Posts Tagged ‘mountain hare


Scottish Parliament votes to protect mountain hares

HUGE congratulations to Scottish Greens MSP Alison Johnstone this evening after her amendment calling for protected status to be given to mountain hares (and thus effectively ending the slaughter of 26,000 on grouse moors every year) was passed, 60 votes for, 19 against.

[Photo by Steve Gardner]

Full credit to Environment Minister Mairi Gougeon for supporting the amendment.

More on this when the official report is published, and more on the finer details of the Animals & Wildlife Bill. For those who missed the televised debate we’ll post a link to the archived video when it comes online.

A lot of people have put in a massive effort on this issue over the years. For now, though, lets raise a glass to the late Professor Adam Watson whose meticulous five-decade research on the mountain hare has provided the evidence which finally led to this tangible and hard-fought-for conservation win.


Scottish gamekeepers desperate to keep slaughtering mountain hares on grouse moors

The Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) has come out all guns blazing to try and prevent the Scottish Parliament from voting to protect the mountain hare in tomorrow’s debate on Stage 3 of the Animals and Wildlife Bill.

Scottish gamekeepers are terrified that they’ll no longer be able to enjoy what everyone else sees as a grotesque bloodbath.

SGA Chairman Alex Hogg has penned a typically deluded letter to MSPs in which he claims to be ‘a representative of the people of all of Scotland‘ (eh?) and how stopping the mass slaughter of mountain hares on grouse moors ‘will affect human beings’ lives’ (er…) and ‘worsen the conservation status of the mountain hare‘. Really?

Oh, and further justification for the slaughter is the protection of walkers, ramblers and mountain bikers from the perils of Lyme disease:

Of course, it’s not the first time the SGA has been accused of making ‘misleading’ and ‘greatly exaggerated’ claims’ about mountain hares (see here and here).

Meanwhile back on planet humanity, support is growing for MSP Alison Johnstone’s amendment to increase protection for the mountain hare that would effectively end the mass killing on grouse moors (see here and here).

The RSPB has published a good blog in support (here), as has animal welfare charity OneKind (here), and the signatures on the Scottish Green’s petition calling for support has now passed 12,000 in just a few days. If you’d like to sign it, please visit HERE.

Please keep writing to your MSPs – we know that mail bags have been inundated on this topic and it’ll be of great interest to see who votes in support of this amendment in tomorrow’s debate.



YOUR vote to end mass slaughter of mountain hares on Scottish grouse moors

As you know, Scottish Greens MSP Alison Johnstone has recently lodged an amendment to the Animals & Wildlife Bill, which would make mountain hares a protected species, effectively ending the mass slaughter on grouse moors (see earlier blog here).

An estimated 26,000 mountain hares are killed on grouse moors every year. Here’s one of them, shot and left to rot on Glenogil Estate in the Angus Glens. Photo by OneKind:

Alison’s amendment is due to be debated and then voted upon by the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday 17 June 2020.

There has been a LOT of activity on social media since the amendment was announced, with many constituents contacting their MSPs and asking for an indication of how they intend to vote on this issue.

As a further demonstration of public support for the amendment, the Scottish Greens have launched a public petition where YOU can have your say. It has gathered over 7,000 votes in the last two days. If you’d like to sign it, please click HERE

For those who want to learn more about the mass killing of mountain hares on Scottish grouse moors, this 2017 report (here) provides a good introduction, as does this video:


Scottish Parliament to vote on banning mass slaughter of mountain hares on grouse moors

Press release from the Scottish Greens (10 June 2020)

Parliament to vote on mountain hare mass killing ban

The controversial practice of mass killing of mountain hares may finally end thanks to a proposal from Scottish Green MSP Alison Johnstone, who has lodged an amendment to the Animals and Wildlife Bill. The amendment would make mountain hares a protected species, effectively ending recreational killing and mass killing on grouse moors.

