New report suggests up to quarter of a million animals killed in traps & snares on Scottish grouse moors each year

Press release from League Against Cruel Sports (Scotland), 13th August 2020

Shocking new statistics show up to 260,000 animals killed each year on Scottish shooting estates to increase the number of grouse to be shot for ‘sport’

Charity publishes ‘Calculating Cruelty’, a field study of Scotland’s hidden shame

  • 57,000 killing devices deployed each day in Scotland representing the equivalent of over 10,000,000 active trapping and snaring days per year.
  • Up to a quarter of a million animals are killed each year in an attempt to totally eradicate foxes, stoats, weasels and crows to increase the number of grouse.
  • Nearly half of the animals killed are non target species such as hedgehogs, dippers and mistle thrush.

The League Against Cruel Sports Scotland has published the most comprehensive and robust field study of ground predator control on Scotland’s shooting estates. Over 15 months, an independent surveyor mapped the location and frequency of traps and snares set on seven shooting estates to calculate the true extent of animal killing as a result of predator control to sustain the driven grouse shooting industry.

Analysis of the survey data by a leading scientist concludes that up to a quarter of a million animals are killed every year to maintain high numbers of grouse for sport shooting, with nearly half of these non target species. The study also found that failure to comply with existing codes of practice is widespread on Scottish grouse moors, and that best practice guidelines produced by professional organisations that represent the shooting industry appear to serve little useful function.

Robbie Marsland, Director of the League Against Cruel Sports, Scotland said: “These figures have shocked and appalled us. This is the most comprehensive, quantitative study of predator control giving an illustration of the grim reality of Scotland’s grouse moors, where up to a quarter of a million animals are simply wiped out to ensure grouse numbers are kept artificially high.

Our report ‘Calculating Cruelty’ leaves us in absolutely no doubt that managing such large parts of Scottish moorland for an industry which makes a woefully low contribution to the economy is entirely misguided and outdated.

Between June 2018 and September 2019 a surveyor, with over 20 years experience of game management recorded the scale, distribution and use of legal grouse moor management equipment and practices. Using the Scottish right to responsible access, the estates were walked and all ground was viewed so that the items being specifically surveyed were likely to be found. All ground was covered at least once with all tracks and watercourses checked carefully. The estates surveyed were had various intensities of management practices, and included:

● Millden Estate, Angus

● Tillypronie Estate, Aberdeenshire

● Glenmazeran Estate, Inverness-shire

● Easter Clunes, Inverness-shire

● Kildrummy Estate, Aberdeenshire

● Invermark Estate, Angus

● Skibo Estate, Sutherland

The survey was carried out without the estates being notified so that the data were not biased by management practises changing as a result of the survey and no legally set trap or snare was interfered with in any way. This is the first time that such a widespread and detailed survey of estates has been undertaken.

The report published by the League, is part of a series of reports by the various partners of Revive, the coalition for grouse moor reform, a campaign group bringing together social justice, environmental and animal welfare organisations. Since its inception in 2018 Revive has shone the spotlight on the circle of destruction surrounding driven grouse moors, campaigning for their radical reform.

Robbie Marsland added: “The enormity of the figures produced by the data in this report is simply staggering. The League and our partners in Revive, the coalition for grouse moor reform think it is unconscionable to kill any animal, let alone up to a quarter of a million, to ensure that hundreds of thousands of grouse can then be shot for ‘sport’.

Driven grouse shooting is surrounded by a circle of destruction which is Scotland’s hidden shame. This cruelty and willful disregard for the environment and our wildlife needs to stop once and for all starting with a complete ban on all snares and traps.


The League has published two new reports, ‘Calculating Cruelty’ and ‘Hanged by the Feet until Dead’, both of which can be downloaded below:

Calculating Cruelty

Hanged by the Feet until Dead

A copy of both reports has been sent to every MSP in the Scottish Parliament.

There is also a short video highlighting the key findings of this study:

38 Degrees has launched a new petition, ‘Stop grouse shooting’s war on wildlife‘ which can be signed HERE

There has been the usual criticism of these two reports by the game shooting industry although so far this criticism appears to be focused on personal and defamatory abuse of one of the report’s lead author Professor Stephen Harris rather than any criticism of substance about the reports’ actual findings. This is what we’ve all come to expect – anybody who dares try to shine a light on the murky practices of this industry immediately becomes a target and attempts are made to smear, distort, misrepresent and undermine that person’s professional and personal integrity.

Read the reports for yourselves, look at the eye-watering number of traps recorded on some of these estates and judge for yourselves whether this level of intensive and largely unsupervised slaughter of wildlife, to facilitate a ‘sport’, is acceptable in modern Scotland.

You’ll notice Millden Estate in the Angus Glens was one of the seven estates surveyed, and also reported as the most intensively-managed of all seven. That won’t be a surprise to many readers as this area has been accurately described by Chris Townsend as ‘savaged, stripped and blasted land’ (see here for some shocking photos).

Millden has featured on RPUK many times and readers may recall the most recent Millden blog – last October there was a huge multi-agency raid for suspected animal fighting and during that raid a number of dead raptors were also discovered and as a result a gamekeeper was suspended (see here, here and here).

We understand that cases are progressing on the animal fighting allegations as a result of the SSPCA investigation but it is not known whether any of the wildlife crime allegations are progressing – these are apparently being investigated by Police Scotland.

