Gamekeepers invite First Minister to visit estates where mass slaughter of mountain hares takes place

Scottish gamekeepers have invited First Minister Nicola Sturgeon & Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham to visit estates “to learn about mountain hare culls”.

The invitation comes after the First Minister’s angry response to recent video evidence showing the brutal, military-style killing of mountain hares undertaken by gamekeepers on several Scottish grouse moors and filmed by OneKind, Lush & the League Against Cruel Sports (Scotland) in February this year. Ms Sturgeon commented in Parliament that this mass killing was “not acceptable”.

Here’s the footage for those who missed it:

Presumably the invitation isn’t for the First Minister & the Cabinet Secretary to take part in a hare cull, or perhaps it is? Perhaps the gamekeepers envisage the pair kitted out in tweeds, riding on a quad bike across the moor, blasting hares in the face and legs with a shotgun, all in the name of ‘sport’ and ‘conservation’? Perhaps then they could go on to visit a stink pit to toss in the bloodied corpses on top of the pile of festering bodies already dumped there, with just enough time to set a few snares and batter to death a few cagefuls of trapped corvids before heading back to the big hoose for tea. How could they refuse such an invitation?

Here’s the press release from the gamekeepers:


Gamekeepers have invited the First Minister to visit their estates to find out about mountain hare management after she warned filmed culls were “not acceptable”.

Nicola Sturgeon said she was “angry” at footage filmed by animal rights charities which showed the animals being killed on shooting estates.

She warned large-scale mass culls could put the conservation status of the species at risk and said legislation to protect the hares is among options being considered by government.

Currently, landowners operate a voluntary restraint agreement regarding numbers culled.

Now, gamekeepers shown in the footage have written to the First Minister and Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham to invite them to their estates to learn more about the rationale behind the killings.

Head gamekeeper for the Clune and Corrybrough Estates in Inverness-shire, Duncan MacKenzie, said: “We’d really like to be able to show the First Minister around rather than discuss these issues in Edinburgh.

I think it would be beneficial for everyone to get an understanding of why the hares need to be managed, here.”

He said the footage filmed by OneKind, League Against Cruel Sports and Lush showed “working people being secretly filmed carrying out a legal management activity which is no different to other forms of species management and is well within the laws passed by Scottish Government“.

The ironic thing is that those who are seeking the end of grouse management would also be signalling the beginning of the end for the mountain hare in Scotland,” he added.

Populations are thriving on grouse moors but are struggling badly elsewhere due to predation and loss of their preferred heather habitat and we hope to have the opportunity to explain this in full to the First Minister.”

Mr MacKenzie said the estates are not hiding anything, adding: “We have good records of the amount of hares in comparison to the amount we have taken off the hill, covering a number of years, and there are still high numbers of hares on the ground.”

The animal rights charities behind the footage claim it shows the agreement for voluntary restraint over culls has “failed” and along with broadcaster Chris Packham are calling for a cull ban until a review on the issue concludes.


And here’s a press release in response from RSPB Scotland:


In response to an invitation to the First Minister by gamekeepers to find out about mountain hare culls RSPB Scotland’s James Reynolds said: “If the First Minister is minded to accept this invitation she will of course also wish to visit and observe land of a similar nature, but managed more sustainably. A good example is the Cairngorms Connect project, which is being supported by The Scottish Government’s own Cairngorms National Park Authority – where multiple stakeholders involving the state, charities and the private sector are co-operating in partnership to deliver habitat restoration at a landscape scale for the benefit of local communities, local economy and Scottish environment.

RSPB Scotland is delighted that the current Scottish Government grouse moor enquiry is addressing the issue of unsustainable mountain hare culls, and undertaking an economic comparison of intensive management versus alternative models; we are sure the First Minister will also wish to give her full support to this initiative by her Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham MSP.

The notion that the survival of mountain hares is entirely dependent on intensive grouse moor management is of course absolute nonsense.  Mountain hares existed quite happily in balance with their natural habitat since the last ice age before intensive grouse moor management began in the Victorian era. They will do so again if given the chance to flourish without needless mass culls.”


17 thoughts on “Gamekeepers invite First Minister to visit estates where mass slaughter of mountain hares takes place”

  1. Some small quotes from the book “Mammals in north-east highlands” by Dr Adam Watson. I do not give the full context but this is a representative sample:
    “Heavy killing of hares on moorland since the late 1990s by gamekeepers.”
    “in conditions of perfect visibility and snow-less ground I saw no hares at the Tillypronie area. Later that day I found none at…”
    “This showed massive declines on some, extirpation in others.”
    Gamekeepers on several estates have told me that they were instructed to reduce hare numbers and to try to eradicate them.”

