Mountain hares slaughtered on Scottish grouse moors: new report published

On the eve of the open season (1st August) for killing mountain hares in Scotland, animal welfare charity OneKind has published a new report outlining concerns about the scale of this slaughter taking place on Scottish grouse moors.

The report can be downloaded here: mountain hares persecution report Onekind 2017

The report provides a good summary of what is known about mountain hare persecution (who’s killing them, why they’re killing them and which methods they’re using), but perhaps more importantly, the report emphasises how little is known about the impact of this apparently legal slaughter on the conservation status of the mountain hare population. The report also provides new information about 25 companies that offer mountain hare killing as a ‘sporting’ activity on grouse moors, some of which seems to be endorsed by Scottish Government agencies including the tourism agency Visit Scotland and the statutory conservation agency, Scottish Natural Heritage.

The report details recent calls from a range of conservation organisations asking for a moratorium on the culling until the impact on the hare population can be properly assessed, and the Scottish Government’s weak response that has mostly focused on making a plea for ‘voluntary restraint’ – a plea that has been comprehensively ignored by the grouse-shooting industry. It’s hardly a surprise, given the industry’s reputation for long-term criminality; if they won’t obey the law it’s quite unlikely they’ll adhere to any call for voluntary restraint.

On the publication of the new report, OneKind Director Harry Huyton said:

Mountain hares are an iconic species in Scotland that should be protected. Our report shows that instead they are persecuted in enormous numbers for entertainment. This killing is unregulated, and there are no guarantees that it is not further driving the decline of these species or causing unacceptable suffering.

Today, the day before the open season begins, OneKind is calling on the Scottish Government to take urgent action and introduce a moratorium on large-scale hunts and culls before the season gets into full swing”.

On the apparent endorsement of large-scale recreational hare killing by Scottish Government agencies, Harry said:

I hope that Visit Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage share our surprise and displeasure with what we have revealed in our report. It’s simply not appropriate for Government agencies to actively promote the large-scale recreational killing of native wildlife, and I am writing to both agencies today to ask them to remove their endorsement of the Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group and businesses that offer these services”.

The report makes a series of recommendations including the introduction of complete protection of mountain hares within Scotland’s national parks, prohibiting mountain hare killing except under licence all year round, and strengthening and bringing transparency to the licensing arrangements.

We know that mountain hare culling will be investigated as part of the Scottish Government’s forthcoming review on grouse moor management, but we don’t know when that review will begin.

Given the mountain hare’s protected status, the Government’s responsibility to maintain the population in favourable conservation status, the legitimate concerns about the population impact of large commercial hare shoots on grouse moors (e.g. see here), the grouse-shooting industry’s complete denial that there’s even a problem (sound familiar?), it doesn’t seem too much to ask for a temporary moratorium on all mountain hare killing until its effects are properly assessed. Does it?

UPDATE 13.30hrs:

From the OneKind website:

  • The Balavil Estate website has been taken down and the following comment was provided: “A website set up by the previous owners of the Balavil Estate does not present an accurate description of the estate as it is today. We are seeking to close this website which is not in our ownership. Since 2015, Balavil Estate has had a new owner who is investing in land and properties on the estate, particularly in relation to its farming activities. The estate has no plans for hare shooting.”
  • Viscount Sporting are no longer advertising mountain hare hunting. Their website now says that “hunting experiences will exclude Mountain Hare shooting as of the 2017 shooting season” and that they are “firmly in line with the current position of the Scottish Wildlife Trust”.
  • The Mirani Hunting entry on VisitScotland.org appears to have removed the image of a mountain hare hunt.

23 Responses to “Mountain hares slaughtered on Scottish grouse moors: new report published”

  1. 1 Tony Black
    July 31, 2017 at 2:09 am

    You go on about the killing of mountain hares, but I never see anythig on your page about the mindless slaughter of red deer sanctioned by the RSPB , SNH or the John muir trust, can you tell me why?

  2. 6 chris lock
    July 31, 2017 at 6:02 am

    Big money behind this so the law will look the other way, as otherwise they will loose their ‘backhanders’.

  3. 7 AMM
    July 31, 2017 at 8:05 am

    This is utterly disgraceful and completely needless. This cannot be condoned by the Scottish government or any agency. The evidence is saddening to see but necessary to share.

  4. July 31, 2017 at 8:41 am

    Ive just thought of a new advertising campaign to encourage tourists to Scotland. “Come to Scotland – a land of mountains, whisky, wear silly plaid clothing and where Visit Scotland and The Scottish Govt promote the unregulated slaughter of iconic species. Why not get away from it all. Come to Scotland – snare a hare for fun or for that really special occasion poison a golden eagle.” What you think? personally I think tourists would flock in, Well better not flock in – they might be shot.

  5. 9 Lynn Everitt
    July 31, 2017 at 11:04 am

    Persecution of one species to preserve they’re grouse for shooting is just ludicrous and totally unacceptable !!

