Ten conservation groups call for 3-year ban on grouse moor mountain hare slaughter

Ten conservation groups in Scotland have called on SNH to implement an immediate three-year ban on the mass slaughter of mountain hares that has been taking place in Scotland.

The indiscriminate and unregulated mass killing of mountain hares has been taking place on grouse moors for many years. We’ve blogged about it a lot (see here for previous posts) and many others have also been campaigning against this obscene bloodbath.

Mountain hares are (supposedly) protected under European legislation and SNH, as the Government’s statutory conservation agency, has a legal duty to ensure the population has a favourable conservation status. The problem is, nobody really knows how many hares there are (previous surveys have only resulted in crude and pretty meaningless results). More importantly, nobody knows how this persistent mass culling is affecting the status of the overall hare population.

The latest call for an immediate ban comes hot on the heels of SNH’s recent call for grouse moor managers to exercise ‘voluntary restraint’ with their culls – a system that’ll never work because it relies entirely on the altruism of grouse moor managers (see here).

The ten groups calling for the immediate three-year ban include National Trust for Scotland, John Muir Trust, RSPB Scotland, RSZZ, Highland Foundation for Wildlife, Scottish Wildlife Trust, Scottish Raptor Study Group, The Cairngorms Campaign, the Mammal Society and the Badenoch & Strathspey Conservation Group. There are some quite hefty credentials there and SNH would be wise to take heed. You get the feeling that if they don’t, they might just find themselves facing (another) complaint to the EU.

Naturally, representatives from the grouse-shooting industry have reacted strongly against the call for a ban. According to the SGA, calling for a ban is “environmentally irresponsible” and “it will be bad for birds and bad for biodiversity”.

Tim (Kim) Baynes from Scottish Land and Estates claims the ban would be “ill-informed” and “heavy-handed”.

These are unsurprising responses and just provide further evidence that SNH’s ‘voluntary restraint’ plea will go unheeded because these grouse moor landowners and their gamekeepers don’t think there’s anything wrong with the current level of hare culling.

Calling for an immediate ban is just the first step. Several of the ten organisations calling for the ban will next call for a meeting with SNH and Scottish Government officials to discuss the issue further and, presumably, keep the pressure on SNH to stop procrastinating and actually do something meaningful to bring the carnage to a halt.

BBC News article here

RSPB Scotland press release here

Here’s what happens to mountain hares on many grouse moors in Scotland, including inside the Cairngorms National Park:

hares-glenshee-feb-2014-11 - Copy

mh4 - Copy

mountain-hare-cull-angus-glens-large - Copy

19 thoughts on “Ten conservation groups call for 3-year ban on grouse moor mountain hare slaughter”

  1. Well done those NGOs! Great to see people joining together over this, especially some organisations who don’t always get involved in these sort of things

    1. Currently the hare cull is an organised shoot. I expect it would be difficult to cull those numbers without it being noticed.

      BUT I get your point.

    2. It has become clear to me that gamekeepers and (and in a broader sense) moorland managers are divided on this issue. Recent conversations have shown that there are some from this sector who feel that large-scale killing of mountain in the supposed interests of tick control is pointless and that in any event it is being badly carried out.

    3. That is precisely the problem in many respects. A law that is not enforced becomes a bad law and only breeds disregard for other laws.

  2. So the SNH is appealing to the good nature of these shooting estates – best of luck with that!! It would be funny if the situation for raptors,hares and other wildlife was not so critical.

    1. Yes, Jimmy – a good job the shooters are operating a system of ‘voluntary restraint’ – heaven knows how many hares would be killed if they were not so self controlled.

  3. A 3 year ban is ludicrous, it should be nothing short of a total ban on Mountain Hare culling. A ban on driven Red Grouse shooting would be a far better proposition and should be implemented as soon as possible to protect and conserve all wildlife on the moorland shooting estates, in particular, Raptors !!!

  4. great to see this disgusting act getting publicity, good luck to the organisations involved. more shame being brought to bear on these countryside hooligans and still the total ignorance of the public’s growing revulsion by those in charge of the shooting organisations

  5. This is a really positive development and hopefully it will set a bit of a precedent. Despite the massive and negative effect the bad estates have on conservation in Scotland there is actually little co-ordinated campaigning against their backward practices and attitudes. Neither Friends of the Earth Scotland or the Scottish Green Party have any active campaigns against irresponsible sporting estates, which personally I find hard to stomach. FoES in particular have a specific campaigning remit and a degree of independence other orgs don’t have that should allow it to really go to town on this issue – but it doesn’t. They should at least have been part of this coalition (maybe no one thought to ask them, wouldn’t be surprised they do next to nothing about rural Scotland) as should WWF Scotland. However, a very positive sign that NTS was part of it, pleasantly surprised that they put their name to this, certainly easier when you have a broad coalition which would have made it easier for RSPB Scotland too who politically would have found it difficult politically to make any independent statements on this disgusting activity.

  6. I see that this story has recently (Jan 2016) been highlighted online by The Birding 24/7 Daily webpage. Unless I’ve missed it, the BBC’s “Winterwatch” programme, which has been discussing Mountain Hares this week has not mentioned the issue. Had the mass kill off been caused by a virus then they most certainly would have done so. I do hope that the BBC isn’t being gagged by a fear of the Countryside Alliance following their scandalous attempt to censor Chris Packham.

