foxhole,
her maternal instinct is to defend. That is why a percentage of
foxesI have answered your question by saying that I do not
know the percentagewill not merely bolt cleanly and nicely,
as we would all wish was the case, because they will stay in the
hole for defence.
That is why we end up with a situation in which there is underground
fighting. The instinct of the vixen to defend her cubs is pitched
against the instinct of the terrier to defend itself. That is
why fighting results. I cannot define the percentage. I have not
been out with every gamekeeper in Scotland, England or wherever
to look at every situation and measure the percentages of foxes
that are flushed against percentages of foxes that remain and
enter into an underground fight. I can speak only from anecdotal
evidence. I have spoken to crofters, gamekeepers and farmers.
They have said honestly that there is a substantial percentage
of incidents that result in an underground encounterthat
is where the cruelty lies. There is no way of stating which way
such an underground encounter will go, but if the vixen has
cubs, there is a great likelihood that she will stay down the
earth to try to defend them.
Mr Rumbles: The Scottish Hill Packs Association witnesses
said that 10 per cent of their foxes were taken by dogs when they
were flushing to a line of guns. You accept that it is not cruel
for 10 per cent of foxes to be dispatched by dogs above ground,
but you cannot tell us what percentage of foxes are dispatched
by dogs underground. Correct me if I am wrong, but you seem to
be saying that, because it happens underground, it is cruelalthough
we do not have statistics for thatbut that above ground,
where we believe the figure to be 10 per cent, it is okay. I do
not understand the logic of that.
Bill Swann: I refer to evidence that I gave at a previous
meeting. We do not approve entirely of the way in which the Scottish
foot packs operate. I referred to a foot pack in Wales, which
Lord Burns had been to see. I had an extensive conversation with
him about the Welsh foot pack's method of operation. I believe
that foot packs can operate above ground with a code of practice
that would make the situation better. I firmly believe that there
is the capacity for improvement and that the figures can be improved.
Let us go back to the terrier situation. Unless a gamekeeper
convinced me that there was some sort of device or method that
he could employ that would stop the possibility of underground
encountersbearing in mind that a vixen will literally fight
to the death to protect her cubs if she canI can, having
taken the emotion out of the situation and considering it rationally,
see no way of shifting the odds. If there was a way, I would gladly
sit down and discuss it.
Mr Hamilton: I have one comment and two questions. My
comment is simply to pick up on the point that Mr Flynn made about
examples of bad practice. I want to flag up the readiness of some
of today's witnesses to be bound by legislation and a national
code. I hope that that point will be taken on board.
I want to ask the League Against Cruel Sports about the number
of foxes that exist. The league's submission does not say that
it opposes the need to kill foxes, and it appears to have no specific
opposition to the numbers of foxes that are being killed. However,
surely Mr Morris's pointthat until alternatives are in place,
we will struggle to see where we can gois central. We have
heard evidence this afternoon about what it would mean were the
bill in its current form to be enacted and we have heard that,
despite your principled and moral objection to the current method
of reducing the fox population, you have no viable alternative.
Do you therefore accept that adoption of your approach would
result in a regrettable explosion in the fox population?
We heard evidence about the practical position when a fox that
is flushed is shot and woundedpeople not being perfectbut
not killed. What is it about that scenario that suggests to you
that it is more humane to allow that fox to escape, rather than
having dogs on hand to finish the job cleanly and efficiently?
David Coulthread: I heard two questionsI assume
that the question on population control was addressed to the League
Against Cruel Sports. Control using dogs is responsible for a
minority of the foxes that are taken out every year. Bill Swann
has already mentioned the population modelling study that is being
produced by Professor Stephen Harris and Dr David MacDonald, the
two leading experts on fox ecology. Their research shows that
the majority of foxes that are being taken out are those that
would probably die anyway. If control with dogs were to stop,
the number of foxes that survived to the end of the year would
increase only marginally.
If we break down the numbers of foxes that are killed, we find
that the vast majority die through natural causes, are killed
on the roads or are shot. The number of foxes that are killed
by dogs or through hunting is perhaps 3 or 4 per cent of the total.
The argument that hunting with dogs is an efficient means of controlling
foxes is therefore flawed. The argument that organisations such
as BASC are putting forward is that hunting with dogs is one of
several methods of fox control. We would argue that it is insignificant
in terms of the numbers of foxes that are killed.