[Shot mountain hares strung up in a chilling larder, screen-grabbed from a controversial feature on Countryfile (2018) showing mountain hares being shot on a Scottish grouse moor]

The Lothians MSP has a proposed member’s bill to end the killing of the iconic animal but will seek to introduce the protections sooner in stage 3 of the Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Bill.

Alison Johnstone said: “Mountain hares are iconic animals, native to the Highlands. Yet rather than being treasured they are barely protected by the Scottish Government, and persecution and mass killings are rife. This is our chance to end the killing and protect this species for future generations.

In 2019 the conservation status of the mountain hare was downgraded to ‘unfavourable’ after new data published by the EU revealed populations have experienced a major decline [see here]. This followed shocking evidence of large-scale killing on shooting estates [here] apparently to increase the numbers of grouse available.

Mountain hares are routinely being killed in huge numbers on grouse moors in particular, with an average of 26,000 killed every year. Efforts to get shooting estate managers to practice voluntary restraint has failed.

I hope that the SNP and other parties will ignore special pleading from the shooting lobby and do the right thing next week. Either this amendment passes and mountain hares are protected, or Parliament turns a blind eye to the continued slaughter of a native species


Stage 3 of the Animals & Wildlife Bill will take place next Wednesday and MSPs will vote on Alison Johnstone’s amendment to make the mountain hare a protected species.

If you’d like to encourage your MSP to support this amendment, please contact them now. If you’re not sure who your MSP is, you can find out by typing in your postcode here.


Scottish Land & Estates admits it needs help to interpret scientific data

In response to this morning’s news of the massive decline in mountain hares on some grouse moors in NE Scotland, the grouse shooting industry has treated us all to its usual display of outright denial and utter contempt in response to any scientific research that undermines its mantra that grouse shooting is environmentally sustainable and doesn’t need any kind of regulating.

Here’s the full response of the Scottish Moorland Group (part of the landowners’ lobby group Scottish Land & Estates):

And here’s the full response from the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association:

Both statements are pitiful in their arguments: ‘We didn’t see him’, ‘He never asked us for our data’ and they confuse rigorously-collected scientific data with vested interest opinion, as seems to be the norm these days. On social media several gamekeepers have chosen to make personal attacks on the integrity of the study’s authors, Dr Adam Watson and Professor Jeremy Wilson, both of whom are highly respected experts within their fields. Questioning the honesty of an 88 year old man, just because you disagree with his research findings, is not a good look.

Neither of these two organisations make any attempt to critique the study’s actual scientific methods, although both have disputed the scientific findings and both have posted a copy of a graph from the GWCT, purporting to show ‘no discernible trend’ in the mountain hare population. They’ve probably been encouraged to cite this graph as ‘evidence’ to support this claim because that’s exactly what the GWCT has been doing all day, too:

What none of them seem to acknowledge (or even understand?) is that this GWCT graph bears no relevance whatsoever to the findings of Watson & Wilson that the mountain hare has suffered a catastrophic decline on some grouse moors in NE Scotland over a seven-decade-long study.

This GWCT graph shows data collected as part of the National Gamebag Census as an indication of the number of mountain hares that have been bagged (killed) since the 1950s. It is NOT a graph showing a population census of mountain hares over this period. All it shows us is that gamekeepers have been killing mountain hares at a fairly consistent rate over a long period of time (despite the so-called ‘voluntary restraint’ introduced a few years ago!), irrespective of the species’ declining population status. Dr Hugh Webster has written an excellent blog explaining this (see here).

We might have expected better from the GWCT, although let’s not forget this is the organisation that devised the Strathbraan raven cull ‘study’, recently slammed by scientific experts as being “completely inadequate“, “seriously flawed” and “will fail to provide any meaningful scientific evidence“.

