Scot cleared of hunting with dogs

Ban proponents concerned by ruling
Ban proponents concerned by ruling

A huntsman who used dogs to "flush" out foxes so they could be shot has been cleared of breaking anti-hunt legislation in Scotland.

Trevor Adams was accused of deliberately using 20 hounds to hunt foxes but the sheriff at Jedburgh found the dogs were not out of control at any time.

The case against the 46-year-old was the first test of the anti-hunt legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament in 2002.

"I am very glad that justice has prevailed and I am looking forward to getting on with my job, which is my life," said Mr Adams, a leading huntsman with Scotland's largest hunt, the Buccleuch.

The huntsman had been running a "fox control service" for farmers and hunt supporters welcomed the ruling as confirmation that such pest control was legal.

Buccleuch spokesman Joe Scott-Plummer said: "All hunts in Scotland had to restructure as a result of the legislation and, in consultation with police forces, agreed a form of pest control permitted by the act."

The decision comes amid news that a farmer from north Devon was told he could use dogs to "chase away" wild animals from his land without breaking the imminent hunting ban in England.

Giles Bradshaw wrote to the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to see whether using his four dogs to frighten foxes and deer off his land would be legal.

On being told that it was only legal to use animals to flush out foxes to shoot them, Mr Bradshaw argued that it was ridiculous to force him to buy a rifle to carry out pest control.

In response, Defra officials agreed and told Mr Bradshaw that chasing away unwanted animals using dogs was in fact legal.

But opponents of the hunting ban claim this decision will further muddy the waters on the controversial issue.

"How is the village bobby who sees a group of people with dogs supposed to distinguish between illegal hunting, exempt hunting, drag hunting, unintentional hunting, a hunt exercising hounds, or simply chasing away?" asked Lib Dem MP Lembit Opik.

A Defra spokesman said: "Hunting requires an intention on the part of the person rather than the dog to chase the quarry so there can be no accidental hunting."