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]