We don’t, however, expect any better from the Scottish Moorland Group (or SLE) or the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association, as neither are recognised for their glittering academic prowess. Although, the SGA statement does include the sentence, “It will be helpful to scrutinise the study’s methods and consistency given such a discrepancy with the current reality“. Perhaps they’ll ask their mate’s son, that HMRC tax officer (BSc Physics), to critique the authors’ critical thinking and scientific methods. We’ll look forward to that.

But things might be about to change at Scottish Land & Estates – they’re advertising for an ‘Environment Assistant’ with the specific role of ‘developing the organisation’s ability to understand, analyse, interpret and sometimes to challenge, a wide range of scientific reports and data on environmental issues‘:

Read the full job advert here: SLE Environment Assistant job description_Aug2018

God knows SLE needs some help in this area but looking at the job spec, desired experience and salary, SLE isn’t expecting to recruit anyone with much ability. Not that they’ll need much if all they have to do is explain to the Scottish Moorland Director that if the Scottish hen harrier population has suffered a 27% decline over a 12 year period that doesn’t mean the population has “remained static“.

Meanwhile, SNH has responded to the Watson & Wilson mountain hare decline paper with this:

Obviously having learned a lesson from its approval of the “completely inadequate” and “seriously flawed” Strathbraan raven cull licence, SNH is no longer willing to rely upon its own scientific staff and is quite rightly seeking the input of its Scientific Advisory Committee on this important issue.

It’ll be very interesting to see whether SNH is still willing to claim the mountain hare is in ‘favourable conservation status’ (as it did on very shaky evidence last year) in light of today’s publication. If it isn’t in favourable conservation status (and we don’t see how it possibly can be), that should be the green light for the Environment Secretary to extend the closed season year-round, meaning no more mountain hare massacres unless under a specific licence from SNH.


New study reveals shocking decline of mountain hares on Scottish grouse moors

[Photo shows shot mountain hares, dumped and left to rot on Glenogil Estate in the Angus Glens. Photo by OneKind]

Press release from RSPB Scotland (14 August 2018):


New study shows mammals at less than one per cent of original levels

Mountain hare numbers on moorlands in the eastern Highlands have declined to less than one per cent of their initial levels, according to a newly published long-term scientific study.

Counts of mountain hares from six decades of consistent spring counts on moorland managed for red grouse shooting and on neighbouring mountain land were analysed in the research by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and the RSPB.

From 1954 to 1999 the mountain hare population on moorland sites decreased by nearly 5% every year. This long-term moorland decline is likely to be due to land use changes such as the loss of grouse moors to conifer forests, and is reflective of wider population declines that mountain hares are facing across their range.

However, from 1999 to 2017 the scale of the moorland declines increased dramatically to over 30% every year, leading to counts in 2017 of less than one per cent of original levels in 1954.

[Graphs from the study give a vivid illustration of the dramatic decline of mountain hares on the study’s grouse moors from 1999 onwards]

The dominant land use in these sites was intensive grouse moor management.  Here, the unregulated practice of hare culling as a form of disease control, ostensibly to benefit red grouse, has become part of the management of many estates since the 1990s, despite the absence of evidence that it has any beneficial impact on total numbers of grouse shot.

On higher, alpine sites numbers of mountain hares fluctuated greatly, but increased overall until 2007, and then declined, although not to the unprecedented lows seen on moorland sites.

The Mountain hare is the UK’s only native hare and was listed as Near Threatened in a recent review by the Mammal Society indicating that the species is of conservation concern in the UK.

[Photo of a blood-soaked mountain hare dumped on Glenogil Estate, Angus Glens. Photo by OneKind]

Dr Adam Watson, of the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, who was lead author of the work, comments:  “Having reached the age of 88 I am both delighted and relieved to see this paper published in the Journal of Applied Ecology.  Having counted mountain hares across the moors and high tops of the eastern Highlands since 1943, I find the decline in numbers of these beautiful animals both compelling and of great concern.  We need the Scottish Government and Scottish Natural Heritage to take action to help these iconic mammals of the hill – I hope they will listen to the voice of scientific research

Professor Jeremy Wilson, RSPB’s Head of Conservation Science in Scotland who assisted in analysis of the data, said: “It has been an honour to support Dr Watson in the analysis of his extraordinary long-term data set.  These data reveal severe recent declines on grouse moors that are strongly correlated with the start of mountain hare culls for which there is no clear scientific justification.  Urgent action is needed if the future conservation status of mountain hares is to be secure.”

