More mountain hares massacred in Cairngorms National Park

Recently we published some photographs of a load of dead mountain hares with some people lined up behind the corpses, grinning at what they’d done (see here).

These photographs caused quite a reaction, both from the general public, who were appalled at such scenes, and from the grouse-shooting industry who generally said the photographs were old and large scale hare culling no longer took place.

They were lying, of course.

We were recently sent some photographs taken by someone who wishes to remain anonymous. The photographs were taken on 25th February 2016 in the Cairngorms National Park. On first glance, it looks like some blokes out with their vehicles in the snow:

Hares_Lecht_25Feb2016 - Copy

But when you zoom in, you see exactly what’s been going on:

Hares_Lecht_25Feb2016 (2) - Copy

That’s a truckload of dead mountain hares.

This photograph was taken from the Lecht road (the A939 Cockbridge to Tomintoul road). According to the grid reference we were given, these vehicles were parked on the Allargue Estate. Now that doesn’t mean that the hares had been massacred on the Allargue Estate or indeed that Allargue Estate staff were in any way involved. We’d be surprised if they were because the Allargue Estate was one of the first fully accredited members of the Wildlife Estates Scotland initiative and a gamekeeper here won the Purdey Gold Award in 2014 for Game & Conservation. According to the Purdey Awards website this estate “works tirelessly to uphold the Wildlife Estates Scotland high standards of wildlife management”.

Grouse-shooting estates have been slaughtering mountain hares for a long time. They do it because they believe mountain hares carry a disease (Louping Ill virus) which can affect their red grouse stocks (i.e. the number of red grouse available to be shot, for fun, during the grouse-shooting season). We, and others, have been writing about this for some time. Here are some previous blogs we’ve written about mountain hare massacres on grouse moors in the Angus Glens (here and here), Aberdeenshire (here) and the Lammermuirs (here).

Last year, SNH called on landowners to practice “voluntary restraint” and try to reign in their lust for slaying mountain hares (here). We said it was a pointless call (here) and clearly we were right judging by the photograph above. Last year, ten conservation organisations asked SNH to impose an immediate three-year ban on hare culling (here) to allow an assessment of how these large-scale and indiscriminate culls were affecting the conservation status of the mountain hare. Landowners reacted strongly against this proposal (read the link!) and SNH refused to impose the temporary ban because the evidence for action was lacking, apparently.

Marvellous. Welcome to Scotland and especially to the Cairngorms National Park.

Rob Edwards has covered this story today (here) as has Mark Avery (here).

UPDATE 11.30hrs: Scottish Land & Estates has issued a statement in response to Rob Edwards’ article in the Herald. You really have to read it. Bear in mind it’s not a spoof. See here.

UPDATE 14th March 2016: A few more blogs covering this atrocity –

The Ferret (by Rob Edwards) here

ParkWatchScotland here

Another one from Mark Avery (#HelpingItHappen) here

Scottish Greens here

UPDATE 14th March 16.00hrs: Cairngorms National Park Authority responds here

52 thoughts on “More mountain hares massacred in Cairngorms National Park”

  1. Surely they must have the truck filled with straw bails or something and just a single layer of dead hares, to make it look gruesome?

  2. This absolutely disgusting. I am shocked daily on how humans think they can do what the hell they like. Killing one animal to ensure there is enough of another animal to kill is soooooo shocking. The hares belong. The rich with guns Do not.

  3. What a kick in the teeth this is for estates. A few weeks ago the Angus Glens Moorland Group fb page did an awful lot to play down images of hundreds of hares being laid out with smirking ‘hunters’ in the background. Predictably Keith Cowieson of Songbird Survival was on it trying to persuade us their hills are covered in mountain hares, they stick together don’t they? All of this slaughter just because they think it will help them shoot more grouse, obscene.

  4. This looks very organised and well funded. An expensive operation to supply men and vehicles for the clear intent of eradicating mountain hares. Who would provide the funds and bother to organise this cull? Who would benefit most of all from the removal of mountain hares and as a consequence remove predators, such as eagles, foxes and wild cats? What can be done to expose the identity of these people and hold them to public account?

  5. Zoomed in the registration number of the land rover in the foreground is clearly visible, it is just two still simple steps to reporting this crime to the police….first pick up the phone

    1. Zoomed in the landrover plate is obscured by metalwork and isn’t legible – unless you have a different copy of the image…

      1. Legal doesn’t necessarily mean legitimate, think the law should change and existing laws be better enforced.

      2. Thank you for the information, Bob.

        So if it’s legal, no need to stamp around dressed as militia, with unmarked vehicles?

        This just proves how ridiculous an idea is voluntary restraint. Certainly ‘voluntary’, but no ‘restraint’.

  6. With so much money involved in grouse shooting this kind of butchery is always going to happen. The type of people running these estates will carry on with impunity killing raptors, hares or anything that supposedly threatens their field `sport`, as they know the law is never going to be enforced by an already depleted constabulary. This vile abuse of a magnificent animal is the sort of issue that the likes of BBC Countryfile should be exposing, instead of telling us how wonderful everything is in our countryside.

