Queen’s Balmoral Estate accused of mountain hare massacre

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!

52 thoughts on “Queen’s Balmoral Estate accused of mountain hare massacre”

  1. I think its been said on this blog before but I think its worth continuing to emphasize that mountain hares are a key prey species for golden eagles and I think depriving them of that food is one of the motivations for these culls.

    1. Golden Eagle distribution correlates directly to mountain hare abundance as I remember. So this has a dual purpose; its outside any definition of what a National Park should be….but then our National Parks fail the UN definition already.

  2. Blocking people on twitter or Facebook seems to be the last resort of these types whenever presented with evidence, or a question they have no answer to.

  3. We love our wild life & countryside it is one of the free pleasures in life.
    Let’s preserve and appreciate the beauty and not have to rely on the legendry David Attenborough to show us on tv.

    1. Correction Hugh! David Attenborough does bugger all to protect or support the hunted trapped and poisoned wildlife in this country. Bugger all!
      Potentially the most influential voice, he remains stoically silent on the subjects of illegal hunting which is rife, despicable gamekeepers practices, and the much lamented badger cull in the south west counties of England. He should be shouting from the rooftops. He should be supporting RPS and all the other voices doing their damnest to prevent mindless slaughter of our wildlife.I have written to him, and exposed his silence on Facebook. Nothing!
      I am totally disillusioned with this character, he could do so much but remains tight lipped……

        1. And that’s yer lot John!
          Compared to Packham, Monbiot, May, RPS the Goodies geyser and a host of so called celebs he is stoic.A complete waste of space where threatened British Wildlife is concerned.
          He should get up off his arse and make some noise.Which side do you think he is on? Standing up for wildlife is entirely on – topic John.

      1. Totally agree!! Every time I say I can’t stand the man I get shouted down. For years he’s made his living out of depicting nature as this pristine environment that is always ‘Over there’ , whilst humans destroy it faster than I can say ‘wildlife massacre’ totally useless man that needs to scream about what we are doing to the planet or go away.

    2. Quite right, Hugh. It’s actually quite upsetting to watch some wildlife programmes – so many of the wonderful creatures they feature are being slaughtered in various ways, their habitats taken from them and even driven out of existence by the ever more ingenious cruelty of humankind.

  4. Have just Emailed the RSPB whether or not it’s time for a debate about removing the Royal from their name, seems strange for an organisation that seeks to protect birds to ask for the patronage of a family that delights in slaughtering them!!

    1. I have long held this view – even putting it forward on this blog! Were the (R)SPB to remove the ‘Royal’ from their title it is entirely conceivable that this one act might draw more attention from the ordinary man in the street as to what is going on in our countryside and be more effective thereby than anything we have seen to date. However, such a move would probably have to come from the rank-and-file members themselves. So, if any readers of this blog are members, get cracking! I am unable to play any part as I have refused to have anything to do with them since the Sandringham episode!

      1. Applaud your stand after Sandringham, so will happily lobby them on this one. ( I previously left them c.1978 only to marry back in !)

      2. Having the designation ‘Royal’ attached to anything is increasingly looking out of date even antiquated. The RSPCA is in the same position, even more so as they are specifically an animal welfare organisation and you’ve got Charlie for one being pro fox hunting. Personally I don’t have any particularly strong feelings against the use of ‘Royal’ because it’s always seemed a bit of an irrelevance, innocuous or just a bit silly, but that’s probably enough reason to get rid of it anyway in retrospect. Only problem is for old farts like me being used to the RSPB being the RSPB.

    2. Couldn’t agree more Paul, it’s long overdue the RSPB got rid of the XXXXXX prefix, they are all hypocrites when it comes to wildlife, ‘save African Rhino and Elephants’ (don’t mention Tigers), but lets kill wild Spanish boar!

  5. –RPS, have details of this latest horror been forwarded to the Nationals? The Guardian and the Mirror are usually very interested

  6. The royal family are about a century behind public opinion, and are not known for being receptive to criticism in any event. They enjoy killing things with guns, I’m pretty sure they’ll be brass- necked enough to think that slaughtering things in order to facilitate this is hunky dory.

  7. Not surprised about this at all. There is, or at least was, a population of capercaillie on Balmoral, but their conservation wasn’t important enough to initiate a proper deer cull that would allow the removal of all the deer fencing on the estate, the fences kept were just marked to try and reduce bird strike. The caper population is a tiny fraction of the red deer one, but stalking can’t be compromised too much can it? Since Prince Phil has bagged at least one tiger http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/environment/wildlife/article3511690.ece perhaps we shouldn’t expect too much consideration for endangered wildlife. I remember in the mid eighties when he wanted to have the ancient trees in Windsor Great Park, some of the most outstanding and biologically rich in the whole UK, cut down as they were a bit scruffy. Fortunately a few people must have had a quiet word with him thank god and that piece of idiocy receeded, this is another one to work on.

