South Scotland

Video 'shows hunt law breached'

Media captionThe debate over fox hunting in Scotland has come back to life

The BBC has obtained secret video footage of a fox hunt in the Scottish Borders, which has led to two men being charged with wildlife offences.

Campaigners claim the ban on hunting with dogs is routinely being flouted.

Hunt supporters insist they take great care to respect the law.

The Jedforest Hunt was secretly filmed by the League Against Cruel Sports in February. The men who have been charged are due to appear at Jedburgh Sheriff Court at a later date.

The case comes as Lord Bonomy carries out a review of the law on hunting in Scotland.

In 2002, the Scottish Parliament passed legislation that banned hunting with dogs.

But packs of hounds can still legally be used.

The law allows hunts to use hounds to drive foxes from cover and towards waiting gunmen.

Image caption Hunt supporters insist they always use their hounds strictly within the law

The League Against Cruel Sports says its covert surveillance shows that did not happen in this case.

The footage appears to show a fox being pursued by a pack of hounds on two occasions.

On the second occasion, the animal disappears from view while still being pursued.

'Hunting, not flushing'

Describing the video, the League's director in Scotland, Robbie Marsland, said: "That's hunting, that's not flushing with guns and we didn't see that fox again, I'm afraid."

Mr Marsland is calling for the law to be tightened.

He said: "We think there are some quite small changes that can be made to the legislation which would stop it being possible to take a pack of hounds out into the countryside and chase and kill wild mammals.

"The parliament wouldn't have to worry about it anymore and the Scottish people would know and be secure in the knowledge that fox hunting was really banned in Scotland.

"Scotland would be the first place in the UK to really ban fox hunting."

The Scottish Countryside Alliance argues huntsmen go to great lengths to ensure they remain within the law.

Its director, Jamie Stewart, told BBC Scotland: "We would hope very much that Lord Bonomy will review and recognise that the act is enforceable and indeed enforced.

"There's been 210 cases since 2002.

"It's got a 57% conviction rate, so the general public should feel confident that the police are able to identify areas where there is criminal activity and prosecute those who're responsible.

"The protocols within the mounted packs is such that there has not been a successful prosecution against them simply because there's been no evidence of any illegal action."

Court case

A police spokesperson said: "Police Scotland has charged two men, aged 23 and 65, under the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002.

"Both men will appear at Jedburgh Sheriff Court at a later date.

"We work closely with a range of partners to tackle wildlife crime.

"We would urge members of the public to report any suspicious activity to us as quickly as possible to allow us to investigate suspected crimes promptly."

The Jedforest Hunt told BBC Scotland it would be inappropriate to comment at this stage in proceedings.

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