  7. From a distance, this looks like Bosnia, armed and masked paramilitaries. The funding of this, ‘farming grouse’ ?? by us the tax payers, has to stop now. The national park, in the eastern cairngorms, seems to be a PR exercise for the ‘shooting estates’, and a way to funnel even more grant money to them. Far from slowing the slaughter of Scotland’s wildlife, it has markedly increased since the formation of the park.
    We need radical land reform NOW. Perhaps crofting should be expanded into Aberdeenshire, and the rest of Scotland, as a way to start breaking up these massive estates? I pass on links to this important site, whenever I can, because sadly, I suspect that the majority of Scotland’s population, is blithely unaware of what is going on in our country, there should be a sense of outrage.

  8. It is clear that some of the people are looking to see what the photographer is up to. Is their an element of guilt or suspicion in the shooting party? Other of course have turned their backs to the camera?

  9. The guilty reaction of the shooters and the implicit threat that the photographer felt says it all. The arrogance and sense of entitlement of these people is beyond belief. If this was tigers being slaughtered by ‘natives’ in Asia it’d be widely reported, but as it’s toffs or their underlings engaging in this gratuitous slaughter then it gets spiked.

  10. This is even far harder to digest than whats going on in England! What the hell is Sturgeon doing to combat this mass slaughter?! How in eart can this be going on?! The rich and few just own too much, land reforms now! As for Countryfile, i stopped watching that lie years ago! This is an outrage, something has to be done

  11. This is indefensible – mountain hares are iconic and Shooting Estates should be taken to account for this total abuse of wildlife. This can’t go on with arrogant estates thinking they have the right to kill whatever animals interfere with their grouse. Scottish Government must act and act now.

  12. So again we have to consider what are we going to do? We need to come up with a wide-ranging plan of action to highlight what is going on.There must be actions that we can take to bring this to the wider attention of the public.If we can inflict some financial damage on them-they may change behaviour, but until we can they will carry on.

    1. Well, we can all start by emailing the following ( taken from Chris Avery’s blog )

      Some links here:
      Cairngorms NP Board: (email address links on names)
      CNPA Convenor is Mr Peter Argyle:
      Minister for Environment, Climate Change & Land Reform is Dr Aileen McLeod MSP:
      Scottish Ministers’ email:
      Scottish Natural Heritage Management Team, Board and Committees:
      SNH Chairman is Mr Ian Ross:

      The scandal is that ‘sporting’ estates do not pay tax ? they pay little towards the councils considering their size and value, and they get farming subsidies and grants of £millions, so lets start campaigning for land reform. Perhaps the subsidies and grant monies could instead be used to embed a trained environmentalist or naturalist into every sporting estate, the estates have proven that they cannot/will not ‘self regulate’

      In the 21st. century, should the majority of Scotland’s land be used in this way?

  13. As we are guessing at what has or is going on here..let me add another complete guess and definitely in the “allegedly” category. Myself and many ex colleagues and police officers have seen large scale use of dead mountain hares as poisoned baits…at this time of just such places in NE Scotland….Another reason why those involved would be a little camera shy…but of course I have no idea why there would be a truck load of dead hares next to several expensive track vehicles beside the Lecht road…..maybe they all died from a disease caused by, and passed on from, artificially high numbers of red grouse?

    1. Interesting link, Paul. So Balavil have “driven” hare hunting as well as driven grouse hunting. How sporting! Hope the Scottish govt. stop subsidising these estates with tax-payers money.

  14. The legal predator and habitat control done to benefit red grouse, benefits in turn all moorland species through lack of predation and excellent grazing caused by controlled Muirburn. Lets be clear there is a massive abundance of mountain hares this season on the managed estates of the NE Grampian. The numbers being legally controlled in these pictures will make little odds to Grampian population as a whole which this year is phenomenal. They are being controlled for a reason, tick control and grazing pressure protecting the flora. Your right in the comments above this is a well funded operation, money, jobs, employment, income, families, kids in schools the very heart of rural communities. Ask the RURAL communities how they feel about all this I bet its a lot more positive than the lot of you urban keyboard warriors with an internet education of sporting estates and rural life. The glue that keeps our countryside populated and economic is the estates. Think of that when you cry LAND REFORM, because my children won’t thank you.

    1. Well lack of PREDATION is true enough, but that’s hardly a healthy eco system is it? Overpopulation of Grouse being susceptible to various diseases especially when there is nothing to dispatch sickly ones is perverted definition of ‘management’. And of course predators are just as much part of our wildlife as what they eat, which the estates and their mouthpieces have trouble understanding along with a lot of other things. Oh and another thing people who accuse others they don’t know of ignorance in specific areas of life are prejudiced and ignorant themselves. Plus using a keyboard to Parrot the cliche about others being keyboard warriors shows a lack of irony and thereby of intelligence too. At the end of the day what this is about is human nature, trying to maintain something inherently unethical, wasteful and ludicrous because its participants can’t put integrity before self interest and ‘pleasure’. Identifying that is nothing to do with town or country, but being a rational, decent, honest human being who knows what bullshite is.

