Disgusting display of depravity on a Scottish game-shooting estate

Press release from Scottish animal welfare charity OneKind (29 May 2020)

Shocking footage shows pile of rotting animal carcasses set to lure animals into nearby traps

New footage passed through to leading animal welfare campaigns charity, OneKind, reveals snares set near a pile of rotting animal carcasses, apparently set by gamekeepers in Strathnairn, south of Inverness.

The footage can be viewed here

In order to maximise the number of red grouse and pheasants available for recreational shooting, gamekeepers target foxes. To lure foxes into snares, gamekeepers often lay snares around a ‘stink pit’: a place where the gamekeepers dump rotting animal carcasses. The smell of decomposing animals lures the foxes towards the dead animals, where they are then caught in the snares surrounding the pit.

The use of these stink pits is a fundamental part of intensive predator control on Scottish shooting estates.

OneKind’s Director Bob Elliot said:

The use of stink pits to lure animals into cruel snares, which inflict considerable mental and physical suffering upon the animals trapped in them, shows a fundamental lack of respect for Scotland’s wild and domestic animals.

Although snares are set to target predators to the red grouse, non-target species are often found among the animals dumped in stink pits, and during our work in the field we have discovered deer, geese, salmon and even cats in stink pits.

In this recent case, the animals discovered in the grotesque stink pit included rooks and fox cubs.  It’s a disgrace that this mass killing of rooks is still permitted and we were horrified to see that even young animals were treated as bait.  Some of the rooks appeared to be juveniles, hardly surprising given that this is the time when they emerge from their nests and perch on branches before fledging fully. The welfare issues of shooting rooks have not been fully researched but one can safely assume that they suffer.  Shooters seldom, if ever, use dogs to retrieve wounded birds and ensure they are despatched to put them out of their misery. Fox cubs are loved by so many of the Scottish public, and we know that the killing and dumping of them like this will be very upsetting to many.

We urge anyone out walking in Scotland to take photos and report any snares or snaring incidents through our dedicated snare awareness website, SnareWatch. We continue to raise awareness of the reality of snare use in our countryside, and the suffering these cruel traps inflict upon Scotland’s wild animals.

OneKind has long campaigned for a ban on stink pits and the sale, manufacture, possession and use of snares in Scotland and our petition for a review of snares and other traps is currently being considered by the Scottish Parliament. We have also produced a report, ‘Untold Suffering’, that details the scale and level of suffering inflicted on wild animals by these antiquated traps, highlighting why a ban is necessary.”

OneKind has notified Police Scotland about one snare photographed at the site, as it did not have a visible identification tag, which is a legal requirement. The question of whether stink pits are legal has been raised repeatedly by OneKind.


Notes for Editors (from OneKind)

  • Rooks were removed from Scottish General Licence GL01 in April, as there is little evidence that they impact negatively on populations of wild birds of conservation concern. They remain listed on GL02 and may be controlled to protect livestock. Game birds are considered to be livestock while they are under human control in rearing pens.
  • Snaring is legal in Scotland subject to detailed regulations under sections 11A – 11F of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, including a requirement for all snares to be tagged with an identification number to allow tracing of the operator. The tag must be displayed in a manner in which it will remain readable.
  • Stink pits have generally been regarded as exempt from animal by-product regulations but there is doubt about whether the animals’ bodies should be regarded as “bait” or “waste”, in which case other regulations would apply. Carcasses such as pheasants are not generally permitted to be dumped.  In June 2017, the Cabinet Secretary for Environment told the Scottish Parliament that she would ask the Scottish technical assessment group advising SNH on a review of snaring legislation to look at the use of stink pits as part of its consideration of the review’s recommendations. It is not known how far this has proceeded.

20 thoughts on “Disgusting display of depravity on a Scottish game-shooting estate”

  1. Fox cubs? Words fail me when it comes to the Gamekeeping Community. Well words that I can use here. You need to be a super depraved individual to be taking cubs out. And the whole “Aye it’s a wild animal but it’s livestock too” sham needs put to sleep.