Duncan Orr Ewing, Head of Species and Land Management at RSPB Scotland said: “The mountain hare is a keystone native species of the Scottish uplands. This authoritative research suggests that we should be very concerned about its population status in its former strongholds. We consider that large-scale population reduction culls are both illegal under EU law and unwarranted as a method for controlling grouse disease.

Management of this species should now be more tightly controlled by Scottish Natural Heritage to safeguard mountain hare populations. We expect this subject to be given thorough consideration by the current independent grouse moor enquiry, which is looking at how grouse moors can be managed sustainably and within the law.”


The full paper citation: Watson, A. and Wilson, J. (2018). Seven decades of mountain hare counts show severe declines where high-yield recreational game bird hunting is practised. Journal of Applied Ecology. [UPDATE 8am: Now available to read in full here]

Unfortunately we’re not allowed to publish the paper in full but here’s the abstract:

Amusingly, the Scottish Gamekeepers Association’s response to these damning results is a pathetic attempt to discredit the study by claiming, “Many of the gamekeepers in the survey area didn’t see the author undertake counts, even when they were working in these areas daily“.

The response from Scottish Land & Estates (issued via Media House!) isn’t much better: “We are perplexed that the author of this report did not seek to get data from moorland managers“. Er, that’s probably because Dr Watson knows that gamekeepers’ data aren’t exactly reliable and besides, he was collecting his own data, using a consistent method, for 70 years.

SLE’s press statement continues: “It will, however, come as little surprise that RSPB Scotland has chosen to release this paper, continuing its political campaigning against grouse moor management, on the day that the season gets underway and it is obviously an attempt to influence the ongoing independent review of grouse shooting which includes mountain hare management“. They’re such hypocrites, given what they published on Monday, blatantly timed to coincide with the start of the grouse shooting season!

Anyway, back to more important and relevant matters…..

Under the European Union’s Habitats Directive the Scottish Government has a legal duty to maintain mountain hare populations in a state of good health. In 2014 SNH called for a period of voluntary restraint on hare culls. Data from this study shows that declines continued in many areas despite this period of “restraint”.

In 2015 and 2017 ten environmental NGOs, led by RSPB Scotland, called for a moratorium on mountain hare culls until further information could be obtained to prove that populations were healthy and sustainable. The Scottish Government did not enact this moratorium with the reasoning that there was a lack of evidence to prove that populations were declining.

In 2016, Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham, in answer to a Parliamentary Question from Alison Johnstone MSP, stated:

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

Also in 2016, Roseanna addressed a OneKind rally outside the Scottish Parliament 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.

Earlier this year, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said in Parliament that the brutal, military style mass culling of mountain hares on grouse moors was “not acceptableafter seeing video footage from OneKind, League Against Cruel Sports and Lush.

The time for talking has ended. The shocking results of this new scientific study cannot be ignored.

Please join 15,000 people and sign OneKind’s open letter to the Scottish Government and SNH calling for an end to this barbaric unregulated slaughter.

UPDATE 20.30hrs: Scottish Land & Estates admits it needs help to interpret scientific data (here)


Further calls to end mountain hare culling as slaughter season opens today

Press release from OneKind and League Against Cruel Sports Scotland (1st August 2018):

Charities have today intensified their calls for urgent action from the Scottish Government to prevent the further mass killing of Scotland’s mountain hares.

The open season on mountain hares begins today (1st August) and runs until 28 February. During this period, tens of thousands of mountain hares will be killed. The majority will be killed by gamekeepers to manage their land for red grouse shooting, while the rest are shot freely for fun.