21 thoughts on “New report suggests up to quarter of a million animals killed in traps & snares on Scottish grouse moors each year”

  1. What the hell is wrong with all these people,….how can anyone consider this to be even remotely ok. I hope all the terrible suffering they have caused to innocent wildlife comes eventually back to haunt the evil bas***ds.

  2. I thought I was pretty well beyond shocking, until I saw this! Utterly sickening. Petition signed and facebooked.

  3. It is incomprehensible why any civilised human being would want to kill for fun.

    What healthy reason could anyone have to kill for fun. “Enjoyment must involve killing” – where on earth is the rationale behind that ?
    Such an activity is the sort of behaviour that one could well expect from an unwholesome person of some sort. Not content with just killing a target species the activities are expanded into an insane world where it is compulsory to kill every single living creature that may reduce, or threaten to reduce, the numbers of targets available to be shot.

    It is actually not at all difficult to see how there is a large problem with wildlife crime. When people have made their way into killing for fun it is then but a small thought to indulge in criminality, or take part in an activity that utilises criminality, in order to sustain killing for fun.

    1. It is a measure of how ruthless you are prepared to be: to stop at nothing to get to the top, and then stay there. Which is why the aristocracy and landed gentry have always ‘blooded’ their heirs at a very young age: to get them used to killing.

      They are all very seriously damaged people, and very dangerous, too.

      Unfortunately for us and our wildlife, they have also established enormous reach and power. That this is able to continue is a failure of democracy.

  4. And then there’s England! I would doubt that the situation is any different there.
    Apart from the sheer horror of the overall numbers, surely the extent of the ‘legal’ by-catch of non-target species should be sufficient evidence to warrant urgent action to ban these barbaric practices.

  5. Great work, thanks to all concerned for getting this information out in to the public domain. However,
    I don’t understand why you use the phrase ‘up to a quarter of a million’ several times in your text but the figures you quote are 260,000 which is over a quarter of a million. Surely you should be saying over a quarter of a million animals are being killed in traps each year.

  6. The sick and twisted fraternity stoop to even lower levels. Are there no limits to the depths to which they will sink?

  7. In relation to birds, the non-target species aspect of this could be easily addressed by adding ‘ or recklessly’ to Section 1(1) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. It would then read ‘….if any person intentionally or recklessly – (a) kills, injures or takes any wild bird ….. he shall be guilty of an offence.’ It is absolutely staggerring that they currently get away with killing protected species on such a massive scale.

    It would appear that the dark side is not in denial of either the practices or the figures. I hope that they realise that the report is worth several nails in the DGS coffin. The evidence is stacking up very nicely. They seemingly cannot help but continue to shoot themselves in the proverbial foot.

  8. This report demands action by our politicians- and any failure to act to bring about the end of traps, snares simply for the purpose of increasing game bird numbers will leave wildlife’s blood all over their hands.

    We have recently had various surveys on the state of British wildlife – all these reports have indicated a massive decline in wildlife numbers across just about all species. Wildlife is expected to cope with habitat loss, food shortages and many other issues all linked to industrial farming practices, climate change and urbanisation.
    It is no wonder so many species are only just managing to survive and many are predicted to face extinction.

    So how can any intelligent person accept that further slaughter is acceptable by the deliberate actions of gamekeepers, simply so a tiny minority of wealthy landowners have an over abundant supply of game birds to shoot at?
    Surely even the most intellectually challenged politician can see through the lies that these traps on grouse moors are set for conservation purposes?
    This is a level of slaughter that no civilised society should find tolerable.

    We really do need to ask questions as to why a handful of wealthy land owning people, who appear to hold a barbaric prejudice towards wildlife – and simply want to shoot it- have so much political influence?? How can this happen in a modern democratic country?

    Its a disgrace, and politicians who don’t challenge this – should hang their heads in shame.

  9. ‘Nearly half of the animals killed are non target species’.
    So about 125,000 non target species are killed every year!
    How can that be legal?
    Of course it shouldn’t be legal to kill the 125,000 target species either.

    1. That’s what I was getting at in my comments above. It would appear that it’s legal because, at least as far as birds are concerned, it is not regarded as being intentional. However, there must be a fine line here because, if almost 50% of victims are non-target, the perpetrator must be aware that there is a significant chance that a protected, non-target, species will be caught, which is arguably verging on intentional.

      No doubt this issue has not been pursued previously because of the lack of hard evidence. However, this report will hopefully prompt some serious official examination of the situation it has revealed. Done properly, there can only be one outcome.

      1. Interestingly, in the USA, the Trump Administration was unsuccessful in scaling back a century old law where “accidental” bird deaths occurring as a result of “non- intentional” commercial operations can be treated as potentially criminal. These could be as a result of, for example, unprotected power lines, accidental discharges of pollutants or oil spillages. These, while not in themselves, criminal, can result in the company or individual being criminally charged and having to pay compensatory costs. Commercial interests, clearly have no wish to be held responsible for what they consider to be collateral damage – but, in reality, without culpability and strict compliance to the law, it simply escalates to a difficult to enforce “free for all”, especially where the setting of snares is completely haphazard and their required inspection virtually non-existent. That’s the situation we now have. We should be interested to know whether these estates have records of the position of these snares and how they operate their regular inspection regimes.

        1. That’s interesting. Good to see that Trump didn’t get his way. The Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC) in the US has an excellent record in opposing his crazy proposals, having achieved a reversal in approximately 90% of cases determined.
          I hope that the LACS report will be part of the evidence which the SG will be considering in its post-Werrity considerations. Surely they cannot fail to be moved by the non-target victim numbers in this unregulated activity – as well as the overall figures.

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