30
Nov
16

‘More evidence required’ before mountain hare culls are regulated, says Cabinet Secretary

More parliamentary questions about the mass slaughter of mountain hares have been asked recently, thanks to Alison Johnstone MSP (Scottish Green Party).

We were particularly interested in this one:

Question S5W-04501: Alison Johnstone, Lothian, Scottish Green Party. Date lodged: 4/11/2016.

To ask the Scottish Government what measures it is taking to ensure that estates adhere to voluntary restraint on large culls of mountain hare, as called for by the joint position taken by Scottish Natural Heritage, the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust and Scottish Land and Estates on large-scale culls of mountain hare to reduce louping ill, and what measures it is taking to monitor compliance with this policy.

Answered by Roseanna Cunningham (22/11/2016)

Scottish Natural Heritage is working with key stakeholders to improve transparency and understanding about the reasons why some moorland managers continue to wish to cull mountain hares and the numbers involved.

If evidence emerges that large-scale culls are continuing, the Scottish Government will consider the case for tightening regulation of this issue.

Dear god. ‘Working with stakeholders to improve transparency‘? Who’s she kidding, when the Convenor of the Cairngorms National Park Authority’s Planning Committee, Eleanor Mackintosh, is advising gamekeepers to hide the evidence of mountain hare culls, even though she denies it (see here) and the CNPA Convenor Peter Arygle denies it too (see here). How is hiding evidence improving transparency?!

We’ve been asking for transparency about the mass slaughter of mountain hares for some time. We asked some pretty simple questions back in March (see here) but so far, no response.

And why does the Scottish Government need more evidence anyway? Why isn’t the already-available evidence sufficient to show that large-scale culls are indeed continuing? And what type of evidence does the Scottish Government require before action is taken? Perhaps we should try the ‘I’ve seen it from my kitchen window‘ approach – seems to work in Westminster.

We’ve heard similar excuses about needing more evidence so many times before, usually in relation to an illegal raptor persecution case: e.g. ‘We won’t hesitate to take further action if deemed necessary’, but then when more evidence is produced, i.e. the corpse of yet another illegally-killed raptor, it’s never quite enough for the Government to deem that promised further action ‘necessary’. It’s just a never-ending cycle of ‘Next time we’ll do something’, until the next time comes and then the line is repeated, and then the next time and then the next time after that ad nauseam.

On the subject of what constitutes sufficient evidence, we’d recommend reading the latest article on the always thought-provoking ParksWatchScotland blog (see here). They’ve written an excellent piece called ‘What counts as evidence in our National Parks?’ in which they compare the frankly low grade ‘evidence’ recently used by the Scottish Government to introduce restrictive camping byelaws in the Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park, with the high grade evidence of large-scale mountain hare culling that is seemingly insufficient to trigger the introduction of byelaws to prevent these mass culls in the Cairngorms National Park. The disproportionality is striking, as are the probable reasons behind it.

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33 Responses to “‘More evidence required’ before mountain hare culls are regulated, says Cabinet Secretary”


  1. 1 Chris Roberts
    November 30, 2016 at 6:29 pm

    I am afraid that our Scottish assembly is little better than Westminster when it come to wildlife and the environment. I’m surprised that they have, at long last, given the Beaver trial the thumbs up.

  2. 2 Dylanben
    November 30, 2016 at 7:22 pm

    Begs the question as to what they regard as ‘evidence’. Maybe they would see things differently if some of the cull victims were dumped on their doorsteps!

  3. November 30, 2016 at 7:22 pm

    Now, now. Cunningham promised ‘Swift action will be taken in such circumstances’
    Oh hang on that was unauthorised introductions not killing.
    Funny that.