  2. The daft thing is that that type of stink pit/midden isn’t even necessary, loads of keepers have stink pits all over the place but they have the common sense to cover them with a few inches of earth and they work just as well. The smell alone still lures in the targeted “vermin”. Anyone who does a lot of walking around the northern english uplands will be walking past loads of mini-versions of these, but the carcasses are always lightly buried – you may smell it on a hot day, but you won’t see feathers and fur sticking out. When they are left in open heaps like the photo it tells you that the keeper thinks (a) he is in area where nobody will ever be looking and he can do what he wants, and/or (b) he is a lazy git who doesn’t really care anyway.

    1. Shouldnt use stink pits. ‘Vermin’ only named as such because of grouse moors. Money talks!

  3. Bob Elliott says that’ The use of stink pits to lure animals into cruel snares, which inflict considerable mental and physical suffering upon the animals trapped in them, shows a fundamental lack of respect for Scotland’s wild and domestic animals.‘. That’s correct buts it also shows a fundamental lack of respect for the general public. We don’t have to accept this barbarity. It’s time for change.

  4. It’s as if they know they are beyond recrimination. It’s such a protracted process bringing these low-lifes to a prosecution that actually HURTS and teaches them something, that they know they can get away with it, especially during the lockdown. They know they have years and years, possibly decades, before anything changes. The estate owners continue laughing all the way to the bank, and the ‘gamekeepers’ are just thankful to be in work. How will this ever change? Endless pressure, endlessly applied. But it tries the patience. Anyone know of something that can stop the blood boiling? Ibuprofen maybe?

  5. I notice there is a Wood Pigeon in this horrible pile, I wonder what clause of the GL that is killed under in the middle of a game estate well away from any crops? The whole idea I understand but find it repulsive. Time their use was banned.

    1. Hey Coop, so how do we dismantle the patriarchal system that allows this to continue? Bees are ruled by a Queen. So are Elephants. We need a Queen.

        1. Why is it that men seem to rule what happens? Look at the best presidents who are women: of New Zealand, Finland, Norway, need I go on? They all have stable, relatively together societies, even though some still hunt wolves etc. Men are by-the-by, peripheral. We should wake up to that. Guided missiles, misguided men. The world has to wake up soon. Keep well, Coop.

  6. So Rooks were removed from Scottish General Licence GL01 in April 2020, at last. However, the bad news is that they remain on GL02, which permits them to be killed “to protect livestock.” Since when did worms, leatherjackets, other invertebrates and plant seeds become classified as livestock? This past winter and early spring has finished an unofficial “project” in killing as many Rooks as possible by farmers in advance of GL01, somewhat akin to the ruthless enhanced persecution of hen harriers, red kites and even common buzzards. I have personally taken a strong interest in crows since 1965, sharing that interest with a close friend who kept and cared for young Carrion Crows from nests about to be shot out by local farmers. It was fascinating to watch the ‘crowlings’ engaging with their new “parent,” who provided food until they were ready to gradually move on and take up their independence. Over the next six decades my interest extended to observing various crow species both in the wider local countryside, also town parks. I’ve no idea if crows elsewhere are treated as cruelly as in my ‘patch’ (the Clyde area of western Scotland), but several species have quite dramatically declined over the past ten years or more. Populations can be monitored by counting single carrion crow and multiple rook nests at rookeries, and Jackdaws can be estimated with Rooks at their communal roost sites. Over the past decade I estimate that Carrion Crows and Rooks have declined by approximately 80%, and Jackdaws by at least 50%. In my opinion all three of the common species merit full protection, because the allegations of them terrorising farm animals or wildlife are entirely unproven, and in my long term observations I have witnessed no significant predation by any of them. Most birdwatchers or ‘birders’ are significantly unaware of the false allegations, because they spend so much of their times chasing rarities. I don’t criticise them for doing so, each to their own.

