Posts Tagged ‘mountain hare


‘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.


Cairngorms National Park mountain hare cover up denied

Last week we blogged (here) about an extraordinary comment attributed to Eleanor Mackintosh, a Board member of the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA). During a discussion with the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association on 29 September 2016, Ms Mackintosh apparently suggested they use covers on the back of vehicles to hide the evidence of mountain hare culls rather than risk photographs being taken of piles of dead hares being transported on open-backed vehicles:

Naturally, most people would expect the CNPA to be clamping down on the mass slaughter of mountain hares on grouse moors within the National Park, not suggesting to gamekeepers that they instead just hide the evidence, so Ms Mackintosh’s comments didn’t go down too well. One of our blog readers, Andy Holden, wrote to Ms Mackintosh to express his disgust and she duly replied as follows:

Dear Mr Holden

Thank you for your recent email in relation to mountain hares in the Cairngorms National Park.

It is my opinion that what I said has been taken completely out of context I am very clear on, and whole heartedly support the CNPA current position on hare culls.

The Cairngorms National Park Authority is clear in its position on mountain hare culling. The CNPA does not support ‘hiding’ in any way the number of hares culled. On the contrary, our advice to land managers is to be more open about the number of hares culled. We recognise that culling hares is legal and that culls can be undertaken for a number of reasons. We do not support large scale culling and endorse the call for restraint made by SNH. We support the ongoing work to develop best practice in counting mountain hare numbers being developed by the James Hutton Institute and GWCT. In the meantime our advice to land managers is to set out clearly why culls are undertaken, share information on the numbers of hares culled and where possible to count hare numbers consistently while waiting for the recommendations on counting methodology from the current research.

The information you refer to is a note by the Scottish Gamekeepers Association of a meeting with CNPA to discuss a number of aspects of the recent National Park Partnership Plan consultation.


Eleanor Mackintosh


Interesting. So Ms Mackintosh doesn’t deny that she made the suggestion, but instead she claims her remarks were taken “completely out of context“. Really? By whom? Not by us – we posted the notes from the CNPA/SGA meeting exactly as they were presented in the FoI response (see photo above).

Perhaps she meant that the notes from the meeting (prepared by the SGA) hadn’t been written up accurately and had reported her comments ‘out of context’? That’s entirely possible, of course, but in this case it seems unlikely.

Why would we say that seems unlikely? Well, because the notes from the meeting, as prepared by the SGA, were emailed to the CNPA on 4 October 2016. The recipients of that email included Will Boyd Wallis (CNPA), Hamish Trench (CNPA), Mike Cottam (CNPA) and someone listed as ‘Eleanor’. Will, Hamish and Mike had all attended the meeting with the SGA, so we assume the person named as ‘Eleanor’ was Eleanor Mackintosh, who was also present at that meeting.

Later that same day, Hamish Trench (CNPA) sent an email back to the SGA (also copied to Will, Mike and ‘Eleanor’) acknowledging receipt of the notes but not accepting them as an accurate reflection of what was said during the meeting by him, Will and Mike. Hamish offered to amend the notes before they were circulated more widely.

On 6 October, Will Boyd Wallis (CNPA) sent an amended version of the notes back to the SGA, and copied in Hamish, Mike and ‘Eleanor’. In this amended version, Will had made several editorial changes to some of the comments, but did not amend the comments attributed to Eleanor. Presumably, as ‘Eleanor’ had been in receipt of all this correspondence, if she thought her comments had been placed ‘completely out of context’ here was the perfect opportunity for her to say so.

She didn’t.

You can read the correspondence between the SGA and CNPA here: cnpa-sga-mtg-29-sept-2016-amendment-of-notes

Now, maybe Ms Mackintosh was away, maybe her internet was down, maybe she didn’t see the notes until they were published on this blog.

Or, maybe, she did suggest that gamekeepers should hide dead mountain hares under covers and now she’s in the middle of a shit storm and she’s looking for a way out.


Cover up in the Cairngorms National Park!

Well done to Scottish animal charity OneKind for organising today’s protest rally at the Scottish Parliament, enabling campaigners to call on MSPs to put an end to the mass unregulated slaughter of tens of thousands of mountain hares on Scottish grouse moors.

Ingeniously, OneKind replicated the now infamous image of that truckload of dead mountain hares (published here and here earlier this year) with their own truckload of (soft cuddly toy) mountain hares:


(Photo from the rally by Stuart Spray).

Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham addressed the rally and said the Scottish Government opposes mass culls, that legislation to protect mountain hares has not been ruled out, but that the Government needs evidence before it can act.

That evidence might be harder to come by in future. A board member of the Cairngorms National Park Authority (Eleanor MacKintosh) recently suggested to members of the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association that they literally cover up their mass hare-killing sprees by using covers on the back of vehicles to hide the evidence from prying camera lenses instead of having piles of dead hares on display in open-backed trucks!!!

This information (and other fascinating discussions) was revealed in an FoI asking for information about a meeting between the CNPA and the SGA that was held in September this year. We’ll be blogging a lot more about that in due course.


