Stink pits – the disgusting reality of 21st century grouse moor management

Over the weekend, charities OneKind and the League Against Cruel Sports Scotland released the following video footage, filmed on a Scottish grouse moor earlier this year.

It shows a ‘stink pit’ (also known as a ‘midden’) which is a pile of rotting animal carcasses (including the corpses of native wildlife and sometimes domestic pets) that are dumped in a heap and surrounded by snares. The putrefying stench from the corpses attracts predators to the pit who are then caught in the snares, killed and thrown on to the pile of death.


This is the grisly reality of how the so-called ‘Custodians of the Countryside’ deal with native wildlife, including inside the boundaries of our National Parks. Snared, trapped, shot, killed and then dumped, like a pile of rubbish.

You have to wonder how this is still legal in the 21st Century, especially given the strict regulations imposed on farmers who generally cannot bury dead livestock unless at certain remote, designated locations. Gamekeepers? They can do what they like, even hanging the corpses of dead foxes over tree branches so their stench can be carried further afield.

We’ve blogged about stink pits before, as have others, e.g. see this blog written last year by OneKind and this article published by The Ferret (but beware, both contain more disturbing photographs).

In May 2017, Christine Grahame MSP (SNP) lodged a Parliamentary motion on the continued use of stink pits on game-shooting estates (see here). Her motion received cross-party support and resulted in a Parliamentary debate, in which Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said the use of stink pits would be reviewed as part of the grouse moor management review, which is currently underway.


17 Responses to “Stink pits – the disgusting reality of 21st century grouse moor management”

  1. May 15, 2018 at 11:14 am

    The mindset that dreams up this sort of thing is frankly downright evil. The are pandering to the desires of the well off who like to give the impression of occupying a sort of moral high ground.

  2. 2 George M
    May 15, 2018 at 11:33 am

    Aye, there used to be one at a small copse of woods at Shinfur, Glen Esk. I’ve no idea if it is still there though.

  3. 3 Merlin
    May 15, 2018 at 12:45 pm

    It is sad, something so disgusting and yet our trusted members of parliament can not bring themselves to ban it instantly preferring instead to fall back on the usual safe option of ordering a review and hoping people forget about it or it takes so long it lands on someone else’s desk.
    Stink pits, the true side of Grouse shooting you don’t see in the holiday broucher

  4. 4 George M
    May 15, 2018 at 1:27 pm

    Hopefull someone can enlighten me. If farmers in Scotland are not allowed to leave the carcasses of dead animals lying as around why can gamekeepers do so in seemingly indiscriminate locations? Does the threat to public health diminish if they are wild animals and birds which are left lying around?

    • 5 lizzybusy
      May 15, 2018 at 7:46 pm

      Since you asked …

      In Scotland, the use of livestock in stink pits is prohibited under S5 of The Animal By-Products (Enforcement) (Scotland) Regulations 2013 and S6 Dogs Act 1906. The law is clear that livestock must be disposed of in authorised facilities or, where there is a derogation, in specified conditions. However the disposal of livestock in stink pits does not fall within the terms of the conditions. The use of livestock as bait is therefore illegal.

      The Animal By-Products Regulation (EC) 1069/2009 specifies the types of authorised disposal facilities which must be used for the disposal of the carcasses of pets in Articles 12, 13 and 14. Stink pits are not recognised as an authorised disposal method. There is a derogation from the Animal By-Products Regulations which allows pets to be buried however the derogation provides no guidance on what a burial is other than to state that waste controls apply. In order to comply with waste regulations, the Association of Private Pet Cemeteries and Crematoria recommends burying a pet a minimum of 2 or 3 feet depending on the type of soil and covering the burial site with paving slabs to prevent wild animals digging up carcasses. Clearly, the use of pet carcasses in stink pits does not comply with waste regulations or the Animal By-Products Regulations. The use of pets as bait in stink pits is therefore illegal.

