Scottish Government fails to protect mountain hares as shooting season opens

Today marks the start of the open season for killing mountain hares in Scotland.

You may have thought that the Scottish Parliament recently voted to protect this species, bringing an end to the scenes of horrific mass slaughter on Scottish grouse moors and only allowing future killing to take place under licence in certain circumstances.

[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]

Well, there was a vote, under the proposed Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Bill, and Parliament did agree to provide full protection for the mountain hare (see here) but the Scottish Government is first insisting on undertaking a consultation before enacting the new legislation. This blog (here) by RSPB Scotland’s James Silvey and Duncan Orr-Ewing provides an excellent summary of the situation.

Since that vote, campaign groups have been urging the Scottish Government to bring in emergency interim measures to protect mountain hares whilst the consultation takes place (e.g. see here, here) but all to no avail.

You’re not going to believe what the Scottish Government published yesterday. Or perhaps you will. At the end of the week when it’s been deluged with letters of public outrage over the illegal poisoning of a sea eagle that was found dead on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park (see here), the Scottish Government’s Environment team posted this on twitter:

Are they for real? A call for voluntary restraint? Are they having a laugh?

This is an industry whose failure to self-regulate is legendary. Some of its members continue to systematically kill birds of prey, despite it being illegal to do so for 66 years, they slaughter mountain hares by the thousands (an estimated 26,000 hares shot every year), and they even continued to set grouse moors alight during Covid19, despite calls to stop from their own industry leaders, which led to the Scottish Parliament enacting an emergency temporary ban (see here).

This is an industry out of control and with little to no regard for legislation. Why the bloody hell does the Scottish Government think the industry will comply with a plea for voluntary restraint now? Why would it, when it gets away with criminality time and time again? And asking now, when the corpse of that poisoned eagle is uppermost in everyone’s minds?

It’s back to that famous quote again:

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results‘.

It’s become pretty clear that the grouse shooting industry aren’t the only ones out of control. The Scottish Government has been unable, no, make that unwilling, to take control of wildlife protection despite having the legislative power and a huge public mandate to do so.

UPDATE 5 August 2020: Unconfirmed reports of mountain hare culls on several Scottish grouse moors (here)

[Cartoon by Mr Carbo]

31 thoughts on “Scottish Government fails to protect mountain hares as shooting season opens”

  1. It does not take a great deal of head scratching to figure out what is going on within the Scottish Gaggle, where their loyalties lie and who calls the tune.

  2. If there is any good to come out of it: it will show (yet again, ad nauseam) that the shooting industry cannot be trusted to act properly and proportionately. It can only hasten the end.

  3. Absolute twaddle!! Most shooting estates will not touch hares. I cannot vouch for all of them, but certainly the greater majority of them welcome hares on their land.

    1. Richard ‘ Twaddle’ Towers, you talk absolute twaddle.

      My local keeper here in North Yorkshire told me “Don’t worry if you see lamps in the field tonight, it is just me and the other local keepers, we like to ‘hammer’ the hares each year to keep numbers down, so we don’t get any dog-men coming along to get them”.
      (dog-men: referring to people coursing hares with lurcher dogs)

      So he is admitting that he and other keepers, kill as many hares as possible each year just so other people don’t get chance to.

      Typically ‘clever’ rationale from the people who supposedly look after parts of our countryside and wildlife.

  4. Interesting, in the new ‘Uplands & Birds’ by Ian Newton it claims that even work by the Game Conservancy [changed its name but does not count] says that there is no proof that these hares cause damage to Red Grouse by the ticks! Red Deer are more to blame!

  5. The petty nature of politics means that as this was an amendment from another party, it’s less likely to be enacted.

    1. I think you have hit at least one nail on the head, there. Tribal politics getting in the way of proper management of our environment. Another nail concerns vested interests…

        1. “Another nail in the coffin of DGs licensing too.”

          Hardly. This concerns an already agreed ban with an attached license for exemption, which has not yet been drafted. Should we suggest what the wording of the exemption license should be, or should we just leave it up to the politicians to decide?

          1. You can suggest what you like Keith, but it will be SNH that will issue licenses to kill mountain hares as the killing of mountain hares has NOT been banned outright. How do you think that will work out? Do you think SNH will stand up to landowners and refuse many/any license requests?