Protest rally against mountain hare slaughter takes place at Holyrood tomorrow

Just a reminder that there will be a protest rally outside the Scottish Parliament building tomorrow, against the continued slaughter of mountain hares on Scottish grouse moors.

As many of you will know, tens of thousands of mountain hares are massacred on Scottish grouse moors, including inside the Cairngorms National Park. These killing sprees are unmonitored, unregulated and uncontrolled (see here for plenty of background information).

The rally will take place between 12-2pm and there will be various speakers including Alison Johnstone MSP, David Stewart MSP and Harry Huyton (Director of charity OneKind, the event organisers) – further details here.

The gamekeeping community is agitated about this protest rally. Last week the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association tried to deflect attention from their hare killing sprees by drawing attention to other mountain hare culls that take place during the closed season, licensed by SNH, for the purpose of protecting forestry (see here). What the SGA actually achieved by publishing this was a massive own goal – hilariously explained in this OneKind blog here.

Not to be deterred, this week the SGA has sent a briefing note to all MSPs, ahead of the protest rally, trying to explain that the killing of tens of thousands of hares on grouse moors is for the hares’ own good. They also claim that all those dead mountain hares are destined for the human food market.

Here’s a pile of shot mountain hares that didn’t make it to the human food market. They were dumped in a stink pit on an Angus Glens grouse moor. Surrounded by a circle of snares, the odour of rotting hare flesh would have attracted predators, which were likely snared and killed, their bodies probably added to the stink pit.

If you’re disgusted by this, and think the Scottish Government is failing in its duty to protect this species, please try and get to the rally tomorrow and let MSPs know this matters to you.


Stop killing mountain hares! Protest at Scottish Parliament, 17 November 2016

As many of you will know, thousands of mountain hares are massacred on Scottish grouse moors every year, including inside the Cairngorms National Park. These killing sprees are unmonitored, unregulated and uncontrolled.


The grouse shooting industry justifies the slaughter on the following grounds:

Hares can affect fragile habitats through grazing pressure

Mountain hares can cause the failure of tree-planting schemes

Mountain hares can spread sheep tick which also affects red grouse

Shooting mountain hares is a legitimate sport

Hares_Lecht_25Feb2016 (2) - Copy

Conservationists have long raised concerns about the legality and sustainability of these culls, but all to no avail (see links to our earlier blogs on this issue below). Well now’s your chance to send a strong message to the Scottish Government that enough is enough.

The charity OneKind is organising a protest event at Holyrood on Thursday 17 November 2016, between 12 and 2pm.

Some background info about their mountain hare campaign can be read here.

To join the protest, you need to register here.

You might also want to sign their petition to stop the mountain hare massacres (here).

hares_AngusGlens_Feb2015_113 hares killed driven shooting

If you want to find out more about mountain hare massacres, the following blogs will help:

10 November 2013: Massive declines of mountain hares on Scottish grouse moors (here)

11 November 2013: The gruesome fate of mountain hares on Scottish grouse moors (here)

22 November 2013: MSP wants answers about mountain hare culling (here)

11 December 2013: SNH still licensing mountain hare culls (here)

28 September 2014: Mountain hares massacred on Lammermuir grouse moors (here)

21 October 2014: CEH scientist claims gamekeepers “protect” hen harriers and mountain hares (here)

30 December 2014: Pointless call for ‘voluntary restraint’ on Scottish grouse moor mountain hare massacres (here)

10 January 2015: New petition puts more pressure on SNH to protect mountain hares (here)

17 January 2015: “The eradication of mountain hares in eastern and southern Scotland is disgraceful” (here)

23 March 2015: Hare-brained propaganda from the grouse shooting industry (here)

14 April 2015: Ten conservation groups call for 3-year ban on grouse moor mountain hare slaughter (here)

15 February 2016: More mountain hares slaughtered in the Angus Glens (here)

13 March 2016: More mountain hares massacred in Cairngorms National Park (here)

14 March 2016: Cairngorms National Park Authority responds to mountain hare slaughter (here)

20 March 2016: Queen’s Balmoral Estate accused of mountain hare massacre (here)

30 March 2016: ‘Sustainable’ mountain hare culls – where’s the evidence? (here)

28 May 2016: Mountain hare slaughter set to continue in breach of EU regulations (here)

14 June 2016: Mountain hare massacres on Scottish grouse moors: no planned monitoring (here)

hares_AngusGlens_Feb2015_133 killed driven shoot

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New blog exposing grim reality of grouse moor ‘management’ in Scotland

There’s a great new blog that’s well worth following: UPLAND EXPOSURE

Written by two professional ecologists, the blog offers an insight to the grim reality of upland management in the Scottish Highlands, and has already provided evidence of the disgraceful ‘management’ practices of driven grouse moors, including the erection of mountain hare-proof fences across the moors, ‘designed to split up mountain hare populations making them easier to eradicate because immigration of other hares is stopped’.