I referred to the Eriboll study, which showed that where population
control techniques were reducedin that case reduced altogetherthe
fox population decreased slightly after 18 months to two years.
Mr Hamilton: The sum of what you are saying, with sound
academic credentials, is that if hunting were to be removed, there
would be no significant change in the fox population. Is that
David Coulthread: We are saying that there would be no
Bill Swann: Duncan Hamilton asked about woundingI
refer him to the BASC evidence, which mentioned a wounding rate
of about 2 per cent. Burns could not come up with an exact figure,
but mooted 1.8 per cent. There are no hard statistics to confirm
those figures, although we all suspect that they are about right.
In shooting, 2 per cent is a low level of wounding.
As a result of my farming background, I have shot foxes. I make
no bones about the fact that, in
some circumstances, foxes can be a nuisance. In those circumstances
we aim to shoot the fox. Before lamping was available, I have
been in the situation where a fox was shot and wounded and we
used a dog to try to track it. I accept that that is a legitimate
activity. However, at the end of the day, finding a fox is almost
impossible. The circumstances in which shooting a fox is necessary
make that very difficult. One might be at the end of a field of
lambing sheep, see a fox and make a judgment that it is in range
and that it is acceptable to shoot at it. There is generally the
chance of a second shot, but after that the fox will be very difficult
to find. Mike Rumbles might be laughing because he thinks that
often there is no chance for a second shot. However, times have
moved on and I was talking about the situation 30 or 40 years
ago. Nowadays, equipment has improvedrifles and telescopic
sights are better.
Mr Hamilton: With the greatest respect, if times have
moved on, why do people continue to make the case for using dogs?
Are you suggesting that they could take a second shot and not
use the dog, but that they choose not to do that?
Bill Swann: When a wounding occurs, a farmer is not necessarily
equipped to do something about it. The farmer might be trying
to look after sheep that are lambing, among which a ewe is mismothering
one of its twin lambs, bad weather is approaching and the farmer
is trying to get everything sorted. The farmer might, incidentally,
have a gun with him and shoot at a fox, not knowing whether he
had wounded the fox or missed it. Under such circumstances, a
farmer could do no more than respond to the immediate requirements
of the daylooking after his sheep. The farmer could not
track the fox for miles. If it can go so far, the fox is probably
not seriously wounded. If it is still in the vicinity, the farmer
will probably have another chance to shoot it.
Mr Hamilton: That was not the scenario that I set up.
We are not talking about a random shot at a fox, but a carefully
controlled attempt to flush out a fox and shoot it. Why do not
you accept that, if the fox is wounded and can be finished off
there and then, that is the most humane way in which to kill it?
Bill Swann: Are you talking about a situation where foxes
have been flushed to a gun pack?
Mr Hamilton: Yes. The fox has been shot and not killed.
Why is it not humane to put the fox out of its suffering there
Bill Swann: If the fox were severely wounded it would
simply be shot again. The way in which a gun pack is set up
Mr Hamilton: Sorry, but what if that was not possible?
You must accept that there are some situations in which shooting
the fox again would
not be possibleyou have just admitted that.
Bill Swann: I support fully the use of dogs to track a
wounded animal. For example, one would use a dog to track a wounded
deer. If the dog got there first and killed a wounded fox, I would
not consider that to be an act of hunting, but an incidental act.
The intention is to be humaneI do not accept that using
a dog to track a wounded animal is cruel.
Mr Hamilton: In other words, as far as you are concerned
the issue is not cruelty, but intention.
Bill Swann: In a case such as we have discussed, yes.
James Morris: I draw members' attention to section 3(1)(c)
of the bill, which would allow people to use a dog to track an
injured animal. The foot packs explained that the 10 per cent
of foxes that were killed by dogs had already gone through a gun
line and been injured. The intention is to slip the dog. If the
fox is badly wounded, a swift dispatch is what is wanted. If it
runs too far, one would try to track, capture and dispatch it.
That is covered in the bill and we are not saying that that is
Mr Hamilton: Do you have a problem with saying that it
is humane for the dogs to kill the fox in that environment?
James Morris: It is the only thing that one could do.
David Coulthread: There was some confusion about the nature
of that question. Foxes that are flushed into a line of fire are
likely to be shot by more than one gun and the chances of them
getting away with several gunshot wounds are remote.