    2. Great strategy tarring brush, set town against country. Now, as it happens, I live in a town (I can’t afford the prices that the commuters who live in the countryside have pushed the housing prices up to) but I work in the countryside. So which side should I be on? Well with the town folk outnumbering you 50+ to 1 I’ll go with those people that you casually dismiss as urban and internet educated. I had a lot of sympathy when thousands of miners and steelworkers were put out of work but a handful of (criminal) gamekeepers? Those shifty characters that I have the misfortune to meet with some regularity during my normal working duties? There will not be a tear from me when their job is a thing of the past.

    3. Tarring brush…. if its your sort of tar that is gluing the rural communities together … please don’t forget that tar melts when it gets hot… and the heat is now on.

      The truth is that the reason that the hares are being massacred is the belief in an unsubstantiated myth- people are now too well informed to fall for the keepers old wives tales. Well most people.

    4. Many rural schools are closing thanks to landowners preventing non-shooting jobs in the local community. Far more people enjoy seeing raptors and other wildlife than the endless wildlife free heather deserts that make up Highland Scotland. Balavil estate actually advertises the enjoyment of killing up to 200 mountain hares a day!. There are far better ways of running Scotland than big estates which pay no or little tax employing a few people and using their ‘losses’ to offset profits elsewhere.

  15. “benefits all moorland species”!..Youre having a laugh arent you?…these artificial manicured habitats contain a fraction of species diversity possible on such ground. ..and the arrogance shown by this view that the sporting estate system is the only and best way to create a good life for the working population and their families wont get you many friends on this site. The people who comment on this blog have shown themselves to be very knowledgable about “the real countryside”, many obviously come from and live in that countryside…The children of the present landowners and shoot managers may not thank us but the children of farmers, crofters, forest managers, B and B owners, shopkeepers and many more, certainly will…..The times are a changing…

  16. I can guarantee neither the farmers or the crofters will thank you for the despise of Moorland management. A lot of family such as mine have a foot in each camp either farming or keepering. The two go hand in hand, they haven done for generations. As for forest managers, there will be as many hares killed to protect young plantations as any other reason. Certain “conservation” body treat them with the same disregard that they show to red deer these days. Arrogance is a trait shown on many sides of this argument, I wouldn’t bother trying to make friends around here the blinkered attitude to how our hills are used is fairly apparent here. Times are changing for the positive but any change will come from those of us who actually make a living of hills not an urban led Holyrood.

    1. So for the benefit of those of us who are in fact urban dwellers and admit to not being fully aware of the realities of rural life, dressing up as some kind of militias, driving vehicles whose registrations are not legible and killing hares in great numbers is legal and normal practice?

    2. Whereas predators exist for mountain hare – fox, eagle and very occasionally these days wildcat – there are none, I repeat none at all for adult red deer. So an animal that exists in hundreds of thousands in this country has no natural predator beyond the calf stage. Ecologically that’s horrendous yet the minute we try to get rational deer culling in place, as well as stop the lunacy of supplementary feeding, we are accused of ‘verminising’ our ‘iconic’ animal by people whose only real interest in it is for provide many easy shots for stock brokers, bankers, company directors – it seems there is no objection to a townie when it comes with a fat wallet. Underfed and lacking shelter this situation isn’t any better for deer than trees, and of course locals especially are at greater risk of a serious\fatal road accident with all those deer moving around for fodder and shelter. Crocodile tears about the deer and local communities being threatened by conservation are particularly nauseating. Mountain hares are slaughtered because of the nonsense of the driven grouse moor, and if they were genuinely causing a problem stopping tree regeneration then that might not happen if their predators weren’t killed legally or illegally. Blinkered attitudes are expressed by those who think they are the ‘custodians of the land’.

    3. When the red mist has cleared from your eyes ‘tarring brush’, perhaps you might explain to me what you mean by ..’the despise of Moorland management’. Do you, in fact, mean ‘demise’?

  17. Utterly repulsive and disgusting that this wholesale slaughter should be happening anywhere in 21st century Britain. But in a National Park? These ignorant excuses of mankind should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. Thanks to RPS and others at least the wider public are becoming far more aware of the atrocities that are taking place in our countryside and to OUR wildlife. These ‘killing’ estates will eventually be consigned to the history books where they belong.

  18. I am sick to death of these shooting parties and what they do to the wild life just to gain money. It is time the law clamped down on them and stop them interfering with wildlife.

    1. A very good read Nick. What is a National Park for if not to protect wildlife and the environment, but then as we know UK national parks are only pretend, you have to go to the US to see real ones.

  19. Police , SNH and NWCU wont be interested in this…………wonder why that is?

    On the lower ground police will be quick enough to chase anyone who dare use dogs to course a brown hare whilst in the uplands this large scale massacre is taking place.

    Whose intersts are being protected?

    European legislation protects certain species stating Mountain hare can only be killed using selective means. How selective do the actions of the person within the photograph appear.

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