Exempt Hunting: The Gamekeepers’ Exemption

“Use of dogs below ground to protect birds for shooting”

– the stalking / flushing out of a wild mammal must be undertaken for preventing or reducing serious damage to game or wild birds kept for shooting

– the person doing the stalking or flushing must be carrying written evidence that the land they are doing it on belongs to them or has been given permission to use it for that purpose

– the written evidence must be shown to a police officer on request

– only one dog can be used below ground at any time to stalk or flush the animal

– reasonable steps must be taken to flush the animal from below ground as soon as possible after it is found and is then shot dead by a competent person as soon as possible

– reasonable steps ust be taken to ensure the dog is not harmed

Nothing is mentioned in this section about the use of spades, so they are not specifically prohibited. But are they permitted? Looking again at the criteria for this exemption, it would suggest that the wild mammal must be flushed out from below ground by a dog, not dug out with spades. Digging-out does not come under the definition of ‘flushing’ or ‘stalking’.

The following Western Daily Press article is in relation to a case where, in short, a vehicle was pulled over due to it towing a trailer with no lights and one of the men from the vehicle jumped out and ran off with a bag he pulled from the trailer. He was chased down and police found a live fox in the bag as well as terriers in the vehicle with facial scarring. There is an interesting quote from the RSPCA in the article:

“The three were arrested and when questioned claimed they had written permission to do what they were doing but did not have it with them at the time.

“This piece of information was to be the key to their successful prosecution as the Hunting Act 2004 states that those legally hunting in such circumstances must have written permission on their person,” said a spokesman for the RSPCA.”

Looking at the criteria above for hunting to be legal in this situation, yes, written permission would be necessary. However, the list of criteria clearly states that the wild mammal must be shot as soon as possible having been flushed from below ground. If your intention was to legally shoot a troublesome fox, surely you would have a competent person with you with a gun? Nowhere in the criteria above does it imply that ‘putting the wild mammal in a bag’ is permitted. OK, it doesn’t specifically state that it is prohbited, but it clearly states that the criteria listed must be satisfied and that list includes shooting the animal dead asap. Surely being shot “as soon as possible” by a “competent person” is put in there to ensure that the animal’s suffering is not drawn out? And isn’t putting it in a bag doing the opposite…?