    1. Not sure where you stand on culling really. You say you want a harder deer cull to protect other species and trees. Yet you are completely against culling hares, which when numbers increase to high levels, like your deer arguement, need culling to protect young trees, flora & forna plus other species.

      1. The hare cull is not being carried out for the benefit of trees!!! If the estates are so concerned about ecological restoration why are they refusing to carry out proper deer culls and in fact providing deer with supplimentary winter feed!?! Unlike adult red deer hares have natural predators and if so many eagles etc weren’t being slaughtered in the first place far less likely that there would be any genuinely excessive population of hares.

          1. As long as they are a rational person’s sound principles, what are yours? Why aren’t you so keen to point out the enthusiasm for the estates to cull hares, which do have natural predators, as opposed to red deer which don’t? There’s the discrepancy.

  8. The royals would will to remember that they all live on benefits paid for by us, the tax payer none of them earn their keep.we now have two more kids to support
    Plus Williams new home “paid for by the queen” from the civil list or rather us,the tax payer.te sooner they are gone the better

  9. Stop killing wild animals. They dont belong to the land owners because they are wild and they live where their natural environment is. The landowners have a great responsibility which is to support the wild species on the land and not to follow in barbaric old customs like hunting. We ask they take a civilised step.

  10. I’ve long advocated taking the ‘R’ out of the RSPB (HedaSU) a big tick in the box on that one came when they uttered not a word on both ocassions of the petition to ‘Ban driven grouse shooting’ to muster their one million whatever it is members to sign, support, and guarantee it’s success, because of some silly bloody outdated royal charter which has them sitting on the fence for eternity.

    1. Or perhaps your ‘one million whatever’ members could threaten to refuse to renew their membership and boycott their reserves unless they do something about it?

    1. I, for one, would be extremely cautious when someone likes Hamish Trench states that ‘…the balance between wildlife and grouse shooting needs to be re-set…’. It may be taken either way.

  11. Sick and most shoking i have ever seen to kill inocent wild life. but because it is royalty its ok they think they can get away with it . NOT NOT NOT.

  12. I think that the majority of Scotland’s population is completely unaware of the wholesale slaughter of our wildlife, on an industrial scale, and of the cruel and sadistic methods used. Snares and spring traps need to be outlawed NOW, they belong to a shameful past.

    We need to stop subsidies and grants to sporting estates, ¬£millions of tax payers money for ‘farming’ grouse and pheasant is deeply corrupt, and is funding the slaughter. The CAP payments were intended to help small farmers, but have been subverted into the pockets of the wealthiest land owners, with the greatest amounts going to the richest people.

    I agree that the upsetting images of dead wildlife should be spread as wide as possible, in order to wake up the people to what is going on.

    Perhaps, in the national park, game keepers could be replaced with game wardens ? I have to wonder, how much has the Cairngorms national park cost so far ? could that money not have been better spent in buying land, where no hunting was allowed.

  13. Grouse moors are artificial environments created for the shooting fraternity and maintained by gamekeepers and sheep. They also provide an ideal environment for mountain hares and red deer. Red deer have no natural predators, since the removal of wolves, and the predators of mountain hares are reduced by legal and illegal trapping, poisoning and shooting. The result is an environment with no natural checks and balances.

    Without culling, no matter how distasteful this method is to many people, many species proliferate to an extent which eventually leads to a situation where there are insufficient resources to maintain the population and results in disease and starvation.

    Overnight banning of game shooting will not solve the problem, paradoxically it would probably exacerbate it. The solution is a long-term plan to restore the habitat to its natural state. This would require the removal of grazing cattle and sheep and the government subsidies which support them. Unfortunately it would require the co-operation of all landowners which is unlikely without legislation forcing their hands.

  14. Is there a petition about the hare killing, or anything else where people could do something specific about this?

  15. A total disgrace by arrogant land owners & totally unjustifiable & unnecessary! Anyone else would be prosecuted, but then there’s one law for the Blue Bloods, Aristocracy & the Rich & another law for the rest of us!

  16. This is absolutely disgusting. We planned a trip there, but are cancelling. There is nothing more I want to see after this. I believe we will visit South America instead. They care for their animals there. There are many sanctuaries and humane ways to decrease overpopulated areas. They rehome many animals. Good bye Scotland!! Hello Rio!

  17. Disgusting and sad. When are people are going to start respecting the life of animals. This is just so evil , it makes me sick. Governments are the problem with this world, they’re fool of sick evil money driven and selfish, ruthless “people”.

  18. OMG, That is disgusting. What were they thinking? Obviously not thinking at all. The eagle is the most revered bird in the USA. I’m just speechless. Not just for the Eagle’s sake but a massacre of any animal like that is unconscionable.

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