Alex Fergusson: Today's written submission from the League
Against Cruel Sports finishes by stating:
"Some individuals involved in the illegal persecution of
animals use the current legal status of hunting to escape prosecution."
How would a ban on mounted hunting stop such illegal persecution?
David Coulthread: That relates to a considerable amount
of anecdotal evidence that has been reported to the league. In
particular cases, people have been digging in badger sets, but
have claimed that they were digging for foxes.
Although the prosecutors made it quite clear that they knew that
the accused were digging for badgers, the defendants were able
to escape prosecution because they claimed that they had been
digging for foxes, but mistakenly in a badger set. As long as
that activity remains legal, people will be aware of the loophole
and will continue to
Alex Fergusson: I am sure that, like me, you do not want
the bill to be based on anecdotal evidence.
Mr Rumbles: I was interested in your response to Duncan
Hamilton, who hit the nail on the head. On the issue of the line
of guns, you said that it was perfectly acceptable for dogs to
be slipped to track and dispatch a wounded animal. However, I
think that Duncan was referring to another scenario. If a gamekeeper
was flushing out or lamping and shot and wounded a fox without
using a line of guns, would it be it acceptable for the gamekeeper
to let slip his dogs to dispatch the animal?
David Coulthread: I will ask Bill Swann to answer that
Bill Swann: I must apologise to Mr HamiltonI misunderstood
his question. I hope that we have clarified the point.
Mr Hamilton: Do not worryyou are certainly not the
first person in the chamber to have misunderstood me.
Bill Swann: I support the position that Mr Morris outlined.
By supporting the bill, we hope to avoid intentional acts that
we believe are intrinsically cruel, but which cannot be legislated
out or removed through good practice. If that were not the case,
we would not be here. In any case in which an animal is injured,
we are all obliged to look to the welfare of the animal at that
We believe that there is intrinsic and unacceptable cruelty in
the majority of cases in which animals are subjected to hunting
in all its forms. Where an animal of any species is shot and injured
for any reasonsuch a situation could arise outwith huntingwe
have an obligation to find the animal and do something about it.
In such cases, the use of dogs to track and find an animal is
entirely justified. If a dog happens to kill the animal when it
finds it, that might not be the best method of killing the animal,
but it is still a pragmatic solution to stop the animal's suffering.
We would prefer a more humane method of killing; however, in the
wilds of the Scottish mountains, I have come across sheep that
have fallen down ravines and, as an agent of necessity, I have
had to decide how to end that animal's suffering and to use the
most pragmatic and humane method that is available.
It is horses for courses. As I have said, hunting is an intrinsically
cruel activity, in which every animal that is involved has a high
percentage chance of being subjected to unnecessary cruelty. We
are obliged to deal with an individual injured
animalno matter whether the injury has been caused through
a road accident or shootingas quickly and as humanely as
we can. I hope that that answer is unambiguous.
Mr Rumbles: The scenario that I outlined was not an incidental
activityI was talking about the deliberate activity of a
gamekeeper going out to shoot and bringing his dog as a back-up.
That situation will arise if he misses the shot.
I am interested in statistics and you have used many today. Although
I notice that you could not provide statistics about fighting
underground, you implied that 98 per cent of shots were accurate.
What is the source of that figure? Does it come from purely anecdotal
evidence or from a more scientific background?
Bill Swann: Convener, am I wrong in saying that that figure
was mentioned this afternoon by BASC?
Mr Rumbles: Is that the origin of the statistic?
Bill Swann: I believe so. It was also mentioned at one
of the specialist seminars for the Burns inquiry. Although the
figures have not been subjected to the sort of scientific rigour
that would satisfy a published paper, BASC believes that they
are correct and we agree.
Fergus Ewing: If this afternoon's proceedings have proved
one thing, it is that men argue and animals act. My difficulty
is that the previous witnesses seem to have massive personal experience
of dealing with the problem first hand. Every one of them said
that their methods are the most effective, the most humane and
the least cruel. Furthermore, every one of them said that the
close season proposal of Mr Morris and Mr Swann would be ineffective
and impractical. Why should we believe you, but not them?
James Morris: I appear to be live, so I will deal with
The Convener: Do not feel forced to do so because of the
light on your microphone.
