Fox hunt meets for final time after 250 years

One of Scotland's oldest fox hunts has announced it has come to an end after more than 250 years.

After meeting regularly since 1771, the Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire Foxhounds held their final meet at their base in Houston last weekend.

A new law that tightened restrictions around hunting with dogs came into force three days later.

The group said increasing urbanisation and a lack of accessible rural land had made keeping its hounds "unviable".

And it said discussions around the future of their foxhounds had been "ongoing for many years", before the Hunting with Dogs (Scotland) Bill was introduced.

It is understood the hounds will be sent to other kennels and the group will continue to operate as a hunt club - holding point-to-point horse races and other social events.

The end of the fox hunts were welcomed by anti-hunting groups.

The Glasgow Hunt Sabs, who have regularly tried to sabotage the Renfrewshire hunt, called the news a "seismic victory".

A spokesperson said: "Clearly the restrictions in place were not workable and as a result, the hunt have thrown in the towel."

But Polly Portwin, director of the campaign for hunting at the Countryside Alliance, said the decision was "logical and sensible" as costs rise and available land disappears.

She added: "Hunting has always adapted to changes, be it farming practices or other factors out of their control, so mergers and country-sharing remain fundamental to the future of hunting."

In a social media post after its final foxhound meet, Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire Hunt thanked local supporters, farmers, and landowners.

They said: "It is a labour of love with long hours and for little pay. We do it because it is our heritage and we do it for the love of the countryside and for our love of the hounds."

It is the second hunting announcement in recent weeks, after Fife Foxhounds said they were disbanding for "financial" reasons.

The Hunting with Dogs (Scotland) Bill came into force on Tuesday when it became an Act, replacing previous legislation.

Dock packs

Twenty years on from the fox hunting ban, the new legislation tightens the curbs so that hunters can no longer use packs of hounds to flush out wild mammals unless they have a licence.

It has made it illegal to chase and kill a wild mammal using a dog. Trail hunting, where a dog is used to find and follow an animal-based scent, has also been outlawed.

The original legislation allowed dogs to flush foxes out from cover as long as they were then shot, and that the hunt was being held to protect livestock, ground-nesting birds or prevent the spread of disease.

The key change is that no more than two dogs can be used to stalk or flush out animals from cover unless a licence has been granted.

Farmers, land managers and conservation groups warned that some terrains would make hunting with only two dogs impossible.

But animal welfare campaigners are worried that a licensing scheme will create a loophole in the new law.

Scottish SPCA chief superintendent Mike Flynn said: "Hunting for sport should be consigned to history and that is why we've long called for loopholes in Scotland's hunting legislation to be addressed.

"This Act is a massive step in the right direction."