Scottish Director at the Countryside Alliance, Jamie Stewart, attended the Berwickshire meet, following the meet he said:
“Scotland’s New Year’s Day meets are an annual validation of the determination of the hunting community not to beaten by the animal rights activists who remain obsessed with hunts, angry that their (completely misplaced) class war has failed and that hunts have maintained their infrastructure, their kennels and their hounds, whilst support in the rural community has, if anything, grown.
“Fourteen years on from the introduction of the unjustified Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002 foxhound packs are still providing a service and support for them in the rural community is as strong as ever. It’s absurd then that despite the fact that not one person connected to a registered foxhound pack has been convicted of an offence under the Act that we find ourselves under the greatest of scrutiny with threats of further draconian legislation.
“Animal rights groups are spending hundreds of thousands of pounds (often of charitable donations) carrying out surveillance and self-directed investigations, sometimes involving lengthy covert operations, which inevitably lead to malicious allegations being made to Police Scotland who have a duty to investigate, however much their resources could be better used elsewhere. Despite several hundreds of hours of filming the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) have failed to produce a single piece of evidence of illegal action, proof that this is not now and never has been about animal welfare and more about the ability of one group of people in society to impose its will on another.”
In his review of the Protection of Wild Mammals Act, published last November, Lord Bonomy made clear that the fox population needs to be controlled and that gun packs play a key role in doing so. Lord Bonomy stated that any restriction on the use of gun packs could “seriously compromise effective pest control in the country”. Lord Bonomy went on to recognise that whatever the outcome of his review of the current legislation, wild mammals will continue to be killed for pest control and other reasons.
Commenting on the reaction of the League Against Cruel Sport to the publication of Lord Bonomy’s review, Jamie Stewart added:
“Despite their disingenuous welcome of Lord Bonomy’s report to the Scottish Government, LACS have once more returned to the deceitful tactic of lying to the general public in an attempt to force the hand of cabinet secretary Roseanna Cunningham go further than the recommendations made by one of the leading law lords in the land.
“Sadly, LACS have attempted to high jack the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act review in order to force their views on those who are engaged in managing the fox population; with further attempts to dupe the Scottish Parliament and the general public with their bigotry, lies and malicious insinuations. Reliance on public opinion polls to make law has proven ineffective, especially on a subject that few people know much about (and affects even fewer) and is not good politics. Indeed, it almost negates the need for Members of Parliament.”
Commenting on the turnout at meets, Jamie Stewart said:
“It was wonderful to see so many people turning out to show their support. I am always humbled by the commitment from country folks as they rally to support a service many rely on. The social cohesion and community spirit of the locality commented upon by Lord Bonomy in his review was very much on show.
“We must not, however, allow the celebrations and welcome headlines to mask the actions of the animal rights organisations as they continue to perpetrate propaganda to achieve a political objective. Whilst we do not agree that there is a significant problem with the enforcement of the current legislation, and note that as recently as January 2016 Police Scotland confirmed to MSPs that there 'is no evidence to suggest that the mounted foxhound packs that exist are acting outwith the legislation that is in place at the moment', gun packs have always been very happy to work closely with the authorities. We look forward to working with the Scottish Government and Police Scotland in 2017 to provide a framework for the continuation of effective pest control throughout Scotland.”