James Morris: I have tried to keep all my answers short
this afternoon, but I would like to make a short statement now.
Nearly everything that we are discussing today in relation to
people's worries is about exemptions in the bill. No one is after
gamekeepersthe problem is the use of terriers underground.
Everything else is included in the bill and allows the control
of any species that preys on another or causes damage to a farmer.
Gamekeepers should be aware that no one wants to stop their work.
As for the close season proposals, we do not use close seasons
for foxes at the moment, although other countries, such as Germany,
Italy and the Netherlands, do. I could not put my hand
on my heart and say that the proposals would work. However, they
require study and an open mindpeople should not say merely
that they have always done things that way and that the numbers
of foxes are still increasing.
Fergus Ewing: If there were an easier and more humane
way, perhaps it would have been found by now. However, is not
it the case that another aspect of the billnamely section
3(1)(c)poses a problem? As Mr Hamilton said, in some cases
it is necessary to use dogs to retrieve foxes that might have
been wounded through being shot. I think that Mr Morris suggested
that section 3(1)(c) deals with that pointit does to some
extent. However, am not I right to say that that section permits
the use of only one dog and that, therefore, the people from the
Scottish Hill Packs Association would be restricted in their activities?
If that is the caseas I believe it isis not it also
true that, if they did not use a full pack of dogs, they would
be far less likely to locate the wounded fox. One dog is far less
effective than a pack. As a result, the proposals in Mr Watson's
bill are bound to be more cruel because, if only one dog is used,
it is more likely that the wounded fox will escape retrieval.
James Morris: The explanatory notes of the bill state
that what is called the interpretation order
"provides that words in the singular generally include the
At the drafting stage, we raised the point that the word "dog"
must also be read as "dogs". I have difficulty with
that aspect and many other people are being misled by it. Perhaps
some slight adjustment should be made to the wording of the bill.
Fergus Ewing: I thought that you might say that. However,
your argument fails in the light of the wording of section 1(5)
which refers to "one or more dogs". The deliberate use
of the phrase "or more dogs" indicates that the particular
method of interpretation does not necessarily apply to the use
of one dog.
James Morris: That is why we criticised the bill.
Fergus Ewing: I am sure that, as a reasonable man, you
will accept that that makes two particular problems, not one,
as was suggested earlier.
Another matter of concern has arisen from the SSPCA's written
submission, although I am sure that there was no intention to
create anything other than a true impression.
In the last paragraph of page 1 of its submission, the SSPCA
"that only 25 per cent of terrier operators are members
of the National Working Terrier Federation and subject to its
code of practice."
Today we have heard from the Scottish Gamekeepers Associationwe
have written evidence to support thisthat it endorses the
NWTF's code of conduct. We have also heard from the Scottish Hill
Packs Association that it endorses the code of conduct. Do you
believe that, if a problem exists, it exists with only a minuscule
minority of gamekeepers and others who are involved in this sort
James Morris: I accept that only a minority would cause
us concern. The figure of 25 per cent that we cited was given
to us by the National Working Terrier Federation. It is now saying
that other groups accept its guidelines. However, as far as I
know, the SSPCA was not signed up to the guidelines at the time
that we received the information.
Fergus Ewing: Are you saying that the SSPCA was unaware
of the fact that those other organisations had signed up to the
Mike Flynn: One big problem that we have is that, although
25 per cent of terrier men are registered with the National Working
Terrier Federation, that figure does not include members of the
Scottish Hill Packs Association or the Scottish Gamekeepers Association.
Many people who are not bona fide gamekeepers use terriers in
the countrysidethey probably outnumber bona fide gamekeepers.
Most of the problems that we encounter are caused by people who
class themselves as gamekeepers on Saturday and Sunday, but who
are painters and decorators from Monday to Friday. They do not
check their snares, but simply go out now and then with their
terriers. We have raised that issue with the Scottish Gamekeepers
Today, the committee has heard from very small and elite groups.
They are not the people who cause us problems. We have had problems
with bona fide gamekeepers, but only with a minuscule percentage.
Fergus Ewing: I am very pleased with that answer. I asked
the question because, generally, Scottish gamekeepers feel that
they are under attack for taking part in cruel activities. Having
heard the evidence and having spoken to a number of gamekeepers,
especially in my constituency, it seems to me that, far from being
cruel, gamekeepers know best how to manage wildlife most effectively
and humanely. People who spend their lives going to seminars and
giving evidence to parliamentary committees might not be as well
placed to comment.
