Following on from last weekend’s news of the mass slaughter of mountain hares on grouse moors in the Cairngorms National Park (see here and here), today sees an accusation that hares have also been massacred on Balmoral Estate, the Queen’s royal residence within the Park.
According to the article written by journalist Rob Edwards (here), two culls involving three estates were witnessed towards the end of February, one of which was said to have killed 500 hares.
The Royal household has apparently not responded to requests to comment, but others have. The article has several quotes from interested parties including one from Bill Lobban, vice-convenor of Highland Council who said:
“People who visit our national parks do so for many different reasons but I would suggest that few, if any, do so to witness slaughter on the scale that has been evidenced recently“.
For those of you wondering what a mountain hare cull looks like, here’s a photograph of some dead hares being piled in to a game larder (NB: this was taken a few years ago and wasn’t taken on Balmoral; it’s for illustrative purposes only):
News of recent mountain hare massacres are undoubtedly a PR disaster for the grouse-shooting industry. It’s very, very hard to defend and justify this level of slaughter (some of us say it’s wholly indefensible and unjustifiable) but bless them, the landowners’ lobby group Scottish Land & Estates is trying it’s best to explain. There’s an hilariously desperate blog on their Gift of Grouse website (here) which claims hare slaughtering is done in ‘accordance with best practice’ (eh?!) and is ‘informed and balanced’ (yes, really). It’s also claimed that hare populations are ‘assessed’ prior to the cull, although so far we haven’t seen any population figures either pre or post-slaughter, we’re just expected to take their word that these massacres are sustainable. Strange, isn’t it, that SNH and other scientific bodies have for years acknowledged the difficulties of accurately assessing mountain hare population densities, and yet these Gift of Grouse gamekeepers claim to have it sussed.
Here’s one for you anagram fans: Gift of Grouse = To fog figures.
Talking of PR disasters, this week was Scottish Tourism Week and was promoted on Twitter using the hashtag #STW2016. Many businesses within the tourism sector have been tweeting about what they have to offer to visiting tourists so we and some friends thought we’d join in and show visitors some images of dead wildlife, such as heaps of shot hares and some poisoned red kites, peregrines, buzzards and eagles. It was pretty effective. Lots of people who were previously oblivious to what goes on behind the scenes on some Scottish sporting estates were re-tweeting these photographs and expressing their outrage.
This didn’t go unnoticed by the game-shooting industry and the Head of Shooting at the Countryside Alliance accused us of being ‘bigots’ (eh?) and the CEO of Scottish Land & Estates accused us of being ‘distasteful’ (no Doug, what’s distasteful is what some of your member estates do to our wildlife). Amusingly, a Police Chief Superintendent re-tweeted one of our photos of a poisoned golden eagle. We asked the Countryside Alliance bloke and SLE’s CEO if they were going to accuse the Police Chief Super of being a ‘distasteful bigot’. The response? Silence from the Countryside Alliance and SLE’s CEO blocked us!