Today I went to the Scottish Parliament Petitions Committee to give evidence on our petition for greater protection for the mountain hare. Here’s my short video update:
It was a great privilege to hand in the petition and represent the 11,000 or so of you who signed it. It was also extremely worthwhile. It has helped us keep the pressure on the Scottish Government for an urgent intervention, and given us the opportunity to highlight the need to address recreational mountain hare killing as well as culls.
I’m encouraged by the Committee’s response and, more generally, by the response we have had to the report we published in August. In particular I note that there has been a fair bit of interest in our proposal of simply extending the close season so that it applies all year round. Yes, mountain hares could still be killed if this happened, but only under licence and this would mean that SNH could scrutinise every application and publicly report on licences issues as they do for seal killing. The other attraction of this approach is that it could be delivered using secondary legislation, so it provides a relatively straightforward means of addressing the issue.
Here’s a few further thoughts following the Petitions Committee session:
The Committee will now ask for stakeholders to submit their views on this issue. The responses they get are, I think fairly predictable. I very much hope, however, that the RSPB, the Scottish Wildlife Trust and friends will update and re-publish their 2014 statement against culls. Specifically, I hope they will also note the threat that recreational killing poses to the species and the need for this to be addressed as well as culls, otherwise we risk any moratorium being dodged by semantics. Once these submissions have been made, my understanding is that OneKind will be given the opportunity to comment again and the petition will then go back for discussion by the Committee.
I think we can expect the public health argument to be used more by proponents of hare culling. That’s fine, because the idea that culling mountain hares will reduce Lyme disease is unsubstantiated and a million miles away from best practice in preventing this disease in other countries. My only regret is that it takes valuable time and attention away from genuine solutions, such as better public education about ticks and the disease.
We need to be careful about the idea that grouse moors are great habitats for mountain hares. It’s true that they are good habitats because they do well in a heather monoculture where their predators are killed, but that doesn’t justify killing them. If there are ‘too many’, the appropriate response would be less intensive moor management, not culls.
Finally, this is the first time I’ve submitted a petition to the Scottish Parliament, and my first impression is that it is an impressive and democratic process. The process is clear and accessible, with no hurdles such as a minimum number of signatures, and the Committee treated the petition (and the others that were heard today) seriously and with respect. Compare that for a moment with how Mark Avery’s driven grouse petition, which was signed by over 100k people, was received by Westminster. If you need your memory jogged, here’s a link to Mark’s blog at the time.
Thanks again to everyone who has supported this campaign and signed the petition. We will launch the next stage of the campaign soon, so watch this space, but in the meantime you can help by:
- Buying the T-shirt (we’ll pop some campaign stickers and postcards in the post to you too!)
- Requesting a campaign pack – Email Sarah.Moyes@onekind.org and Sarah will send you a pile of campaign leaflets and stickers so that you can help get the message out there.
- Joining us. We’re entirely funded by individuals. Believe me when I say that a fiver a month would make a big difference to what we’re able to do.