Alison Johnstone: Are we really a nation of animal lovers?

The Dogs Trust suggests more than 37,000 lost and abandoned dogs remained unclaimed in UK local authority kennels in 2015-16. Picture: Ian Rutherford
The Dogs Trust suggests more than 37,000 lost and abandoned dogs remained unclaimed in UK local authority kennels in 2015-16. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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It’s easy to overestimate the protection offered to wildlife and pets in Scotland, given our reputation as a “nation of animal lovers”, but government actions and the fall-out from consumer choices leave a heart-breaking trail of suffering and abuse.

Against the wishes of more than 70 per cent of the public, Holyrood voted last week to end the ban on mutilating puppies’ tails, on the basis that up to one in 320, depending on breed, will be injured “working” in game and fox-hunting industries.

Alison Johnstone is a Green MSP for Lothian.

Alison Johnstone is a Green MSP for Lothian.

So bereft of scientific justification and opposed by veterinary bodies was this vote, secured by the SNP with support from Conservative and Lib Dem MSPs, it moved the winner of Best Scottish Vet 2017, Inglis Vets in Fife, to announce they will not carry out tail-docking, calling it “painful and, we believe, totally unnecessary”.

In addition to this failure by government to safeguard the welfare of Scotland’s animals, the SNP refuse to bring legislation on fox hunting in Scotland even up to the level of England and Wales, refuse to ban snares, and refuse to ban stink pits.

Both wild and domestic animals are regularly found among piles of bodies left to rot in these pits, as well as protected species, with a high probability that family pets have also been killed. All to lure foxes towards a cruel, agonising death.

Large-scale culling of mountain hares is now routine on many upland “sporting” estates in the belief it protects red grouse against the louping ill virus, spread by ticks. I say “belief” because there is no scientific evidence to support it.

I’m determined Greens will make progress in the fight for improvements in legislation to protect Scotland’s wildlife, but I am also confident that, as public awareness grows, we will move closer towards introducing legislation to ban the sale of dogs, in particular.

The Dogs Trust suggests more than 37,000 lost and abandoned dogs remained unclaimed in UK local authority kennels in 2015-16, with four per cent of strays being euthanised due to lack of capacity. It is encouraging that the number of strays is down from last year, but it’s clear we still have much work to do. Many Evening News readers will have much-loved pets from Edinburgh’s Cat and Dog Home, Balerno’s SSPCA and Lothian Cat Protection in Bonnyrigg. Please visit them first.

The need to move away from a culture that views animals as commodities to breed, buy, sell, discard or hunt, towards one of adopting and rehoming is clear. If we really are a nation of animal lovers, we need to be better at showing it.

Alison Johnstone is a Green MSP for Lothian