  4. 4 Mr Greer Hart, senior
    November 30, 2016 at 7:28 pm

    Like Humpty Dumpty who sat on a wall, all of us who fight to bring an end to the illegal persecution of wildlife, have been sitting on a similar wall; a wall built of bricks made from anger, frustration, determination, disgust and cynicism. We, like good soldiers, have marched our arguments against the killing of Birds of Prey, onto the pages on newspapers, magazines, books, and any other form of the media to bring humane management to our countryside, both here in environmentally repressed Scotland and South of the Border. Humpty must now fall, and a better leader found, more in the mould of a Fidel Castro, without the violence, who would sweep away the whole rotten system that pretends to be looking after our protected areas for wildlife and ancient woodlands. How can anyone have any faith in whomsoever is appointed to be an Environment Minister, when, behind the scenes, they are merely a pliable front to utter reassuring phrases to calm our strident outcries, when another beautiful Falcon, Eagle or Harrier is found slain, for being a threat to the blood sport of the mass shooting of poor wee Grouse.

    It is time to take the blinkers off and see the reality of the world we live in. That part of it we are dealing with is made up of a population of Government Ministers, police, procurator fiscals, judges, lawyers, rich and influential individuals, the latter high financing their outdated “sport”, and who use the old boy network to pull favours, when things get a bit uncomfortable, when a gamekeeper or an estate, is being arraigned. I should really add “allegedly so” for what I have stated, and I sincerely apologise to those of professions I have cited, who are as genuinely concerned as we are about the dire straits their outdoor activities has descended to.

    As this year ends, we should be determining to create a new front to finally make Scotland’s countryside free of poisons, snares, traps guns that impact on any creature that may affect game bird numbers. Those with whom we have been dealing think we believe in Santa Claus, and we are not able to produce a plan for the management of the countryside. We are living in a modern age, with more and more people demanding an end to cruelty wherever it is found, and whatever sentient being is having to suffer it. Scotland has many negatives, and the one we are dealing with reflects another weakness in our ability to conquer that which is a serious reflection on our inability to root out bad practice.

    • 5 Doug Malpus
      November 30, 2016 at 8:16 pm

      Beautifully put but how can we stop their insatiable desire for careless killing.

    • December 1, 2016 at 9:57 am

      I feel the same and at 71 yrs old am in despair about the powerful supporting the landowners, and our wildlife being slaughtered for financial gain really. As you say, the majority want to see an end to the hunting the shooting and general snaring, poisoning and trapping. reading Feral and case in point is the beavers and flooding.

      • December 1, 2016 at 10:19 am

        If there was a prime time BBC slot for a series on this subject, something similar to Planet Earth II, then there would be a chance of recruiting the majority to realise what is happening their doorstep. Dream on.

        • 8 Secret Squirrel
          December 1, 2016 at 4:11 pm

          Except for BBC Scotland’s decidedly pro-Estates coverage – witness the recent Out of Doors episode by shotgun-owning Euan McIlraith

    • 9 4foxandhare
      December 1, 2016 at 12:18 pm

      Very well said but how can we persuade ANY, let alone ALL, of those vested interests to give up their destructive campaigns against our wildlife, in Scotland? They will never do that.

  5. November 30, 2016 at 8:54 pm

    That “Next time we’ll do something” story reminds of the sign, inscribed with AD 1736, on a pub just down the road from me, ‘Good ale tomorrow for nothing’.
    Just as we all wish the government to act NOW on the masses of already recorded evidence on raptor persecution and mountain hare culling I also wish that I had good ale for nothing TODAY!

  6. 11 Allan Withrington
    November 30, 2016 at 10:01 pm

    How much more ‘bloody’ evidence do they need. I have seen hectares of the stuff just following this website.

  7. 12 Marion Weston
    November 30, 2016 at 10:21 pm

    Typical cop out! Not good enough! Action needed NOW!

  8. 13 pauline hoodless
    November 30, 2016 at 10:48 pm

    You are a complete disgrace, our wildlife are irreplaceable.

  9. 14 Secret Squirrel
    December 1, 2016 at 1:32 am

    I said when they were proposed that National Parks would be a disaster for Scotland and nothing I’ve seen yet convinces me otherwise

  10. 15 Marco McGinty
    December 1, 2016 at 3:04 am

    Utterly shameful.

    I wonder how quick the response would be if there was a sudden upsurge in deer or salmon poaching, or if lots of members of the general public suddenly decided that they wanted to help themselves to several braces of grouse?

    Would there be a long, drawn out period of years of study and evidence gathering? Somehow, I don’t think so.