      The National Gamekeepers Organisation offers legal advice on the use of animal carcasses in stink pits in its Spring 2014 edition of Keeping the Balance. In it, Matthew Knight of Knight Solicitors, advises that “The Waste Framework Directive and its UK application also need to be borne in mind. The Environment Agency has made it clear that although it accepts that the Animal By-Products Order does not apply to the carcasses of healthy (at the point of death) wild animals or parts of such carcasses, they are looking for an opportunity to prove that the more general waste management rules (under the Environmental Protection Act 1990) do apply to everything including carcasses or body parts of healthy wild animals. This has yet to be tested in the courts, but the Environment Agency’s threat needs to be borne in mind by anyone who has a glut of dead foxes or dead pheasants and is thinking of using them to make a midden. If you want to avoid a court case (even if you win it in the end) it may be best to buy one of the American chemical lures that are readily available online at a reasonable cost rather than using residual deer, fox or pheasant carcasses”.

      Whilst the legal advice refers the opinion of the English regulator (ie the Environment Agency) regarding the application of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and the use of animal carcasses in stink pits, the advice offered by the NGO to its membership in Scotland is relevant since the offences covered under the EPA also apply to Scotland.

      Under S33(1)(a) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 it is an offence to deposit industrial or commercial waste or knowingly cause or knowingly permit such waste to be deposited in or on any land unless an environmental permit authorising the deposit is in force and the deposit is in accordance with the licence. S33(1)(c) also prohibits the treatment, keeping or disposal of industrial or commercial waste in a manner likely to cause pollution of the environment or harm to human health. The deliberate discarding and abandonment of the bodies of healthy wild animals above ground without a license authorising such a procedure appears to fulfill the terms of the offence of fly-tipping (S33(1)(a) Environmental Protection Act 1990.). In addition, the permanent dumping of the bodies of healthy wild animals and the regular topping up of the piles of bodies in a way that allows potentially harmful liquids and air borne bacteria from putrifying carcasses to escape into the surrounding environment breaches the terms of S33(1)(c) EPA.
      Furthermore, S34(1) EPA imposes the duty on individuals who produce, carry, keep or dispose of commercial or industrial waste or who have control of such waste to take reasonable measures (a) to prevent any contravention by any other person of section 33 (above) and (b) to prevent the escape of the waste from his control or that of any other person. The abandonment of putrifying carcasses generally in the open environment but occasionally in pits with no containment of the bodies or the potentially harmful fluids or air-borne bacteria is not a safe and secure way to prevent the dispersal of the waste. The use of healthy wild animals in stink pits in the manner recommended by by GWCT breaches S34(1)(a) and (b).

      • 6 Iain Gibson
        May 15, 2018 at 10:07 pm

        Extremely useful information lizzybusy, but what a pity that when it comes to gamekeepers offending, enforcement appears to be sadly lacking. Even on the rare occasion when a case goes to court, the judges seem strangely lenient, just as they often are with fox hunts, which to the lay observer seem to be flagrantly breaking the law. As a simple law-abiding citizen this is a mystery to me. What we have in the countryside appears essentially to be little more than a form of rural anarchy, with a suspicious undercurrent.

        • 7 lizzybusy
          May 16, 2018 at 4:42 pm

          Yes Iain. I really wish OneKind and the LACS would start raising this issue as a breach of waste regulations because as long as they ignore the National Gamekeepers Organisation’s legal advice that stink pits are illegal, then there will continue to be an assumption that this practice is legal. IMHO they should call on the Environment Agency to take a stand on this issue. It’s in the public interest for this barbaric practice to be challenged by law enforcement agencies. If the NGO thinks it’s illegal, then what is stopping the EA from acting against this criminal activity?

          • 8 lizzybusy
            May 16, 2018 at 9:55 pm

            Of course, in Scotland it’s the Scottish Environment Protection Agency that should be taking enforcement action.

            As an aside, the game shooting organisations claim the wild animal carcasses are bait but in order for wild animal carcasses to be classed as a by-product (ie bait) then the use of the object must be legal and the item must fulfill its function otherwise it is waste.

