New footage shows evidence of the mass killing of Scotland’s mountain hares on grouse moors, as campaigners call for an end to the killing.
A Scottish mountain hare is desperately trying to escape from a gunman. This creature has been shot, and appears to have a broken leg. As the animal becomes more distressed, a dog swoops in, and finishes her off. There is no doubt that this hare suffered.
This is just one scene from shocking footage released last night [28/03/18] exposing the mass killing of Scotland’s mountain hares on grouse moors. This footage comes after a joint special investigation by Lush, Scottish animal protection charity OneKind, and League Against Cruel Sports, a leading charity aiming to stop animals being persecuted for sport.
The team filmed large groups of armed men moving around the mountains in convoys, shooting hares and slinging them into their vehicles.
Ruth Peacey, naturalist, Lush filmmaker, and this year’s winner of Conservation Hero of the Year, was behind the camera. She says: “We knew this was taking place and, although horrific to witness, it was important to get video footage of these culls to provide evidence to those who doubted.”
Following a study last year, OneKind said the principle reason for culling is the control of the louping-ill virus transmitted by ticks, which can infect red grouse. Although mountain hare carry ticks, it said there is no evidence that controlling their numbers will support red grouse management.
Director of the League Against Cruel Sports Scotland, Robbie Marsland says: “The sickening irony of the mayhem we saw on those mountainsides is that it is only done in the hope that it will increase the number of red grouse to be shot for entertainment.”
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.
The petition to end mountain hare killing
OneKind campaigners have written an open letter, calling for an end to the killing. They say it is time to take a stand, and that enough is enough.
In May, the letter will be handed to Roseanna Cunningham, the cabinet secretary responsible for wildlife protection, and Francesca Osowska, the CEO of Scottish Natural Heritage. OneKind director Harry Huyton urges everyone who values wildlife alive, rather than dead, to sign it.
Mountain hare killing is not monitored in Scotland. Harry Huyton explains that estates have been asked to voluntarily restrain themselves, but that is simply not happening.
“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 on hares starts once again in August,” Harry says.
The scale of killing
OneKind says that it is difficult to know how many hares are being killed. The only estimate comes from a Scottish Natural Heritage study, which suggests that 25,000 mountain hares were killed between 2006 and 2007 (these are the most recent figures currently available). OneKind claims that approximately 40% of those killed are shot for sport, and 50% as part of organised culls.
Together with the campaigners, naturalist and TV presenter Chris Packham is asking the Scottish Government to take immediate action.
He says: "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.”
From March to July, mountain hares are protected, and unless a license is in place their persecution is illegal. When it comes to August, the story changes, and they can be killed freely, without any permissions needed. This means there is no reporting, and no welfare monitoring.
It is not only mountain hares under threat. Robbie Marsland says that any animal appearing to threaten the red grouse is targeted by traps and snares, or shot. Lead shot pollutes the landscape, and heather is burned off on a large scale, causing further environmental damage.
The stories of wildlife culling and persecution in the name of maintaining red grouse numbers are numerous and on the increase, with claims of missing golden eagles and hen harriers raising critical questions about grouse moor management. All this to ensure that one species will thrive. A species which will then be shot for entertainment.
Header image courtesy of Andrew Parkinson.