Success! The Scottish Government will recognise mountain hares as a protected species, thus ending the mass scale mountain hare killings.
We are delighted that our campaign to end the mass scale mountain hare killings has been a success! The Scottish Government will recognise mountain hares as a protected species, thus ending the mass scale mountain hare killings. We’d like to extend a huge thank you to Alison Johnstone MSP for raising this in the Scottish Parliament and to our supporters for their passion & support to help us end the persecution of Scotland’s mountain hares.
The mountain hare is native to the Highlands. In their white winter coats, bounding over the snow, they’re an iconic image of the ‘untameable’ wild Scotland that we all love. Yet this beautiful animal is routinely shot – even in the Cairngorms National Park – by hunting parties out for the thrill, and by gamekeepers managing land for red grouse shooting. They fear the mountain hare will spread disease, reducing the amount of grouse they can shoot. As a result, tens of thousands are thought to be eradicated every year, with new data released in 2018 showing the total number of mountain hare killed fluctuating around an average of 25,961.
Why are mountain hares being killed?
Mountain hare hunting is a commercial business, with many estates offering dedicated mountain hare packages or mixed bag packages that include mountain hare. These attract hunters from around the world, usually offering bags of 8-10 animals per gun for walk-up hunts and up to 200 for a driven hunt party.
Most mountain hare killing is, however, conducted as part of localised culls on shooting estates. Estate managers believe that this can help control Louping Ill, a virus that affects red grouse and is transmitted by ticks carried by the hare and other mammals. Whilst there is no doubt mountain hare carry ticks, there is no clear evidence that their control could be part of an effective red grouse management regime. Indeed, its scientific basis is so tenuous that scientific experts to the Scottish Government advise that “There is no clear evidence that mountain hare culls serve to increase red grouse densities”.
Scotland’s mountain hare shame
In 2018, data released under Freedom of Information rules revealed the extent of mountain hare persecution in Scotland. Until then, the only estimated number of mountain hare killed was 24,529 over a one-year period in 2006/7. The new figures showed the total number fluctuating around an average of 25,961 and reaching as many as 37,681 in 2014. In 2015, the most recent year for which an estimate is available, 26,952 mountain hares were estimated to be killed.
The killing is secretive, taking place in isolated places, but occasionally members of the public stumble upon a hunt or left over dead bodies, shedding light on this shameful and widespread practice. For example:
- Lammermuir hills, 2014 – RSPB Scotland received evidence that between 1500 and 1700 mountain hares were shot by landowners across the Lammermuirs in the spring.
- Balmoral, 2016 – Two culls involving Balmoral and neighbouring estates were witnessed, one of which was said to have killed 500 hares.
- Lecht mountain pass, 2016 – A birdwatcher encountered a mountain hare cull. Images show a group of 20 armed gamekeepers equipped with more than a dozen high-tech off-road vehicles and hundreds of dead hares.
- Durisdeer, Moray 2011 – A OneKind researcher found piles of dead mountain hare being used in a ‘stink pit’ to attract foxes which are then snared.
To make matters worse, many of these mountain hares are likely to suffer. Shooting hare is notoriously challenging as they are small, fast moving animals and because the shooting takes place in an environment where plenty of cover is available. This heightens the risk of injury rather than clean kills. Furthermore, commercial hunts may involve hunters with little experience, adding to this risk. As shooting is not a licensed activity there is no welfare monitoring or reporting so it’s impossible to know the scale of the suffering.
What is OneKind doing?
OneKind have been campaigning to secure greater protections for the mountain hare since August 2016. Our notable successes so far include:
- In November 2016, we held a rally and mass lobby outside the Scottish Parliament. Around 100 people attended the rally, and OneKind volunteers knitted a mountain hare which were given to each MSP.
- In March 2017, we secured an effective ban on the snaring of mountain hares. This practice used to affect approximately 5000 hares every year in Scotland.
- In June 2017, we presented Grant Moir, CEO of the Cairngorms National Park Authority with a giant postcard calling for urgent action to be taken to end mountain hare culls within the Park. 8,625 OneKind supporters added their name to it.
- In August 2017, we released our report Mountain hare persecution in Scotland which exposed the extent of mountain hare killing in Scotland. This led to a number of companies and VisitScotland immediately withdrawing their mountain hare hunting offerings.
- In September 2017, we handed in a 12,000 strong petition to the Scottish Parliament.
- In October 2017, we called on VisitScotland to stop promoting recreational mountain hare killing through their endorsement of the Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group.
- In January 2018, OneKind Director Harry Huyton appeared on BBC programme Countryfile to bring mountain hare culls to the public’s attention.
- In March 2018, OneKind, League Against Cruel Sports and Lush released a video narrated by Chris Packham exposing the shocking reality of Scotland’s mountain hare culls. Following the release of the footage, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP said, “Large-scale culling of mountain hares could put the conservation status at risk and that is clearly unacceptable.”
- In August 2018, we launched our open letter to Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform and Francesca Osowska, CEO, Scottish Natural Heritage. Currently, more than 22,000 people have signed in support.
- In September 2019 OneKind and our supporters supported the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Bill.
How can I help Scotland’s mountain hare?
- Sign our open letter to the Scottish Government asking them to protect Scotland’s mountain hare.
- Write to your MSP and/or the Cabinet Secretary asking them to support our campaign and end the mass killing of our iconic mountain hare.
- Live in Scotland? email your MSP and ask them to end mountain hare slaughter.
- Order a campaign pack and start campaigning to protect Scotland’s mountain hares.