    So far, Cunningham has been as useful as her immediate predecessor, and she was one of the most useless politicians the country has had to endure. I’m beginning to wonder if the two of them are in some sort of competition to see who can end up with the brownest nose.

  11. 16 Alister J Clunas
    December 1, 2016 at 9:53 am

    If we accept Roseanna Cunningham’s premise that there is not enough evidence to stop the slaughter of Mountain Hares (which most of us don’t) then conversely there is not enough evidence that the current practice of killing large numbers of Mountain Hares is not affecting populations of Mountain Hares.

    In cases such these then we should adopt the precautionary principle and cease all culling of Mountain Hares until evidence is available that it is not affecting populations of Mountain Hare.

  12. December 1, 2016 at 10:39 am

    As I’ve said before, probably many times, so please excuse me for repeating this; if predators were not culled in the manner that grouse moor management systematically carries out then Mountain Hares would balance their numbers in tune with the natural state of the mountain moorland.
    It seems obvious to me that removing the natural predators such as foxes, stoats and Weasels (raptors too – but of course that would be illegal) then the prey species become over-populated.
    It is then that man steps in again and culls the animals which are over-populating.
    Rather than the touted “Guardians of the moors” grouse keepers do in fact completely smash up the natural flora and fauna.
    There is much in the media at present about what it is to be human; could this type of nature destruction ever be included in the answers to that question?

  13. 19 Peter Robinson
    December 1, 2016 at 11:27 am

    Many of us south of the border hoped the SNP would be a beacon of enlightened conservation. Not so, it seems, still beholden to the feudal mentality. Don’t go upsetting the laird, now! Will things ever change?

    • 20 SOG
      December 1, 2016 at 1:48 pm

      I quite agree, the landowners are unlikely to be friends with the SNP*, the shooters likewise. It will take more pressure from birder members within, and others outside the party to cause change.

      *If you remember where the ‘NO’ posters were, that might be a clue.

  14. 21 steve macsweeney
    December 1, 2016 at 1:13 pm

    I keep banging on and on about the need for high profile conservationists to bang their drums. Chris Packham does his damnest, Bill Oddie tries his best, but in my view it needs David Attenborough to get off the fence and be counted. This man is probably the most respected naturalist and conversationalist in the world, and creates wonderful peak time images of the wild, but always over there. He needs to be targeted and forced off the Establishment fence. Doesnt he give a shit about british wildlife, you know, the stuff on his doorstep. The wild creatures, protected or otherwise, that are persecuted on a daily basis, most in the name of recreation for a privileged few.
    I have written to him and promised to lick his boots, but nothing comes back.
    I have nothing but the greatest disrespect for this man. With power comes responsibility. Unless a bankroll is on the table it seems.

    • 22 Les Wallace
      December 1, 2016 at 1:41 pm

      He has been openly critical of the badger cull, but I agree he really needs to make his views on grouse moors (and deer stalking on barren hills) public – I can’t possibly see he’d be in favour of them! Even many of the keepering fraternity who do little else but slag of the conservation movement hold him up as a real conservationist, no doubt because he hasn’t criticised them…yet. They’d get one hell of a fright if he spoke out and they’d be left with rather red faces after their previous endorsement. I doubt if there is anyone anywhere who could punch as hard as him in letting the public know what the estates are really doing to our wildlife.

      • 23 steve macsweeney
        December 1, 2016 at 5:27 pm

        Totally agree, although his open criticism of the Badger cull was an almost whispered 3 minute film ( that’s all I’ve ever seen anyway).

    • 24 Peter Hack
      December 4, 2016 at 8:10 pm

      Ever heard Attenborough say a word on the CAP ? 220,000 air miles for one series, 5 star hotels etc etc…

  15. 25 Peter Robinson
    December 1, 2016 at 3:05 pm

    The BBC generally shies away from any criticism of the bloodbath that passes for upland management and Attenborough is very much their man.

    • 26 steve macsweeney
      December 1, 2016 at 5:32 pm

      You might say the same for Packham Peter,but he is not afraid to say what he thinks.Attenborough is taking care of his bank balance.An utter disgrace when there is not one single British mammal over 4 inches long that is not daily and routinely poisoned, trapped, snared, or shot.
      He should get off his fat well upholstered arse and walk the friggin ‘ walk.