This photo is taken from their blog. It’s a ‘stink pit’ (or midden) containing the decomposing bodies of mountain hares. These stink pits are used to attract foxes and other predators, which are then killed in snares and added to the pile of rotting corpses. The photo was taken on the boundary of a grouse moor and forest near Inverness.

hare stink pit via UplandExposure


Mountain hare massacres on Scottish grouse moors: no planned monitoring

Last month we blogged about a series of Parliamentary questions and answers about mountain hare massacres on Scottish grouse moors and how these unregulated culls are, in our opinion, in breach of EU conservation legislation (here).


Those Parliamentary questions had been lodged by Scottish Greens MSP Mark Ruskell. Now Alison Johnstone, a fellow Scottish Greens MSP, has lodged some more and the Government’s response to those questions is, frankly, shocking.

Question S5W-00222. Date lodged: 25/5/2016:

To ask the Scottish Government what it is doing to establish a working group to help plan the future arrangements for sustainable management of mountain hares.

Answered by Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham 3/6/2016:

Under the auspices of Scotland’s Moorland Forum (which represents a range of stakeholders involved in moorland management, including the Scottish Government and Scottish Natural Heritage) it has been agreed that guidance on the management of mountain hare be produced by a selected sub-group of specialists and representatives from relevant interest groups. The inaugural meeting of this sub-group took place on 23 May 2016.

The sub-group will produce and publish interim best practice guidance in the autumn. This interim guidance will be updated after the anticipated publication (in 2017) of the findings from a study being undertaken by the James Hutton Institute, the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust and Scottish Natural Heritage into the most appropriate methods of assessing mountain hare numbers.

The outputs of the study will be used to standardise the method of establishing mountain hare density in conjunction with the promotion of more cooperative working between estates, thus facilitating better informed decisions on sustainable hare management at regional scale.

Question S5W-00223. Date lodged: 25/5/2016:

To ask the Scottish Government what level of estate compliance Scottish Natural Heritage has recorded in relation to its 2014 position statement, ‘SNH-GWCT-SLE position on large-scale culls of mountain hares to reduce louping ill‘.

Answered by Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham 3/6/2016:

The position statement issued by Scottish Natural Heritage, the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, and Scottish Land and Estates sets out a number of different recommendations relating to the management of mountain hares in Scotland. There are no formal arrangements for monitoring the extent to which the recommendations are being followed.

Question S5W-00224. Date lodged: 25/5/2016:

To ask the Scottish Government when SNH plans to require formal mountain hare cull returns from estates in order to inform future sustainable management practice for this species.

Answered by Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham 8/6/2016:

There are no current plans to require mountain hare bag returns.


So ‘best practice guidance’ is to be produced in the autumn by a sub-group of the Moorland Forum. We don’t yet know which organisations have representatives on that sub-group but we can take a guess. One of them is bound to be Scottish Land & Estates – that’s the group that repeatedly says, without any supportive evidence, that widespread and indiscriminate culls are not having a detrimental effect on mountain hare populations.

And will that ‘best practice guidance’ follow the recommendations made in a recent independent review on sustainable moorland management which was submitted to SNH’s Scientific Advisory Committee in October 2015? One of the main recommendations made in that review was that the case for widespread and intensive culling of mountain hares in the interests of louping-ill control has not been made (see here). That should, technically, put a stop to mountain hare massacres on grouse moors. Why hasn’t it?


And what, exactly, is the point of producing best practice guidelines anyway? The estates involved in mountain hare massacres are not obliged to adhere to these ‘guidelines’, and, as we can see from the Government’s responses to the two other Parliamentary questions, there are no formal arrangements for monitoring estate compliance and nor are there any plans to require these estates to submit figures on how many hares they’ve massacred each year.

Why is that? How difficult is it to actually monitor estate compliance? If it is so very difficult, there is no point whatsoever in producing best practice guidelines for an industry with a reputation for long-term criminality. Guidelines can be ignored without suffering a penalty. Legislation can, and often is, ignored by many in this industry but at least there’s the (very slim) possibility of a penalty if they’re caught at it.

And what possible reason is there not to ask for annual cull figures from each estate? Why isn’t the Government demanding these figures? Surely they are obliged to do so in accordance with their obligations under the EU Habitats Directive? It can’t be that difficult for the estates to produce these figures. After all, they claim their culls are already ‘done in accordance with best practice’ and are ‘informed and balanced’ (see here). If they can make such claims then presumably they’ve already got the evidence to back them up? If they haven’t got the evidence then these claims should be treated with the contempt they deserve. It’s just another propaganda exercise to deflect attention from what’s actually going on on those grouse moors.

Hares_Lecht_25Feb2016 (2) - Copy

The Scottish Government’s lack of critical evaluation of this situation, their willingness to ignore the findings of an independent review, and their unwillingness to take any meaningful steps to prevent the ongoing extensive and indiscriminate slaughter of this so-called protected species at the hands of grouse moor managers is nothing short of disgraceful.

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