  2. having reintroduced otters in some areas, I saw a photograph and of dead otter stuck on a pole and the killers , as ever, proud of this. the kestrel I’ve been watching has gone/. the red kite , a few months back disappeared too.why is this game keeper invited Nicola Sturgeon?

  3. Let us hope that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham can see through the bull**** that they will bombarded with, if they take up the invitation.

    There is no justification for the shooting industries approach to “conservation?”. Which translates into profit and blood lust for the well heeled.

    Shooting Estate Glossary.

    A, Kill everything to make space for grouse, then kill the grouse, hooray!
    B, Fill the grouse with medication to sustain overcrowding and then call the meat organic, oh and ignore the toxic lead.
    C, Burn the ground to pollute the atmosphere, (stubble burning on arable land stopped years ago) to destroy habitat, invertebrates, reptiles and small mammals. Ticks get torched too.


      1. I have been busy taking screen shots of the gamekeepers candid views (vile) of the first minister and tweeting (some of them are only fit for the police) forward. I hope she asks the keepers to explain them if she decides to meet them.

  4. Just back from a couple of days away up avimore and the cairngorms did not see one mountain hare but seen plenty redgrouse.

  5. I for one hope they take them up on the offer, accompanied by all the facts, and point out all the enormous gaps in their logic. Poor old mountain hares, predated to extinction on unkeepered areas! They practically admit to exterminating golden eagles in their press release. Not sure what else will predate them up there in sufficient numbers to cause them to “struggle badly”, that they could legally control.

  6. Don’t know if this is some kind of concentrated offensive by the killers aimed at the Scot Gov . Noticed a letter today in the National ( surprised they printed it actually) by a John Andrews full of the usual crap – vital to the rural economy,not just toffs that shoot grouse ,Eagles killed by natural causes and “rogue shepherds”?? good for waders, muirburn good , grouse moors full of wildlife, blah blah. Oh and I almost forgot the best one “Hen Harriers never breed where there is not a Grouse Moor .”
    I know i should have written a reply , but you know I have done it so often I just could not be bothered with the idiot.

    1. Please write a reply and be sure to send a copy to @strathearnrose. We should encourage Nicola Sturgeon and Roseanna Cunningham to accept the invitation of the SGA but make sure they are fully appraised of the issues. We’re kicking at a door that is beginning to swing open.

    2. Actually I did reply but lost it all when I thought I had saved it ( god I hate computers), so try again! They’d better print the bloody thing.

      1. Sorry I know this is old news now but for the record ,I submitted a letter to the National exposing every pro shooting point as lies and they did not publish it . This pack of lies has gone unchallenged . Dont waste your money on the National it is as pro shooting as some in the SNP .

  7. It’s a constant source of amazement to me when I make my annual trip to arctic Norway that the grouse and hares and waders seem to manage just fine in the absence of grouse moor management. Even more amazing when you consider the bears, pine martens, wolverines, foxes, gos, gyr, peregrines, eagles, ravens etc, etc. Sheer chance I guess.

    1. Well said, might use your example if you don’t mind when told by Raptor workers that foxes need to be exterminated on an industrial scale by man because there are no Lynx or Wolves . Ignoring the fact that there haven’t been Lynx in Scotland for 1600 yrs and Wolves in any numbers for 800 yrs and even when they were here they didn’t exterminate foxes.
      Always amazed how many so called conservationists accept the gamekeepers ignorance and lies without question.
      Amazing how nature got on without us !

  8. Amazing how this “approach” by the gamekeepers for a meeting on their home turf resembles the tactics currently being deployed by the Russians towards the UK’s legitimate concerns. What they’re both after is grabbing the headlines to their advantage.

  9. Amidst all the nonsense from the gamekeepers, is there one extreme stupidity not noted? Simply this: if the only reason (and mostly they say it is the only reason) for killing mountain hares is that they are a vector for ticks, then surely you pretty much need to kill all of them? Which is what the evidence suggests they aim to do. Except they claim to leave loads of them to flourish alongside their precious red grouse. It’s perhaps a narrow point but if their argument for ‘management’ was based on something else, then their defence of ‘limited’ culls might possibly make more sense.

  10. This is completely, totally bizarre. How can anyone imagine that people like Nicola and Roseanna are going to be anything other than sickened by what they are shown ? Were they to take up this invitation (which has only been issued because, sensibly, they won’t) they would go straight back to Holyrood and take Mountain Hare off the ‘game’ list.

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