Will the mass slaughter of mountain hares on grouse moors end on Monday?

It has been legal to kill mountain hares in Scotland for decades, although in more recent years concerns about the species’ conservation status led to the introduction of a closed hunting season as part of the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011, which became enacted on 1st March 2012 (see here).

Nine years later and after a long, hard-fought campaign by a number of organisations and individuals, backed by Scottish Greens MSP Alison Johnstone, as of this Monday (1st March 2021) mountain hares in Scotland will have increased protection, meaning it will be illegal to intentionally kill, injure or take mountain hares at any time unless a licence is obtained.

[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]

Mountain hares have been killed for a variety of reasons, including to protect forestry interests and for recreational ‘sport shooting’, but overwhelmingly they’ve been killed on driven grouse moors in a vain attempt to control the viral disease ‘Louping-ill’ in red grouse – I say vain attempt because scientists have concluded ‘there is no compelling evidence base to suggest culling mountain hares might increase red grouse densities’ (see here).

The scale of the mass slaughter on some driven grouse moors in recent years has been eye-watering (nearly 38,000 killed in one season – see here) and this was despite widespread calls for voluntary restraint from within the shooting industry itself (e.g. see here). The killing is believed to have increased as part of the intensification of driven grouse moor management in some regions (see here).

Hopefully, from Monday, we won’t ever see a return to that level of obscenity but the new protection does not mean that mountain hares can’t still be killed – it means the hare killers will need to have a licence and thus presumably evidential support to justify the licence being issued, which should mean that slaughtering thousands of hares to protect grouse stocks will not be permissible.

We don’t yet know the terms of the new licensing scheme but NatureScot (the licensing authority) has begun to consult and there’ll be a lot of organisations watching with close interest to scrutinise the final details. NatureScot can also expect a series of FoIs to scrutinise licence applications vs licences issued.

RSPB Scotland’s Senior Species and Habitats Officer James Silvey has written an excellent blog laying out what the RSPB expects to see in the new licensing regime – see here.

21 thoughts on “Will the mass slaughter of mountain hares on grouse moors end on Monday?”

  1. It is unbelievable to me that such a gross and horrible slaughter is even contemplated in the 21st century. Only primitive savages would wish to be involved in this horror show and those types should have no rights in this regard….none atall. !

    1. I totally agree. Those who kill for reasons not based on scientific evidence and those who kill for ‘fun’ are living in a parallel universe to the one I inhabit.

      It is so clearly immoral to take a life and especially now when we have a massive biodiversity and climate change emergency. There is such a strong interconnectedness between humans and the environment and all that live in it. If people can’t work it out for themselves then we must legislate to stop the indiscriminate killing if our wildlife

    2. Totally agree with your sentiments . To see the results of this mass slaughter is sickening to the core ; how can it be allowed ?

    3. Primitive peoples would not enter into mass slaughter because such people only kill to feed themselves, family and their tribe. There would be no waste, no stink pits and no sick fun.

      Primitive people respect the lives they take.

      The blood thirsty savages have developed in the last 200yrs, they have no place in these times and the killing is only for fun and lame excuses.

      The people killing for fun do not deserve the name human.


  2. I totally welcome the measures taken to stop the killing of hares. However, as we know the detail needs to be scrutinised. And when licences have or have not been issued who will be policing the land owners and gamekeepers who, as we know often flout the law?

  3. I hope NatureScot will realise that, with the exposure of the myth that numbers of mountain hares have any impact on the number of grouse, that licencing of any hare cull would not be justified. The detection of any breaking of this, and any other, wildlife law on grouse moors should be addressed by licencing the whole experience and any breach would mean revoking of the licence. In addition, if the police need to undertake “covert surveillance”, the increase in penalties would allow this to take place.

    So, although many would advocate a total ban on shooting animals for pleasure, I cannot support that view. However, I do hope that we do not have to go through another shooting seasons where our iconic Scottish species are not adequately protected. Come on SNP, get your finger out!

  4. Boring tosh. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx was caught lying and in a disastrous bid to get hunts women xxxxx xxxxx prosecuted. She was with xxxxx xxxxx the known circus fixer from the nineties. All you groups are a load of scamming liars acting out fantasies of authority.

      1. For you not sure, see your doctor.

        We know xxxxxxxxxxx was out with xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx while she lied about xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx didn’t want to go near the liars and dropped it.

        xxxxxxxxxxxxx works for xxxxxxxxxxxxx another bogus charity making up lies to shafts people.

      1. Good for you, enjoy.

        Why xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx?
        Surely you’re against illegal activity and would want to highlight anyone trying to pervert the course of justice, You rant about it enough?

        Or is it because the pathological liar xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx is the same pathological liar xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx in an attempt to obtain a bent prosecution of xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

        The liar actually claimed xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  5. If the protection afforded to birds of prey by the Countryside and Wildlife Act is anything to go by. Then this new legislation to protect mountain hares will not stop the illegal killing of these creatures, Those who are responsible for the illegal killing of Golden Eagles or other birds of prey, won’t give a thought to illegally killing mountain hares if they can’t obtain a licence. Mountain hares won’t even have the benefit of satellite tagging to give an indication of just how many are disappearing, so we will probably never know just how many are illegally killed and the bodies disposed of.
    Legislation in itself does not protect wildlife. It’s only when that legislation is robustly enforced, criminals brought to justice and the criminal activity ceases- and we are a long way off from achieving this!

    1. Hi John, totally agree, just like the General Licence stuff on Crows, Jays, etc. When I asked a still fanatical shooting & keeper-helping friend what has changed to keepering since the General Licence upheaval he said they have just carried on pretty much the same. Getting laws on the books is the (vital) foundation for what comes next – improvements to police powers of investigation & enforcement and then after that – proper sentencing. Just my thoughts.

  6. That the ban wasn’t introduced immediately says everything you need to know about the SNP’s and NatureScot’s intentions and integrity towards making this measure a success and enforcing it properly.

    Nice of you to hide the identification of that offensive poster. I counted the number of x’s and realised that it couldn’t be Perdix having a meltdown. Go on, who is it? He can hardly complain of being defamed by merely printing their ID – unless, of course, he is using an offensive nom de plume because he is too much of a coward to show himself (sexist assumption alert!).

    1. Be a good chap and xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, Its the admin covering the names of the folk I said tried to setup xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx with lies and failed.

  7. Every February over 300 mountain hares shot on one beat of a deeside estate to protect grouse , no trees, no disease, disgusting practice all for birds over guns.

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