  16. 27 Iain Gibson
    December 1, 2016 at 6:59 pm

    It’s all very well asking high profile conservationists to do their bit, and no-one does it better than Packham. However it requires ordinary people power to make things change, and the level of apathy among everyday birdwatchers and conservationists I find quite depressing, if not scary. There is a degree of pressure on RSPB to come off the fence and be more dynamic in their criticism of hunting and shooting interests, but their approach remains quite insipid, other than when a single species cause is picked up (for a while). I’ve yet to fully understand why their insistence on not being an animal rights body prevents them from raising ethical questions about the way we treat species simply because they’re designated as gamebirds. Or why they don’t regard the perception of selected predator species as “vermin” as an anachronism in the modern world. There is of course the rarely mentioned clause in their “Royal” Charter which prevents them from criticising “legitimate field sports.” Time to ditch the Charter, which is a form of shackles.

    • 28 steve macsweeney
      December 1, 2016 at 10:28 pm

      I agree Ian but no- one listens to the guy in the corner. You and me and thousands like us moan and groan but we don’t have the public’s ear.David Beckham or Ant ‘n Dec would command public attention than we could dream about.
      That’s life, warts and all. We need Attenborough to stir hearts.
      Instead of 130000 pushing to ban grouse shooting you might get half a million.Then you get results. Otherwise it’s the long game…..

      • 29 Marco McGinty
        December 2, 2016 at 1:07 am

        I think the both of you have it correct.

        It does need the RSPB to distance itself from the royal charter and come out fighting against the killing, but it also needs someone with the clout of David Attenborough.

        Chris Packham has been tremendous in his role, but it must also be stressed that he is doing this as an independent, and not as a BBC representative. Indeed, the recent Autumwatch series, with Golden Eagle and Hen Harrier both featured, had ample opportunity to mention the recent persecution incidents of both species, but the BBC, no doubt trying to protect their establishment friends, appear to have ignored the entire issue.

        Now, considering that the BBC has lost more or less it’s entire sporting coverage in recent years, as well as other programme losses, it probably can’t afford to lose the major attraction to its natural history output. If the BBC loses Attenborough, it loses the draw to its natural history coverage, and without natural history, it has very little left.

        So, yes, the RSPB must do more and get its million plus members involved and educated, and Attenborough must come out against this wholesale slaughter in his own country.

        Either that, or we are left with no other option other than to believe that he is perfectly happy to allow the slaughter to continue, as long as there are honours and titles on offer.

        • 30 steve macsweeney
          December 2, 2016 at 8:43 am

          As I said, I keep banging on about this.I am very grateful to read your acknowledgements as it appears that David Attenborough has been enjoying life under the radar for far too long.
          Of course the RSPCA should continue to fight.Royal charters are associated with animal abusers anyway.The beauty of having David Attenborough onside is that any criticism of the ” National Treasure” by the CA et al would be regarded as something akin to blasphemy by his doting public.These organisations would have to choose their words extremely carefully for fear of increased alienation.
          Does anyone have any suggestions of how we can embarrass the great man into climbing over the fence? Can he be petitioned?

        • 31 Iain Gibson
          December 2, 2016 at 10:56 pm

          I don’t disagree with either Marco or Steve; perhaps I should have made it clearer that we need a mass movement of ordinary people to complement or support the high profile advocates like Chris Packham and David Attenborough. Really what concerned me over the past two years was the apathy of the very people who should be angry and supporting Mark Avery’s petition – those among the million RSPB members and local bird clubs, etc., who did not sign, and even those active members of Raptor Study Groups who inexplicably didn’t show at Hen Harrier Day events. However it’s clearly the RSPB who could have made the real difference. I got the distinct impression watching the Westminster Hall debate that the pro-grouse shooting Tory MPs were able to depict the defenders of Hen Harriers as a small minority, and of course they did make frequent reference to how the RSPB ‘supports’ grouse shooting.

  17. 33 Peter Hack
    December 4, 2016 at 8:12 pm

    It would be interesting to press RSPB on how Golden Eagle distribution is affected by this ?


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