[A pile of shot mountain hares left to rot on a grouse shooting estate in the Angus Glens]

Figures released earlier this year under Freedom of Information show that large-scale mountain hare killing has been routine in Scotland for many years, with an average of 25,961 mountain hare killed a year. However, numbers reached an all-time high in 2014 when 37,681 were killed.

83% of the Scottish public think culling should be regulated or made illegal, according to polling commission by OneKind and the League Against Cruel Sports in May 2018.

[An ATV full of shot mountain hares photographed on a grouse moor in the Monadhliaths, by Pete Walkden]

Harry Huyton, Director of OneKind said:

The First Minister and The Cabinet Secretary have both been clear that the large-scale culling of mountain hares is unacceptable, yet once again the killing season has begun, and Scotland’s mountain hares are left unprotected. It’s time to say enough is enough. We’re calling on the Scottish Government to move from rhetoric to action by introducing protections for mountain hares before the killing reaches its peak in the winter months”.

Robbie Marsland, Director of the League Against Cruel Sports Scotland said:

Scottish estates kill thousands and thousands of mountain hares in the hope that this will increase the population of red grouse shot for entertainment later in the year. Their equation is: more dead mountain hares equals more dead red grouse.

This circle of death is just one part of the out of control intensification of grouse moor management. The Government should both protect the mountain hare and seriously consider the wider impact that grouse moors have on Scotland’s wildlife and environment.”


OneKind has written an open letter to Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham and Scottish Natural Heritage CEO Francesca Osowska, asking for urgent action. Please consider signing in support HERE

A short one-minute video summarising campaigners’ concerns about ongoing mountain hare culls in Scotland:


Gamekeepers invite First Minister to visit estates where mass slaughter of mountain hares takes place

Scottish gamekeepers have invited First Minister Nicola Sturgeon & Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham to visit estates “to learn about mountain hare culls”.

The invitation comes after the First Minister’s angry response to recent video evidence showing the brutal, military-style killing of mountain hares undertaken by gamekeepers on several Scottish grouse moors and filmed by OneKind, Lush & the League Against Cruel Sports (Scotland) in February this year. Ms Sturgeon commented in Parliament that this mass killing was “not acceptable”.

Here’s the footage for those who missed it:

Presumably the invitation isn’t for the First Minister & the Cabinet Secretary to take part in a hare cull, or perhaps it is? Perhaps the gamekeepers envisage the pair kitted out in tweeds, riding on a quad bike across the moor, blasting hares in the face and legs with a shotgun, all in the name of ‘sport’ and ‘conservation’? Perhaps then they could go on to visit a stink pit to toss in the bloodied corpses on top of the pile of festering bodies already dumped there, with just enough time to set a few snares and batter to death a few cagefuls of trapped corvids before heading back to the big hoose for tea. How could they refuse such an invitation?

Here’s the press release from the gamekeepers:


Gamekeepers have invited the First Minister to visit their estates to find out about mountain hare management after she warned filmed culls were “not acceptable”.

Nicola Sturgeon said she was “angry” at footage filmed by animal rights charities which showed the animals being killed on shooting estates.

She warned large-scale mass culls could put the conservation status of the species at risk and said legislation to protect the hares is among options being considered by government.

Currently, landowners operate a voluntary restraint agreement regarding numbers culled.

Now, gamekeepers shown in the footage have written to the First Minister and Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham to invite them to their estates to learn more about the rationale behind the killings.

Head gamekeeper for the Clune and Corrybrough Estates in Inverness-shire, Duncan MacKenzie, said: “We’d really like to be able to show the First Minister around rather than discuss these issues in Edinburgh.

I think it would be beneficial for everyone to get an understanding of why the hares need to be managed, here.”

He said the footage filmed by OneKind, League Against Cruel Sports and Lush showed “working people being secretly filmed carrying out a legal management activity which is no different to other forms of species management and is well within the laws passed by Scottish Government“.