            1. So… you are not prepared to suggest ANYTHING? Leaving it to the politicians… And then you complain.

              1. Once again Keith you did not answer my questions. My suggestion, as you are well aware, is simple: stop killing mountains hares with no derogation for licenses to be issued, much like the protection now afforded to seals that was passed in the same legislation. Hows’ that for clarity? Perhaps you could do us a service and offer some clarity on my questions?

                1. “stop killing mountains hares with no derogation for licenses to be issued”

                  The point is that the Parliament approved licensing in preference to an absolute ban, so your preferred option was defeated (not even considered). Attention, then, should turn to what form it takes – except you refuse.

    2. This and the blocking of Joanna Cherry are the last straw (added to a meadow of others). I apologise for ever defending the SNP on this blog. I will be forced to vote for them for any chance of Independence but they even seem to have given up on that.

  6. Whenever I hear that the Nationalist Scottish Government “are discussing how this is going to work in practise with land managers” I suspect they are devising a plan which makes the measures look good while actually achieving very little. You know, the sort of thing that went on at Strathbaan with the ravens and the protection of beavers in the Tay Valley catchment area. The SNP Government find themselves in the middle of a tug of war between the vast hegemonic powers of the immensely rich and powerful land owners and the majority of the population at large … and, SADLY, this seems to be their main pre-occupation rather than doing the right thing … which is to protect our environment and all in it.
    That said, it would be much the same for any Government due to the land owning system in Scotland, except possibly the Tories, who unashamedly push through any new laws that suit them, regardless of public opinion, as they have boundless private funds to play with if necessary.
    Keep it in the news. If you see a cull happening photograph it and place it on social media giving some information to contextualise it. Keep holding their feet to the fire.

    1. Talking to yourself again? I think you will find that there are far more people opposed to this slaughter than are in your bloodthirsty clan.

  7. “This is an industry out of control and with little to no regard for legislation.” It is indeed, but if I may say entirely predictable. If a SG with a massive mandate that talks the talk RE wildlife issues cannot/will not sort this out what hope is there? Perhaps now those numbskulls calling for a DGS licensing system will think again…

    [Ed: Stephen, please can you be a bit more respectful of those on here who don’t share your view of DGS licensing. Debate and challenge is fine, of course, but it doesn’t need to be personally abusive. Thanks]

  8. There needs to be public demonstration at sensitive times, pressure put on politicians by a show of physical presence close to voting dates, plus, gatherings on public roads near to estate entrances at certain suitable times. Protecting the environment and wildlife within it is a duty of those in power, private land or not – this Scottish government is failing badly and everyone knows why: essentially they dare not tell truth to vested interests, they dare not empower the police to pursue with real willpower the perpetrators, they dare not make an example of a landowner for fear of…..? Losing money, losing friends, losing face, losing power? The law is being broken on a regular basis and politicians are mealy-mouthed about it. Our police are low in esteem or kowtow to those with wealth and lands. Much more needs to be done when it comes to gaining evidence. High status board members send out rhetorical messages when an eagle is poisoned or a raptor shot or lost. Galling. I suspect convictions are just not happening because of this spinelessness running through the system.

    The recent death of a sea eagle, an icon, a symbol of freedom and wild beauty, carried out more than likely by someone working for a landowner, with impunity, says it all.

    1. I hear what you’re saying Andrew and Direct Action, I feel, will come as public anger/awareness grows.

      The problem as I see it in Scotland is that we have a Government that makes all the right noises then backs off when it comes to implementation and enforcement, probably for the reasons you mention. I think that – with the honorable exception of the Greens – unfortunately there is no alternative party (likely to form a government) that will give us a better deal. Labour? Tories? God help our wildlife and environment! I remember when the SNP voted with the Tories on Andy Wightman’s very simple ‘Hill Track amendment’ to the planning bill. That told me all I needed to know about their actions rather than their words. I protested at the time and was told, very politely, to piss off. This is why I’ve given up on the argument to try and persuade politicians to ‘regulate’ DGS (and related activities) as they simply will not do the right thing when reality bites. Couple that with Government agencies and Police that cannot/will not actively enforce the law/regulations then it is a bleak picture as the situation with mountain hares highlights.

    1. In my experience of shooting estates there are too many very influential people and their friends at the top in Government circles who regard a day out with a shotgun on the moors as great sport so as long as they are able to block proposals or changes in legislation regarding control of any species they can make it very difficult to counter any such moves.

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