Scottish Fox Hunters Fight Hound Ban
EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) _ Fox hunters donned their red jackets and took to the fields across Scotland on Thursday, a gesture of defiance to the Scottish Parliament’s decision to ban hunting with hounds.
Hunting advocates said the decision violated European human rights law and would be challenged in the courts.
Some 40 mounted riders from the Duke of Buccleuch Hunt gathered at St. Boswells, in the Scottish Borders, for one of several hunts scheduled for Thursday. Some came from as far away as eastern England to show solidarity with the endangered Scottish sport.
``I’ll carry on hunting until someone physically tries to stop me,″ said Scottish hunter Ian Stark.
Farmer Bryan Walling, who allowed the hunters to use his land, said fox hunting was ``free pest control.″
``Without them to kill the foxes, if I put two lambs out with a ewe one would be gone in the morning,″ he said.
The Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Bill was approved by Scottish lawmakers Wednesday by a vote of 83 to 36 after a six-hour debate.
The bill will become law when Queen Elizabeth II approves it in about a month.
The bill bans the use of dogs to hunt wild mammals _ effectively ruling out mounted fox hunting, hare coursing and fox baiting _ and provides for heavy fines or a six-month prison term for violators.
Supporters of hunting say the legislation threatens jobs and lifestyles in the countryside. Scottish Countryside Alliance director Allan Murray said the bill violated provisions in the European Convention on Human Rights protecting individuals against loss of their livelihood.
``It is quite obscene that the Scottish Parliament voted their fellow Scots out of their jobs and businesses without a penny of compensation,″ Murray said.
``We believe this is a clear violation of the ECHR and have instructed our lawyers to take the appropriate legal action,″ he added.
Kennel huntsman Phillip Fergus from Earlston in the Scottish Borders said he would be left jobless and homeless by the legislation.
``If the bill becomes law, my job will disappear. I’ll lose my job, my house _ everything,″ he said.
But anti-hunt groups and animal rights activists applauded Scotland’s decision, and urged the central government to impose a similar ban. Scotland has a separate legal system from England and Wales.
``Failure to act would result in the ridiculous situation of banned Scottish hunters crossing the border to carry out their barbaric activities in England and Wales,″ said Phyllis Campbell-McRae, spokeswoman for Campaigning to Protect Hunted Animals.
Prime Minister Tony Blair supports moves to outlaw hunting with hounds, but proposed legislation has been delayed by bureaucratic problems.
Fox hunters had staged a series of last-ditch demonstrations Wednesday in the hours before the vote. Up to 1,000 people, 150 horses and hound packs from all over Scotland gathered at Kelso, on the Scottish side of the border with England, to stage a mass hunt.