My last question is directed at Mr Swann, who said that many
gamekeepers are reputable. The automatic connotation is that the
rest are not reputable. I ask Mr Swann to withdraw that suggestion
and to agree that, if there is a
problemwe have received no evidence that there isit
must be confined to a tiny minority of the people who are involved
in working to control the fox population in Scotland.
Bill Swann: I do not simply attend seminars and take an
academic view on the issue. For many generations, my extended
family has farmed upland areas of Britain and many of my relatives
still do. The areas that they farm include grouse moor and very
high-level ground, some of it above the 2,000 ft mark. I have
a great deal of first-hand experience of fox control and know
a number of gamekeepers, some of them personally. I have been
out working with gamekeepers; when I was a boy, I went out working
regularly on a grouse moor with a gamekeeper.
I have seen both sides of the equation. I referred to reputable
gamekeepers and I believe that the vast majority of gamekeepers
aim to do a reputable job. I use the word "reputable"
because what they are doing at the moment is not illegal. If the
bill is enactedfor reasons that we have spelled out clearlywhat
they do will become illegal.
From personal experience, I know that the disreputable element
to which I referred consists of a very small number of people.
As Fergus Ewing has asked me to put that on the record, I will
do so. I spent more than 20 years as a practising veterinary surgeon
and, in that time, gamekeepers brought me terriers that had suffered
some pretty horrendous wounds. I am not claiming for a minute
that that is normal practice or that it is common practice today;
I accept that gamekeepers have tried to improve their working
methods. However, whenever underground fights occurthey
still dothere is a risk of terrible injuries. However, when
I gave evidence previously, I made it clear that I do not believe
that gamekeepers are wilfully cruel.
Fergus Ewing: I am pleased that you have clarified what
you said earlier. Could you provide the committee with the names
of individuals who, in your view, are responsible for unacceptable
activities? I do not know who they are and I cannot take your
evidence seriously until you give us some examples. The use of
generalised slurs and smears against groups in Scottish society
is absolutely unacceptable. You have just said that there is a
group of people who have taken part in unacceptable activities
involving cruelty. Those people should be named and identified,
so that we can treat your evidence as evidence, rather than as
a generalised smear. I hope that this is a legitimate question,
Bill Swann: Convener, I am more than happy
for you to have sight of confidential veterinary records that
contain details of names, addresses and the circumstances in which
injuries occurred, provided that you can give me an absolute assurance
that that privileged information will be treated in the confidence
that it requires.
The Convener: We will correspond with you about that.
Dr Murray: I am intrigued by the legal interpretation
that the singular includes the plural. I will be very careful
before offering anybody "a drink" again.
My impression is that you object principally to people setting
out with dogs deliberately to pursue and to kill wild animals.
The Scottish Hill Packs Association said that it was about 90
per cent successful in its fox take. Ten per cent of cases were
the sort to which Duncan Hamilton referred, in which dogs dispatched
an animal that had previously been injured. Another 10 per cent
were cases in which the dogs just happened to get to the animal
first. When that happens, how does one prove intention? How can
one prove that the intention was not to allow the dogs to hunt
and kill the fox? In the case of mounted hunts, could not a few
of the folk involved simply carry guns, making it possible for
them to say that they intended to shoot the foxes?
James Morris: We are happy that we can gauge intent from
the fact that people have taken their dogs out and set them to
course or to flush out the fox to a line of guns. The people out
with those dogs would have to be carrying guns. Those would be
licensed, so we would have some control of the type of person
who would be in the hills shooting foxes. If someone is out in
woods with hounds but no guns, they are not flushing but hunting.
Dr Murray: Let me put a hypothetical case to you. If the
bill were passed and the mounted hunts decided that they would
use dogs to flush foxes to guns, would that practice be acceptable?
James Morris: The use of the hounds would be acceptable.
They would not be doing long-distance chasing. They would have
to start close to the guns, or the radius within which animals
could move would become uncontrollable. The activity would be
under control in the sense that there would not be a long chase
and there would be flushing to guns. The same hounds could do
Mr Rumbles: I am intrigued. You said that the angst that
we are going through this afternoon, specifically my focus on
gamekeepers, was not necessary, because the bill covers it all.