The ironic thing is that those who are seeking the end of grouse management would also be signalling the beginning of the end for the mountain hare in Scotland,” he added.

Populations are thriving on grouse moors but are struggling badly elsewhere due to predation and loss of their preferred heather habitat and we hope to have the opportunity to explain this in full to the First Minister.”

Mr MacKenzie said the estates are not hiding anything, adding: “We have good records of the amount of hares in comparison to the amount we have taken off the hill, covering a number of years, and there are still high numbers of hares on the ground.”

The animal rights charities behind the footage claim it shows the agreement for voluntary restraint over culls has “failed” and along with broadcaster Chris Packham are calling for a cull ban until a review on the issue concludes.


And here’s a press release in response from RSPB Scotland:


In response to an invitation to the First Minister by gamekeepers to find out about mountain hare culls RSPB Scotland’s James Reynolds said: “If the First Minister is minded to accept this invitation she will of course also wish to visit and observe land of a similar nature, but managed more sustainably. A good example is the Cairngorms Connect project, which is being supported by The Scottish Government’s own Cairngorms National Park Authority – where multiple stakeholders involving the state, charities and the private sector are co-operating in partnership to deliver habitat restoration at a landscape scale for the benefit of local communities, local economy and Scottish environment.

RSPB Scotland is delighted that the current Scottish Government grouse moor enquiry is addressing the issue of unsustainable mountain hare culls, and undertaking an economic comparison of intensive management versus alternative models; we are sure the First Minister will also wish to give her full support to this initiative by her Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham MSP.

The notion that the survival of mountain hares is entirely dependent on intensive grouse moor management is of course absolute nonsense.  Mountain hares existed quite happily in balance with their natural habitat since the last ice age before intensive grouse moor management began in the Victorian era. They will do so again if given the chance to flourish without needless mass culls.”



Grouse moor management “treats nature with contempt”

Last week saw the widespread media broadcast of a film produced by Lush, OneKind and The League Against Cruel Sports (Scotland) depicting the brutal, military-style mass killing of mountain hares on a number of Scottish grouse moors, filmed in February this year. For those who missed it, here it is again:

Inevitably, public outrage ensued and resulted in First Minister Nicola Sturgeon stating in the Scottish Parliament that these culls are “not acceptable” (see here).

The fall-out continued yesterday with an article by Jim Crumley in The Courier, who wrote about how grouse moor management “treats nature with contempt“.

It’s a brilliant piece, taking apart word by word what he calls an “ill-advised response” to the film from the Scottish Moorland Group’s Director, Tim (Kim) Baynes.

It’s well worth a read, from a journalist who frequently hits the nail on the head when describing the grouse-shooting industry – he’s previously referred to the Scottish Gamekeepers Association as “the UKip of the natural world” (here) and has described sporting estates as “a rural perversion” (here).

In case the article disappears, we’ve produced it below. It’s also worth reading one of the Reader’s Letters, by David Mitchell, (here).


By Jim Crumley (published in The Courier, 3 April 2018)

The reputation of Scotland’s landowners took another hefty blow in the solar plexus in the seven days since I made the case for legislation to protect the red fox from the worst excesses of what passes for land management, after a protest outside the Scottish Parliament about abuse of foxhunting legislation.

This time, it was film of a “cull” of mountain hares so militaristic in its strategy and so devastating in the scale of its slaughter that it would not have looked out of place in a newsreel clip from Syria.

The First Minister, who was suitably horrified like the rest of us – most of the rest of us, of which more anon – said the Scottish Government would explore “all available options to prevent mass culls of mountain hares and one of those options is legislation and a licensing scheme”.

Good. Please do it very, very quickly.

Because as the delay in implementing legal protection for the Tayside beavers demonstrates on a regular basis, the legal vacuum is being filled by men with guns and traps to kill as many as possible in the shortest possible time, and heavy machinery to wreck their dams and lodges.

