Scottish Parliament to vote on banning mass slaughter of mountain hares on grouse moors

Press release from the Scottish Greens (10 June 2020)

Parliament to vote on mountain hare mass killing ban

The controversial practice of mass killing of mountain hares may finally end thanks to a proposal from Scottish Green MSP Alison Johnstone, who has lodged an amendment to the Animals and Wildlife Bill. The amendment would make mountain hares a protected species, effectively ending recreational killing and mass killing on grouse moors.

[Shot mountain hares strung up in a chilling larder, screen-grabbed from a controversial feature on Countryfile (2018) showing mountain hares being shot on a Scottish grouse moor]

The Lothians MSP has a proposed member’s bill to end the killing of the iconic animal but will seek to introduce the protections sooner in stage 3 of the Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Bill.

Alison Johnstone said: “Mountain hares are iconic animals, native to the Highlands. Yet rather than being treasured they are barely protected by the Scottish Government, and persecution and mass killings are rife. This is our chance to end the killing and protect this species for future generations.

In 2019 the conservation status of the mountain hare was downgraded to ‘unfavourable’ after new data published by the EU revealed populations have experienced a major decline [see here]. This followed shocking evidence of large-scale killing on shooting estates [here] apparently to increase the numbers of grouse available.

Mountain hares are routinely being killed in huge numbers on grouse moors in particular, with an average of 26,000 killed every year. Efforts to get shooting estate managers to practice voluntary restraint has failed.

I hope that the SNP and other parties will ignore special pleading from the shooting lobby and do the right thing next week. Either this amendment passes and mountain hares are protected, or Parliament turns a blind eye to the continued slaughter of a native species


Stage 3 of the Animals & Wildlife Bill will take place next Wednesday and MSPs will vote on Alison Johnstone’s amendment to make the mountain hare a protected species.

If you’d like to encourage your MSP to support this amendment, please contact them now. If you’re not sure who your MSP is, you can find out by typing in your postcode here.

67 thoughts on “Scottish Parliament to vote on banning mass slaughter of mountain hares on grouse moors”

  1. Well done to Alison Johnstone! Let us see Scotland stand up for our wildlife and our environment.

  2. I hope that Alison Johnstone is successful with her proposed members bill ending the slaughter of the iconic mountain hare in Scotland.
    Sadly, as in the case of high numbers of raptors killed on grouse moors, I can’t see mountain hares being protected from mass killings even if the bill is successful. I hope I am wrong.

  3. This will tell us a lot about where the Scottish Government actually is: are they as backward as the Tories but with nicer accents or genuinely interested in conserving wildlife and the environment?

    1. Exactly. We’ll see if a few favours are called in over this to stop the ban going ahead. Bumping off a few raptors is easy enough but clearing a mountain of hares needs large-scale effort which is hard to hide.

      So what’s it going to be, Scottish Government? More Werritty Waffle or Strathbraan Shenanigans? Perhaps it’s some to show some mettle instead of being generally useless and tone-deaf on several controversial issues.

      1. Yes Stuart, it is make your mind up time for the SG. Will we get more irresolute running with the hare and hunting with the hounds or will a few show some moral fibre and swing the vote against the wildlife assassins.

  4. A marvellous ambition but, even if this were mandated, and looking at how other protected creatures are still routinely abused and persecuted…like badgers, raptors etc, I doubt very much would change, until this horror show is viewed as a very serious crime and policed and punished accordingly.

  5. The Mountain Hare is our only Native hare. The Brown hare was brought here by the Romans, as was the pheasant. Brown hares are no longer hunted by coursing, and the Mountain hare should have higher protection, being native to these islands.

  6. It will be good to see a list of who votes against this or abstains. If I had a MSP I would definitely be writing.
    I can feel a dear Nicola letter coming on from an angry tourist.

  7. Strongly worded e mail sent to my local MSP asking about their voting intention? Hope it works and they support they support the proposal? Awaiting reply

  8. Oh what horrific act. Never knew about it before. Just hope the bill passes to save all those lovely hares.

  9. I support this Bill. With the provision that there be supervision of the long term effect on local native fauna, should hares become so prolific that their feeding is damaging.

    1. I would suggest heather burning every March destroys more native fauna than the hares. I understand there is a temporary ban on muirburn but for how long?

  10. Why are we killing these creatures? Does the human race not learn? Stop killing animals. Scotland do the right thing and ban this.

  11. Well done Alison Johnstone who has been tireless in her support of Mountain Hares. Please take a few momnets to write to your MSP. It need only be a short (polite) e-mail. It will make a difference.

  12. Of course this is a good effort but the implementation of it will be another matter. The landowners will insist that “they need to be culled for the good of the moor” etc, etc. At least it would make it harder for them to offer the hare shooting to their guests as a sporting option ie. to make money from it. Tradionally it has generally been rich italian and spanish Guns who love that type of thing and pay top prices for a “day at the hares”.