Which part of the bill means that I do not have to be worried
any more about that issue?
James Morris: Which issue?
Mr Rumbles: You said that the concerns are taken care
of. There are real worries about it.
James Morris: My understanding of the bill is that it
is anti-hunting and not anti-pest control. There are exceptions
for controlling animals that are predating others.
Mr Rumbles: So, as far as you are aware, the bill does
not cover pest control.
James Morris: The bill says:
"A person does not contravene"
the provisions on hunting a wild mammal with a dog if they are
"controlling the number of a particular species in a particular
place in order to safeguard the welfare of that species there
. . . protecting livestock, fowl or game birds in a particular
place from attack by wild mammals".
It states that, if the person is licensed, they would be cleared
Mr Rumbles: Sorry, which section of the bill are we talking
James Morris: Section 2(2).
Mr Rumbles: It says:
"A licence may authorise an individual . . . to stalk a
wild mammal, or flush it".
It does not say anything about dispatching it.
James Morris: You are not reading the section that I am
Mr Rumbles: You must read paragraph (b) with the subsection
as a whole.
James Morris: Section 2(2)(b) says "protecting livestock".
Is that what you are reading?
Mr Rumbles: That is correct, but you must read the subsection
from the beginning. It states:
"A licence may authorise an individual (or a group of individuals)
to use a dog under close control to stalk a wild mammal, or flush
it from cover above ground".
It says nothing about dispatching the animal.
James Morris: Are you suggesting that you can do everything
except kill it?
Mr Rumbles: That is correct. That is the problem. I think
that I have made my point, convener.
The Convener: I would like to bring this evidence session
to a close.
Alex Fergusson: In response to Fergus Ewing's final point,
Mr Swann said, quite rightly, that many of the activities that
are currently legally carried out by gamekeepers will be rendered
illegal if the bill is passed. I accept that. Gamekeepers and
others have told usI have no greater reason to
disbelieve them than I have to disbelieve Mr Swann and Mr Morristhat
the bill's impact on their activities will affect the biodiversity
of upland and mountain Scotland. The protection of biodiversity
is enshrined in legislation; it is one of the principal aims of
the Executive's National Parks (Scotland) Act 2000. Is the disadvantage
to biodiversity"destruction" would probably be
too strong a wordthat we are told would be a result of the
bill a price worth paying?
Bill Swann: I will have to be careful not to talk about
matters that I do not feel confident to talk about. Biodiversity
and conservation are not my field. We are back to anecdotal evidence,
which I am cautious about using. I live in the heart of one of
the largest of the west-coast estatesthe Gairloch estate
in Ross-shire. There is now little sporting activity. A small
number of stags are shot each year but, as far as I am aware,
that is the only hunting that takes place. I have had long conversations
on this topic with the manager of the estate. There is little
dog use; the odd farm commissions one of the terrier owners, but
the practice is not extensive.
The estate is planting many thousands of acres of natural woodland,
which will be the biggest man-made forest in Britain. That is
for biodiversity purposes and is essentially a conservation measure.
There is talk about reintroducing the capercaillie.
In my discussions, the manager at the Gairloch estate has been
totally confidentmembers are at liberty to contact him if
they wishthat necessary fox control there will be done by
shooting. I base my evidence on hands-on, pragmatic attitudes
such as that. However, the evidence is anecdotal. If the committee
wants to pursue the issue, I am sure that the Gairloch estate
would be delighted to provide assistance.
The Convener: Have we come to the end of questioning?
Mr Morris would like to comment.
James Morris: I want to provide clarification on the previous
question from Mr Rumbles. We are not professional givers of evidence
to inquiries; in fact, we have never having done this until now.
Section 2(7)(b) refers to the use of dogs to
"stalk, or flush from cover above ground, a fox or hare"
to protect livestock, fowl and so on. However, subsection (8)
"Subsections (1) and (7)(b) apply only to a person who,
once a wild mammal is found or emerges from cover, acts to ensure
that it is shot as soon as possible."
Mr Rumbles: It does not allow dispatch with a dog. That
is the point that I am making.