            However, the current, and widespread use of wild animal bodies as permanent dumped bait in stink pits is not only illegal fly tipping under S33(1)(a) and (c) and S34(1) Environmental Protection Act 1990 but also potentially breaches product and health and safety regulations and presents potential air, soil and water pollution risks. The list of regulations potentially at risk of being breached includes:

            The General Product Safety Regulations 2005
            The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974
            Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
            The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002
            The Classification, Labelling and Packaging of Chemicals (Amendments to Secondary Legislation) Regulations 2015
            The Groundwater Regulations 1998 and
            Water Resources Act 1991

            In addition, once an object no longer functions (eg it has degraded to the point where it no longer stinks) the object becomes waste and should be disposed of according to waste regulations ie in a secure bin and transported to an authorised waste disposal facility by an authorised waste transporter. The business should also complete a waste transfer note and this should be kept for two years.

            So we have all these potential breaches of legislation but nothing seems to be done about it. It’s quite remarkable.

      • 9 lizzybusy
        May 18, 2018 at 8:54 am

        Apologies – a slight correction.

        I stated that Animal By-Products Regulation (EC) 1069/2009 specifies the types of authorised disposal facilities which must be used for the disposal of the carcasses of pets in Articles 12, 13 and 14.

        In fact the authorised disposal facilities for pets are only specified in Article 12 because the carcasses of pet animals are classed (under Article 8 (a)(iii) Animal By-Products Regulation (EC) 1069/2009) as high risk Category 1 material. The rest of the comment is correct.

  5. 10 Loki
    May 15, 2018 at 7:34 pm

    Just sickening.

  6. 12 Dylanben
    May 16, 2018 at 9:14 pm

    The NGO might think it’s illegal, but the BASC apparently doesn’t. I came across this today in one of their publications ‘Pest and Predator Control’: ‘The technique often referred to as a a midden or ‘fox grave’ can be particularly useful if there are deer, livestock or other non-target species on your ground which make conventional snaring on runs difficult.’.

  7. May 17, 2018 at 12:27 am

    I have heard recently that there is crow and magpie trapping in Dorset.
    Does anyone know anything about it.
    It sounds very cruel and is culling these birds really necessary?

    • 14 Iain Gibson
      May 17, 2018 at 6:54 am

      The simple answer is that it is not really necessary, but sadly, crows and magpies can be legally trapped, killed or shot without any requirement to produce any evidence to justify such action. This can be done by any landowner, or any “agent” killing them with his/her permission. Personally I regard this as an antiquated law, but not everyone agrees, including the RSPB who cull crows on some of their reserves in certain circumstances.

    • 15 lizzybusy
      May 17, 2018 at 7:29 am

      In theory, crows and magpies are protected by the law except in certain circumstances when the landowner can apply for a license, for example, to protect crops or livestock then they simply have to check the terms of a Wildlife License – specially, in your case, a General License probably one to prevent damage or disease. Shooting estates would generally use that license or the General license for conservation purposes. They’re very similar – both pathetically weak! In such cases, the person simply has to look up the General License terms and conditions set by – in your case – the Environment Agency and in Scotland by Scottish Protection Agency – and comply with those terms. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/wildlife-licences. This is the licence for preventing damage or disease. https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/general-licences-for-wildlife-management#birds. Sadly, I suspect the killing you’re talking about is legal. The law ‘protecting’ ‘pest’ birds is pathetic.

  8. 16 lizzybusy
    May 17, 2018 at 7:38 am

    As Ian says, there’s no need to produce any evidence of damage or disease to Defra or SEPA and there is no monitoring by any agency. You don’t need any training to make or use these traps, no certification of competence of knowledge of the use of the equipment or species of birds, no knowledge of how to avoid trapping non target species ( there are dirty tricks used to encourage raptors to these traps which I won’t repeat) and no first aid skills. Disgusting, isn’t it.

  9. 17 Mike Betts
    May 18, 2018 at 6:50 pm

    Could not the estate be named, with the photograph dated?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Blog Stats

  • 4,732,539 hits


Our recent blog visitors