  7. Whether the BBC is being gagged or not, it certainly seems that Chris Packham has been gagged by the BBC this time around. I’ve noticed a number of occasions on ‘Winterwatch’ 2016 where he has missed an opportunity to introduce a relevant controversial or ethical note to the discussion. To Chris’s credit, we can’t blame him for wanting to hold onto his job, but it’s a terrible indictment of society that our public service broadcaster is avoiding certain issues, under pressure from Government and other establishment figures. Unfortunately this malaise is widespread, and affecting the scope of engagement in national debate by natural history groups and even some organisations which claim to be conservation orientated. In my opinion we need to break through this barrier to democracy before we have any significant hope of real progress. Our best hope would be the RSPB taking a lead, but the current Council and Executive appear to be too conservative.

  8. Firstly, I have to state that I admire Chris Packham, both as a naturalist and a photographer, but as far as I am concerned, the BBC has gagged Chris Packham, however it has been going on for much longer than the recent series of Winterwatch.

    During last year’s Springwatch, there was a small section of an episode that touched on the issue of wildlife crime, and the following comment was made by Chris Packham on Springwatch Unsprung on 4th June. In my opinion, he was forced into making the comment, and I believe he was slightly uncomfortable about doing so. I could be wrong on that last point, but it certainly came across as such.

    “I think there’s one important thing to say, there may well be some topics which some of you viewers think we should have spoken about. Can I just say one thing, the BBC is a lot of things, it is not a campaigning organisation, and the one thing that is central to its core values is impartiality. There are two sides to lots of stories, and we are necessarily charged with representing both sides of those stories. On this programme we were not able to do that, and that is why we’ve been talking about things that are solely illegal, not matters of controversy or opinion.”

    Obviously, some people must have emailed the Springwatch team, asking why the obvious links between game shooting and wildlife crime were not addressed to any great extent. As a result, the BBC then asked (or ordered) Chris Packham to make that statement.

    The second and third sentences in Chris Packham’s statement are crucial. Firstly, it was mentioned that the BBC is not a campaigning organisation (I’ll come back to that part later on), followed by the monstrous myth that the organisation is impartial, and they are “necessarily charged with representing both sides of those stories”. Remember the Landward programme that promoted the “positive” aspects of shooting, interviewed a considerable number of shooting-related people, whilst more or less ignoring the fact that shooting estates and their employees are the ones carrying out wildlife crimes? Remember the BBC promoting that SGA press release a few weeks ago, without checking for facts and accuracy, and without allowing for a second side to the story, thereby ignoring their own rules on balance and impartiality.

    Then we have Countryfile, where (it seems) they go to great lengths to tell us how great farming is. Surely, an organisation that prides itself on its impartiality would have environmentalists commenting on the poor biodiversity found on many farmed areas, vegetarians and vegans would be interviewed in every episode to comment on animal husbandry and welfare issues, and general taxpayers would be permitted onto every episode to question why farms should be in receipt of subsidies? These, extreme as they may be, are just some examples to prove that the BBC will explicitly ignore its own rule whenever it suits.

    So, and I’ve mentioned it on here many times before, the BBC is not impartial, and as long as it has connections to the UK establishment, it never will be impartial, especially where politics, the establishment, wildlife crime, and land management are concerned.

    However, back to Springwatch, and just a few days after Chris Packham made that statement, he offered the following. I didn’t (still don’t) have an objection to him doing so. He spoke these words during the episode aired on 10th June 2015, after a short piece on wildlife-friendly farming.

    “I’ve got a couple of thoughts of the back of that film. Firstly, massive hats off to Ed. He’s identified the fact that you and I, taxpayers, are spending millions and millions of pounds on these farm subsidies, and frankly folks, they’re not working. The number of these birds is going down, and he’s not satisfied. He’s trying to come up with a new way of immediately improving this situation, and that gets a big thumbs up from all of us [the BBC presenters]. But another important thing I think to say is that, I’ll reiterate it, I said it in the film, it’s not the farmers’ fault. I think the principle problem could be you and I, all of us, and this is never a popular thing to say, but we spend too little on our food. We spend less as a percentage of our income than any other country in western Europe, and if we spent more money on that food, then our farmers could quite literally afford to farm for wildlife, so please try and support your local farmer, and perhaps ask your local supermarket to do the same.”

    Notice anything about that statement? Much of that statement could be construed as personal opinion, and some of it could be seen as campaigning (especially the final part), and I’m happy that he was able to voice his opinion on such a matter. But we have to ask why he is not allowed to voice his own opinion on wildlife crime and the environmentally and ecologically destructive practices carried out on shooting estates? I think we know the answer to that one.

    Finally, I promised to deal with the issue of campaigning. The word campaign is defined as such;

    Work in an organized and active way towards a goal (Oxford Dictionaries)
    To ​organize a ​series of ​activities to ​try to ​achieve something (Cambridge Dictionaries Online)
    A series of actions intended to produce political or social change (Macmillan Dictionary)
    An operation or series of operations energetically pursued to accomplish a purpose (Free Dictionary)

    So, on that note, if the BBC as an organisation is adamant that it maintains a great distance between itself and any form of campaigning, would someone care to explain what Children in Need is?

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