  13. If they are given the deserved protection, I hope it will be more meaniful than the protection beavers receive.

  14. Our wildlife is part of our heritage and deserves protection, far too many of our indigenous animals are shot for sport, and poisoned to enable game animals to take over.
    The number of mountain hares have decreased to a point that they will become endangered themselves .. their persecution must stop now .. as elected politicians please think carefully before allowing mass culling of our beautiful wildlife ..

  15. This is part of a whole problem relating to Scotland’s land and who ‘owns’ it. Much of Scotland’s land has been taken over by neighbours south of the border, and some who are not resident in the UK. They use it for shooting and killing, it is a playground for the rich where they kill Scotland’s wild animals. These animals are iconic to Scotland’s identity and hugely crucial to the balance of the whole eco system of Scotland.

    Yes, perhaps deer need to be managed, carefully culled even, but otherwise, Scotland is being emptied of wildlife, it’s utterly unacceptable, not to mention horrific for the animals who are so cruelly and brutally murdered by these people who should be nowhere a gun, and who wreck Scotland’s countryside.

    Whether a ‘ban’ will stop this is debatable, after all, fox hunting with dogs is banned in Scotland, it is treated as a rule by these rich land thieves, to be broken, not a law. Can anyone imagine Police Scotland driving around the highlands and interferring in a shoot, they’d be told where to go.

    Due to Scotland’s land having been overrun with people who have no desire to preserve flora and fauna, who very often do not live on the land full time, and who break the law because they have the money and arrogance to do so, we are up against a monster. Under the ‘union’, Scotland has been used and abused, the land, the animals and even the people.

    Sadly, with only limited political powers, Scotland can do little to stop this disgusting destruction to the environment.

    Looking at my MSP’s list, they are all ,except two Green MSP’s, British nationalist MSP’s, I doubt very much at all they will be minded to, nor care about the wanton destruction of Scotland’s land, and flora and fauna. It would be good to be proven wrong on that. Pigs will fly first.

    The attitude of over privilege, leading to the breaking of the law, and general attitude of disrepect and contempt for Scotland, means that Scotland’s wild animals are sadly going to continue to be murdered, to suffer and eventually be wiped out, and it is all about land, privilege, and money. Until Scotland can and does change land rights to take back as much of the land as possible for the good of the population as a whole, and to preserve it for future generations, it is not a good outlook.

    Scotland is limited in governmental powers and clout. Will the Eng HQ’d parties in Scotland vote FOR Scotland’s wildlife being preserved and protected, or will they vote against that?
    Sadly, while Scotland is shackled to and more or less owned by their southern neighbours, it does not bode well right now.

  16. If the justification for killing hates is that they carry and spread a tick – why not treat the hares to eliminate ticks using a feed based medicine? 🙂🍃

    1. If you were unaware, Edward, the criminals claim that the hares pass ticks on to grouse. The grouse (which require medication in the form of grit trays), of course, would be far less vulnerable to ticks (and the associated pathogens) if they they weren’t artificially maintained (farmed) at many times the density that would naturally occur, in order to provide plenty of targets for those who enjoy killing for entertainment.
      This said, others are of the opinion that the real motive for their removal is to eliminate prey species which help to sustain Golden Eagle populations.

    2. Edward
      As far as I am aware there is no evidence of tick transmission from mountain hares to red grouse.

      “A thorough review of the evidence concluded that there was insufficient evidence to suggest culling mountain hares is a useful tool for increasing grouse densities by controlling LIV and ticks, in the majority of areas” (Harrison et al. 2010)
      Harrison A, Newey S, Gilbert L, Haydon DT, Thirgood SJ (2010) Culling wildlife hosts to control disease: mountain hares, red grouse and louping ill virus. J Appl Ecol 47:926–930

      Gamekeepers are adopting the precautionary principle and killing mountain hares just in case they have an effect. Other perceived benefits are that it reduces food for Golden Eagles.
      It is yet another damaging activity of driven grouse shooting that needs to end.

  17. Are we not currently experiencing the reprisals of our complete and utter disrespect for nature. This horrific act is driven by money and the entertainment of ridiculous human beings. We do not have the right to treat animals in this manner. We have to learn to work with nature, not destroy it when it gets in the way of our fun. We don’t invite child abusers into playgrounds but find it acceptable to allow animal abusers loose in our countryside

  18. Hopefully this will go well for the mountain hare, but suspect that once we get back to business as usual(ish) a demo for the Scottish Parliament needs to be organised, a joint one that shows how badly this country treats its wildlife and how accommodating it is for its killers, focusing upon raptors, mountain hares and beavers. On May 1st 2019 to much fanfare Scotgov gave legal protection to the beaver, it became unlawful to kill one without having obtained permission to do so when there was a clear and serious conflict with existing land use, and then only after other options were to be tried to mitigate/avoid it. Between August and December last year no less than 87 beavers were shot under license, approximately a fifth of the Scottish population in the space of four months. Oh..and in addition 15 beavers were trapped and translocated to enclosed locations in England, at present in Scotland you cannot do translocate beavers so it’s easier to get permission to shoot one than move it somewhere like RSPB Insh Marshes where they would be a conservation boon and help reduce downstream flooding of homes, businesses and farms. I’ll never forget how when the size of the beaver population on the Tay became widely known the SGA ‘kindly’ offered to have their members shoot them. Par for the course isn’t it?