    1. Hey Iain, all Corvids are in decline. Welcome to the second Silent Spring. I’ve been drawn to Corvids particularly because they’re so intelligent, and are, in effect, our vultures, cleaning up what would otherwise lie to rot and cause problems. I watch buzzards every day, one day there were nine on a thermal overhead. There are occasional Ravens, but because of the incursion of the rich who decide they’re going to build a nice house on Saunton Down just for a nice view of the Atlantic, they put the Ravens and Peregrines off by wrapping it in plastic, to protect it, which all came adrift in the gales, and the noise must have disturbed them. Welcome to a negative trophic cascade. There are very few Swifts this year. Fewer Swallows. Fewer Bees. Who’s to blame? I wonder …

  7. I have dealt with corvids for over 40 years and have never seen a Rook predate anything other than insects, they really have little interest in meat of any description and down south are in serious decline. I despair at the continued persecution of these gentle and intelligent birds.

  8. Looking at GL2 (issued under the new comedy name), it excludes certain SPA’s and SAC sites. It seems to hint these sites were selected because of wildlife crime. The justification for this is very obscure because there several SPA’s and SACs where wildlife crime has occurred seem to have been omitted from their map? Have they issued a proper explanation or a statute of limitations?

  9. In Scotland, England and Wales, fish can legally be used as bait because there is a legal exemption which switches the legal status of dead fish from that of ‘waste’ to a ‘product’. This legal exemption therefore allows fish to be used as a ‘bait’ product but only in certain circumstances. (It’s like the legal exemption provided by licences, which allow users, under certain circumstances, to circumvent the legal protection offered to birds.)

    No such legal exemption is available for wild animal bodies used as bait. Legally speaking, then, the bodies of wild animals are ‘waste’ and would be disposed of as waste. Without that legal exemption shooting organisations are not protected from waste regulations. The bodies of wild animals should not be allowed to be used as a product of ‘bait’.

    The legal eagle for the National Gamekeepers Organisation alerted its members many years ago to this legal difficulty and recommended that its members should switch from using stink pits to lure foxes to snares to using chemical lures. Where is the condemnation, from the NGO, for the use of these revolting stink pits?

    I hope that OneKind take this matter up with SNH.

  10. This is utterly heartbreaking and unacceptable! Depravity at its worst!! The killing of innocent creatures this way and for this reason is beyond contempt, and it should be the murdering bastards rotting in the putrid cesspit of inhumanity!!

  11. In the US there has been quite a bit of research which links animal cruelty with a suspect also committing more serious crimes and acts of violence. (US Justice Dept / Chicago police dept). There have also been similar studies from around the world which all link animal abuse to a persons propensity for aggression and to commit violent crime.

    For most people just looking at the pictures of the stink pit is one of horror, and makes one question the complete lack of compassion and depravity being displayed by those responsible.

    Could the fact that the gamekeepers who are capable of such acts, also be a marker of other unlawful acts they have committed or will go onto to commit?

    Could the use of stink pits and snares on an estate in fact be a useful indicator to wildlife law enforcement and investigation, that the estate is employing individuals who have a psychopathic tendency towards committing harm to wild animals- and that will include persecution of raptors?

    Is it time we stopped differentiating between wildlife crime and other types of crime?
    The use of the term “wildlife crime” is often seen as a lesser evil to the other violent crime committed against humans, almost as though there is some sort of justification to the depraved activity of harming animals.

    Crime is crime, it is committed by criminals.
    It is time the justice system viewed those who commit “wildlife crime” with as much contempt as it does other violent offenders, and imposed punishments to match the sickening and violent acts they commit.

    Something to think about – if a person was convicted of an act of cruelty by beating a pet dog to death, there is little doubt that as part of the punishment the courts would impose a ban on keeping animals. So how is it justifiable for a gamekeeper to beat to death a crow, a rabbit or a fox caught in a snare, and not also be banned from working in an environment where he daily comes into contact with animals? Both dogs and wild animals are sentient beings – both suffer- and all are worthy of compassionate treatment by humans!

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