Just when you thought things could hardly get any worse for the landowning fraternity, widespread screening of the film on television news and online was followed by an ill-advised response to the film by the director of the Scottish Moorland Group.

And just in case you thought the Scottish Moorland Group was a balanced, multi-interest coalition including community associations and nature conservation professionals, membership comprises the chairmen of seven regional groups of moorland owners and managers, and representatives from the Scottish Gamekeepers Association and the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust. This is a hardcore self-interest group.

So what its director said was this:

This footage has been filmed by animal rights activists who actively campaign against this type of land management and have no interest in managing the balance of species and habitat on Scotland’s heather moor.

Mountain hare management is not only legal but necessary…”

Let’s go through that bit by bit. Firstly, it really doesn’t matter if the footage has been filmed by animal rights activists, the SWI or the Tufty Club.

The fact is that it exists and it is a film of slaughter that demonstrably treats nature with contempt.

Secondly, when it comes to criticising the activists’ level of interest in managing the balance of species and habitat on Scotland’s heather moors, the director is taking the art of pots calling kettles black to previously unplumbed depths.

There is nothing – nothing at all – in the entire repertoire of the landscapes of Scotland that is more hideously imbalanced in its relationship between species and habitat than a grouse moor.

Grouse moors are denuded of natural vegetation other than heather, which is routinely burned and manipulated so that – in theory at least – the moors produce the required harvest of grouse.

[An east Highlands grouse moor, photo by Chris Townsend]

And let’s not be deluded by the industry into thinking that the grouse is treated as anything other than a crop, a crop to be harvested at great expense by rich people with guns. And instead of spraying the crop, the grouse is fed medicated grit.

That is what Scottish moorland management amounts to. Anything that gets in the way of that ambition – anything at all from hares and foxes to eagles and harriers – is the enemy, and is treated as such.

The hare’s problem is not that it savages grouse or eats their eggs (it’s a vegetarian), but rather that it carries a tick, and some people think that increases the presence of the tick in grouse.

There is no evidence to suggest an abundance of hares is bad for grouse numbers, but there is such enthusiasm on estates for shooting hares by the truckload that they do it anyway.

The American wildlife writer and artist David M. Carroll, wrote in his book, Swampwalker’s Journal:

“The term ‘wildlife management’, often used in environmental polemics of the day in reference to human manipulations, is an oxymoron. We should have learned long ago to simply leave the proper space, to respectfully withdraw, and let wildlife manage wildlife.”

In Scotland, the Victorians ushered in new perversions and depravities in the matter of “wildlife management”, but evidence of the chill hand they brought to bear on nature still pervades the air in the 21st Century, still poisons the land with its prejudices, and still calls it wildlife management.

And to return to the SMG director’s response to the hare cull – no, mountain hare management may be legal for the moment, but it is most certainly not necessary.

For thousands of years before the Victorians lost the plot, there were widespread and healthy populations of both mountain hares and red grouse. There just weren’t any grouse moors.



Brutal, military style mass killing of mountain hares on Scottish grouse moors

Press release from OneKind / League Against Cruel Sports / Lush (29/3/18):


Extraordinary footage from an investigation carried out by OneKind, League Against Cruel Sports and Lush has revealed the brutal, military style mass killing of Scotland’s mountain hares on grouse moors. Campaigners supported by Chris Packham are calling on the Scottish Government to take immediate action and end the killing.

Mountain hare shooting is one of many country sports offered by Scottish game estates, and grouse moor managers also organise culls of the animals in an effort to protect red grouse for sport shooting. Mass killing of mountain hares is just one part of the intensification of grouse moor management in Scotland.

OneKind Director Harry Huyton said:

Our investigation has revealed that instead of restraining themselves, as the Scottish Government has asked them to do, some estates seem to be at war with mountain hares. We filmed large groups of armed men moving around the mountains in convoys, killing hares and filling their pick-ups with dead animals as they go. In one particularly harrowing scene a hare is maimed by a gun and then apparently killed by the gunman’s dog, demonstrating the serious suffering caused by themass killing of hares on grouse moors.