James Morris: The fox is being flushed so that it can
be shot. If it is not shot or is wounded, the
dog may be used, under section 3(1)(c), to relocate it so that
it can be dispatched quickly. I think that it is covered. The
whole intention is that the aim of pest control is to dispatch
The Convener: We would benefit from time to reflect on
Mr Rumbles: There is no mention at all of its being dispatched
by the dog.
James Morris: The intention is not for it to be dispatched
by the dog; the intention is for it to be shot. That is what the
bill is after. The use of a dog subsequent to the shooting is
to relocate an injured animal.
Mr Rumbles: In its evidence, the Scottish Hill Packs Association
makes it clear that part and parcel of its everyday activity is
that foxes are dispatched by the dogs. It is not an afterthought.
The Convener: Are we satisfied?
Mr Rumbles: Yes. I am.
James Morris: I will leave the evidence for members to
The Convener: That brings us to the end of this part of
the meeting. Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen, for your
I remind members that we have agreed to meet in Dumfries, in
the Easterbrook Hall, at 1.30 pm on Friday 8 December. We will
also meet on Tuesday 5 December. Members should have been notified
Members have all been e-mailed to the effect that the minister,
Rhona Brankin, who was supposed to be coming along, is now unable
to. That does not affect the material content of the meetingit
was indicated to me that, at this stage in the bill, the minister
might not have been able to give us much assistance one way or
the other. I propose to take an early opportunity to bring the
minister before the committee, probably in the new year. That
will not be inappropriate, even if we have begun to draft the
early stages of our report. Does that meet with the committee's
Mr Hamilton: There is a slight problem. This is not an
Executive bill, but the Executive is clearly a key player in it.
Given that we heard today that the Executive has a significant
financial involvement, I would like to have the chance to take
evidence from the minister. Are you saying that there is no possibility
of our doing so before we start the draft stage 1 report?
The Convener: I am not saying that we have to wait until
after we have started the draft. I am saying that we can successfully
get the evidence, probably early in the new year.
Mr Hamilton: When do you envisage
concluding the stage 1 report?
The Convener: I do not think that we will produce even
a draft report before the end of January.
Alex Fergusson: On the subject of further evidence, RSPB
Scotland has been mentioned more than once today and Scottish
Natural Heritage has also come into the discussion.
Richard Lochhead: And the Forestry Commission.
Alex Fergusson: Those are major players in the bill, and
we have all been lobbied by the lurcher men. We must consider
inviting those people to give their views.
The Convener: It would be appropriate to ask members of
the committee whether there is anyone else whom they would like
to take evidence from. That could be treated as a specific agenda
item, probably at the next meeting, and we should try to collate
any additional evidence as quickly as possible.
Fergus Ewing: I endorse Alex Fergusson's recommendation
to invite the prospective witnesses that he mentionedSNH
and the RSPB. We also need more information about the use of lurchers,
which we heard about today. There was another organisation
Mr Hamilton: The Forestry Commission.
Fergus Ewing: Mr Hamilton has a younger, more agile mind
Mr Hamilton: It would not be difficult.
Fergus Ewing: I wonder whether we might have the opportunity,
once my mindnot Mr Hamilton's mindis a bit fresher,
to consider the implications further before we take evidence from
the minister. I would like to give more careful thought to these
matters, rather than reach a precipitate conclusion.
The Convener: Okay.
Mr Rumbles: We could take evidence from the minister when
we have received all the other evidence. Would not that be more
The Convener: We will approach the minister about the
suitability of dates extending beyond next week. We can agree
on a time when dates have been made available.
Salmon Conservation (Scotland) Bill
The Convener: The final item on the agenda is the order
of consideration of the Salmon Conservation (Scotland) Bill. Richard
Walsh has e-mailed the suggested order to members, and I see no
alternative to that suggestion.
For the benefit of members who may not have seen the e-mail,
I will just outline what has been suggested. We are due to consider
the bill at stage 2 on Tuesday 12 December and to continue on
Tuesday 19 December. I have been given no indication that the
Executive will move for the bill to be considered in anything
other than the order in which it was printed. If the committee
is content to deal with it in that order, we should agree now
how far we want to go at that first meeting. Richard Walsh has
suggested that, on Tuesday 12 December, we deal with amendments
to the bill up to the part that concerns proposed new section
10B. Are we agreed?
Members indicated agreement.
The Convener: Okay. We can now go home.
Meeting closed at 18:02.