  6. 10 Peter Shearer
    July 31, 2017 at 12:10 pm

    So there are competing reasons for people to visit Scotland. One group wants to visit to see the iconic native species and the other group wants to kill them! Even if we were to accept that the killing was not to our taste but unfortunately is to others, you would think that the tourist industry, the politicians, the competing forces would find a compromise. But no, these people want to wipe out the wildlife and the enjoyment that many of us get from witnessing it and maximise their enjoyment/profits at the expense of other people’s enjoyment-as well as the poor creatures that are slaughtered.Power to all those that are trying to help our wildlife whilst our politicians look the other way.

  7. 11 I C T
    July 31, 2017 at 12:38 pm

    Also Tony, you may also consider that unlike mountain hares, deer do not have any natural predators, other than man.

    • July 31, 2017 at 3:10 pm

      Yes, but these mountain hares may well be increasing in numbers on the grouse moors (until they are shot for sport) because one of their main predators, the golden eagle, is “discouraged” from existing on the moor.

      Perhaps it’s “chicken & egg” – Are the hares increasing because of the eagle shortage or are the hares being shot to discourage foraging eagles from settling in the area. Either way it’s too much interference on, what would otherwise be, a reasonably balanced eco-system.

    • 13 Norman Murray
      July 31, 2017 at 5:12 pm

      I have never seen so much propaganda in one place ,completely denude of facts, the mountain hare is expanding it range and is not endangered from shooting but because of their success their numbers explode in the right habitat,they are a host to tick and when numbers increase too much they have to be culled,in years that they have not done well they are not shot.Most of what you state is supposition and fairy tales to inflame unnecessary and false anger,to suit your own agenda,misleading the unaware public.

      • 14 Nimby
        July 31, 2017 at 11:29 pm

        Man created an imbalance and you now offer that up for an excuse for slaughter.

        As for propaganda websites, take a look at the spin bowled by “You forgot the birds”, then GW[C]T fail to address illegal persecution …. few bad apples etc. If the sport had complied with the law then there would be no need for a campaign?

      • 15 Les Wallace
        August 2, 2017 at 3:00 pm

        Norman please explain why red grouse are never, ever at too high a population density despite the need to put out trays of medicated grit for them on grouse moors? Where are mountain hares expanding their range exactly and where’s the evidence mountain hares need to be controlled and this wouldn’t be achieved by letting natural predation do its work in what’s called a half decent eco system as opposed to a glorified outdoor factory to produce sickly grouse for feathered clay pigeon shooting? The unaware public are those who’ve been taking the rose tinted propaganda from the sporting estates as truth – well that’s changing now and the pathetic lies and smears are being shown up for what they are. Please stop insulting our intelligence it’s tedious.

  8. July 31, 2017 at 2:27 pm

    I sent an email to Sarah Fowler regarding the recently blogged stink pits and I have enclosed the wholly inadequate reply which purposefully ignored the central questions and criticisms of my original email. SAnyone whom wants to see all of the emails just reply to this comment.

    “Many thanks for taking the time to write to me on this difficult and upsetting issue. As reported in our statement earlier this month, we are working with police to support the investigation into the incident which took place on land owned by a private estate.

    All information that has been put into the public domain has been passed to the police to be considered and as I’m sure you can appreciate, I cannot comment further on this issue until the police investigation is concluded.

    We would advise you contacting Crimestoppers on 0800 555111 or Derbyshire Police on 101 if you have any information of wildlife crime.



  9. July 31, 2017 at 5:09 pm

    Yes I similarly received the standard reply having suggested that the NP get ahead of the curve & distance themselves from the unsustainable driven grouse shooting industry & associated criminality, in favour of a balanced future upland environment that would benefit all.
    No vision in that NP I’m afraid.

    Keep up the pressure !

  10. 19 Catherine
    July 31, 2017 at 7:59 pm

    If they did not kill the foxes, Stoats etc
    Then hare numbers would be regulated
    Why should a wild animal be killed to maintain abnormally high numbers of grouse
    The grouse ate tick carriers too

  11. 20 DAVE JAMES
    August 1, 2017 at 8:32 pm

    Emotive language and lack of logic and reason are no use to man nor beast

    • August 2, 2017 at 10:44 am

      Dave – Even logic and reason, or at least the perception of …. can be fairly subjective – “in the eye of the beholder” like beauty. I think we can all agree that there can be bias on both sides. The bias on one can be based on involvement and financial return and even “conventional attitude”. On the other it is perhaps founded on a more moral attitude – not necessarily correct or guaranteed but nevertheless based on conscience and belief. You’re right about one thing – there should be a consensus based on logic and reason – but this can only be reached when illegal practises are discontinued – and any resistance to dealing with that will always be met with adverse public opinion against the driven grouse lobby.

  12. 22 Lois Sycamore
    August 1, 2017 at 11:55 pm

    Cruelty must stop, no need for this!

  13. 23 Northern Diver
    August 3, 2017 at 5:40 pm

    Interesting bit of research about Ticks/ Predators and Lyme disease. Shows killing predators can make tick situation worse. Article about US & Europe but relevant to UK also.

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