Posts Tagged ‘mountain hare


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 appears to have removed the image of a mountain hare hunt.

More evidence of mountain hares being used as bait on Peak District National Park grouse moors

A few days ago we wrote a blog about what appeared to be a bin full of dead mountain hares being used as bait in a stink pit bin on a grouse moor in the Peak District National Park (see here).

The blog stimulated a lot of comments about the identification of the species in the bin, whether or not the bin was being used as a stink pit, and whether the whole thing had been a set up by the Hunt Investigation Team.

A blog reader (independent of the Hunt Investigation Team) has sent in some more photographs that were taken on the same grouse moor, and on one other grouse moor also within the National Park, in years previous to the Hunt Investigation Team’s visit earlier this year.

This image (below) is particularly interesting – it’s the same stink pit bin, photographed in 2015, clearly showing a set snare on the lead in path, presumably set to catch any fox that might be attracted to the stench of rotting flesh in the bin:

On the same estate, a dead mountain hare with its belly slit open was photographed (1 March 2015) on a path where a snare had been set. The snare is quite difficult to see in this photo – it is to right of the path, adjacent to the fallen branch:

This photo (below) shows the same scene from the reverse angle, with the snare in the foreground:

This photo (below) shows another stink pit containing dead mountain hares (this time on a different grouse moor within the National Park) and the photographer says snares were seen surrounding the site but they were not set (photo taken Xmas Eve 2016).

It is clear from these photographs that mountain hares are being used as bait on these grouse moors to attract in predators that will be snared and killed. All of this is legal.

However, as we argued on the earlier blog, the mountain hare is listed as a UK Biodiversity Action Plan species (UKBAP), identified as threatened and requiring conservation action. The Peak District National Park Authority has the mountain hare listed as a priority species within the Park and say it is “a locally important species for which we’re taking action” (see here).

How does allowing them to be killed on a grouse moor within the National Park, and then used as bait to catch and kill other wildlife, constitute conservation action?

Emails to Sarah Fowler, Chief Executive of the Peak District National Park Authority:


Mountain hares killed and dumped in a bin on grouse moor in Peak District National Park

Earlier this month a group called the Hunt Investigation Team (HIT) released disturbing footage they’d filmed during the spring on a grouse-shooting estate in the Peak District National Park (see here). The footage included masked armed men, purportedly gamekeepers, snaring badgers and mountain hares. Derbyshire Constabulary is currently investigating the group’s claims.

HIT have since been releasing other photographs and video footage (see the HIT website here), including the following two photographs appearing to show a bin full of dead mountain hares (and at least one pheasant), presumably killed and now being used as a ‘stink pit’ (midden), where the odour of rotting corpses draws in predators which are subsequently snared, killed and added to the pile.

If you’re a UK tax payer, you are subsidising this gruesome activity (see here).

The mountain hare is listed as a UK Biodiversity Action Plan species (UKBAP), identified as threatened and requiring conservation action. The Peak District National Park Authority has the mountain hare listed as a priority species within the Park and say it is “a locally important species for which we’re taking action” (see here).

How does allowing them to be killed on a grouse moor within the National Park, and then dumped in a bin to be used as bait to catch and kill other wildlife, constitute conservation action?

Emails to Sarah Fowler, Chief Executive of the Peak District National Park Authority:


Call to stop mountain hare culling in Cairngorms National Park

Animal charity OneKind is stepping up its campaign to stop the mass slaughter of mountain hares on Scottish grouse moors.

You may remember OneKind organised a protest rally at Holyrood last November (see here), with the ingenious idea of replicating that now infamous photo of a truckload of dead mountain hares, with their own truckload of (soft cuddly toy) mountain hares.

They’ve got creative again and this time they’re asking people to sign a giant postcard, calling for an end to mountain hare culls in the National Park. The postcard will be delivered to the Cairngorms National Park Authority before the open season on killing mountain hares begins all over again in August.

For information about the campaign please see here

To sign the postcard please click here



An ATV full of dead mountain hares on Farr Estate grouse moor


This photograph was taken today on the grouse moor of Farr Estate in the Monadhliaths in the Scottish Highlands.

As today is the last day of the ‘open season’ for killing mountain hares, this slaughter is not criminal in the legal sense. But in an ethical sense?

So much for ‘voluntary restraint‘, eh?

Seems they didn’t take heed of the recommendation to hide the evidence.

Many thanks to photographer Pete Walkden for letting us publish this image.

UPDATE 1 March 2017: Many people on social media, new to this blog, have been asking why mountain hares are culled. Please read this earlier blog (and the associated links) for an explanation.

UPDATE 2 March 2017: Call to stop mountain hare culling in Cairngorms National Park. Please sign the postcard here.


‘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.

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