These extraordinary scenes of carnage have no place in the Scottish countryside. The voluntary approach has failed, and the Scottish Government must take urgent action if it is to prevent further killing before the open season starts once again in August. We have written an open letter calling for an end to the killing, and I urge everyone who values our wildlife alive rather than dead to sign it“.

Ruth Peacey, naturalist and filmmaker for Lush said: “We knew this was taking place and, although horrific to witness, it was important to gain video footage of these culls to provide evidence to those who doubted. It was the military approach to killing that shocked our team the most, and I hope that all the footage will be used to bring about changes to provide better protection for mountain hares and stop these large-scale culls“.

Chris Packham, conservationist, naturalist and TV presenter said: “It is clear that self-restraint is not preventing large-scale culls of mountain hares on grouse moors and, as such, the law should be changed before we lose another iconic species from our uplands“.

Director of the League Against Cruel Sports Scotland, Robbie Marsland added: “The sickening irony of the mayhem we saw on those mountainsides is that it is done in the hope that it will increase the number of red grouse to be shot for entertainment.

Mass killing of mountain hares is just one part of the intensification of grouse moor management in Scotland. Any animal that appears to threaten the red grouse is targeted by traps and snares or shot. Threatened species like hen harriers are mysteriously absent from some grouse moors. Unplanned tracks and roads scar the hillsides, anti-worming chemicals are left unattended, lead shot pollutes the land and heather is burned off on a landscape scale – all to ensure that one species will thrive. And then that species is shot for entertainment.

No one seems to be quite sure, but it looks like getting on for up to 19% of Scotland is a grouse moor. In the context of a national debate about land reform we believe now is the time to ask if this is how we want our land to be used“.

Mountain hare killing is not monitored in Scotland, however an estimate from an SNH study suggests that 25,000 mountain hares were killed in 2006/7. This is understood to be between 5-14% of the total population. It is thought that approximately 40% of those killed are shot for sport shooting, and 50% as part of organised culls.

The charities are calling on the Scottish Government to impose an all-year round close season on hare shooting until a review by Professor Werrity on the issue concludes.


Read and sign OneKind’s open letter calling for an end to the mass killing of mountain hares here

In response to this new footage, a Scottish Government spokesperson has said they are “seeking urgent meetings with relevant stakeholders, while considering all available options for additional protections“.

It’s not clear what the Government hopes to achieve by conducting “urgent meetings”. The grouse moor owners don’t see there’s a problem and as long as the mass culling of hares continues to be a legal pastime, they are obviously going to continue to tell everyone the best way to conserve mountain hares is to shoot them in the face.

However, the following conversation has just taken place in the Scottish Parliament:

Alison Johnstone MSP (Scottish Greens):

New footage of the sickening slaughter of mountain hares is reported by the BBC today. Has the fact that this evidence comes from well regarded animal welfare groups finally convinced the Scottish government that voluntary restraint is sadly lacking on too many shooting estates. When and with whom will the urgent meetings that the government now seeks take place and when will the Scottish government introduce new legal protection for this fabulous, iconic animal?

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon:

I share Alison Johnstone’s concern and anger because its evident in her voice that some of the images that we’re seeing on our screens today there is real public concern and we share the public concern about this iconic species on the Scottish mountains.

Large-scale culling of mountain hares could put the conservation status at risk and that is clearly unacceptable.

I know that the pictures that she refers to will be distressing to many people.

These meetings will take place with all relevant stakeholders, landowner groups, gamekeepers and environmental organisations.

I want to be very clear today that the Government will be exploring all available options to prevent the mass culling of mountain hares and one of those options is of course legislation and a licencing scheme

What we are seeing is not acceptable and that is a very clear message that goes from the government today”.


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