    1. “On May 1st 2019 to much fanfare Scotgov gave legal protection to the beaver, IT BECAME UNLAWFUL TO KILL ONE without having obtained permission to do so when there was a clear and serious conflict with existing land use and then only after other options were to be tried to mitigate/avoid it. BETWEEN AUGUST AND DECEMBER LAST YEAR NO LESS THAN 87 BEAVERS WERE SHOT UNDER LICENCE, APPROXIMATELY A FIFTH OF THE SCOTTISH POPULATION IN THE SPACE OF FOUR MONTHS.”

      Therein lies the problem …………… in Holyrood there are people who speak with forked tongue. They create legislation that masquerades as being protection for wildlife and simultaneously provides the means to sanction killing on the basis of feeble reason.

      It matters not a whit from where the landowners are from. It is for the SG to exercise control to prevent abuse and effectively deal with crime. What we are dealing with here is interminable failure to provide protection.

  19. Mountain hares are beautiful. They are being slaughtered to promote more grouse shooting. Our local hares on the Lammermuir Hills are being killed. It has to stop.

  20. Animal Concern has received an e-mail from an MSP who is self isolating and working from home. He says that although he can participate in Parliamentary debates from home he cannot vote. Due to their own age and health or that of their partner, some MSPs may have to self isolate and work from home for another year or more. Surely Parliament can quickly adapt and permit remote voting?

  21. I wonder how much land owned for driven grouse shooting was a direct consequence of profit from slave trade or East India Company or looting Africa etc.

    1. Quite right – and what about all those Normans whose descendents are still living off ‘their’ land. And those landowners responsible for the highland clearances who still own vast tracts of Scotland. Lets all judge the past by todays morality.

  22. Please stop this slaughter of beautiful hares which I used to enjoy watching regularly when I was young.They are a rare sight now.

  23. Dear Sir /madam,
    I am writing in regards to the vote taking place next Wednesday 17th June on an amendment to the Animals and Wildlife Bill that would make mountain hares a protected species, ending their unnecessary and unethical mass killing on grouse moors across Scotland.
    Mountain hares are an iconic species, yet current government policy is failing them. The mountain hare is a priority species for conservation, yet recent research in Scotland points to a marked decline in their population (Watson and Wilson, 2018).
    Mountain hares are killed in vast numbers across Scotland’s grouse moors, all to increase the number of grouse so landowners can charge more to those who wish to shoot them. An average of 26,000 mountain hares are killed each year; this is a staggering number of individuals of a species native to the Highlands, meaning that the mountain hare population is now at just 1% of 1950’s levels.
    The reason given for this mass slaughter is that mountain hares spread sheep ticks to grouse, yet scientific studies have found no evidence to substantiate this claim. Mountain hares should not have to suffer to allow for the continuation of grouse shooting, an industry with multiple detrimental economic, environmental and social impacts.
    As a constituent of yours, I would be grateful if next Wednesday you showed your support for Scotland’s wildlife and voted for this amendment to grant the mountain hare protected status and end their unethical wholesale killing.
    Kind Regards,
    Isobel paxton

  24. These people won’t be happy until they have wiped out an entire species then in years to come after realising the devastating effect of removing them, will try to reintroduce them to help it is not the humane way of dealing with the hares, they were there long before people and their man made stock p keep the area clear of weeds etc

    1. Believe me, Pegs, the criminals responsible don’t give a toss about any future effects. All they care about is providing an obscenely bloated Red Grouse population for other degenerates to blow away for fun. Regardless of how they pose as “conservationists” on shows like Country(side Alliance)file, the truth is that they’re the complete and utter antithesis.

  25. The Scottish government must start to protect our wildlife and not allow wealthy landowners to kill thousands of our native animals so they can breed and kill an invasive species ( pheasants) or grouse for their own sick pleasure. Time to look after our wildlife and show the rest of the world how e lead the way

  26. I support the proposal from Scottish Green MSP Alison Johnstone in respect of her amendment to the Animals and Wildlife Bill. The amendment making mountain hares a protected species, effectively ending recreational killing and mass killing on grouse moors, is a disgrace and long overdue.

  27. Again this is all about money .. we have no right to do or allow this carnage .. it’s time to say enough is enough .

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