Foxhunters Fight Scottish Ban With Lawsuit

By Mike Wendling | July 7, 2008 | 8:11 PM EDT

London ( - A coalition of farmers, individual hunters and hunting groups began a legal challenge Tuesday to Scotland's blanket ban on hunting wild mammals with dogs.

Lawyers for the group will argue in front of a court in Edinburgh that the Scottish regional legislature overstepped its powers by approving the ban. The claimants also say that the law violates human rights by depriving those in foxhunting-related businesses their livelihoods without adequate compensation.

Ramsay Smith, a spokesman for the Scottish Countryside Alliance, said that the implementation of the law, scheduled for Aug. 1, could be delayed by the court case. An initial hearing is scheduled in July.

Smith said the petitioners would argue their case under European legislation and that the case could eventually end up in a European court.

"Every law passed in Scotland must be compliant with the European Convention on Human Rights," he said. "There are fundamental rights issues at stake here."

Allan Murray, director of the Scottish Countryside Alliance, called the case "absolutely vital for the future of rural Scotland."

"Over the past two years we have witnessed politicians drafting draconian legislation without real consideration of the consequences for those whose lives and livelihoods will be seriously affected by it," he said.

Murray said he was confident that those challenging the law have a firm legal argument. The Countryside Alliance is backing the lawsuit.

"We are convinced that we can show the provisions of the act to be so unreasonable that they amount to a serious abuse of the Scottish Parliament's legislative powers," he said.

The group taking Scotland to court includes farmers who welcome the hunts onto their land to control the fox population, animal workers whose jobs are in jeopardy because of the ban and representatives of hunt clubs.

One of the parties to the suit, landowner and hunter Joe Scott-Plummer, said that he would have to resort to other measures to control the fox population if the ban is enforced.

"The hunts are the only fox control measures that take place on my land," he said. "We would be very uncomfortable about shooting as a means of control as it is not selective and the chance of wounding increases."

Anthony Aglen, chairman of the Buccleuch Hunt Supporters Club, said that rural towns and villages go through "total demoralization" if the ban goes into effect.

"We organise many big events which not only bring the whole community together but attract people from other areas," he said. "Many of our members do not have any other recreation other than the events held by the club."

The Scottish Executive, the body responsible for enforcing regional laws, declined to comment on the court challenge Tuesday.

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