Scotland’s mountain hare shooting industry exposed in new report
OneKind, Scotland’s animal campaigns charity, will release a new report on the persecution of mountain hares in Scotland on Monday 31 July, a day before the open season on mountain hare killing begins.
The report titled Mountain hare persecution in Scotland exposes the scale of mountain hare killing for recreational purposes in Scotland.
Mountain hare shooting is one of many country sports offered by Scottish game estates, and grouse moor managers also organise culls of the animals in an effort to protect red grouse for sport shooting. The report names 25 companies that have been offering mountain hare shooting in Scotland, eight of which are promoted by the Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group (SCSTG). The SCSTG website lists Government agencies, Visit Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), as partner organisations.
One company, Mirani hunting, was using an image of hunters standing by the carcasses of dozens of hares to promote its services on VisitScotland.org. Another, Viscount Sporting, offered a day’s shooting of 80-100 hares for groups of 9 for £4,200. Both webpages have been removed following enquiries relating to OneKind’s report.
The report also highlights two grants SCSTG received worth £36,675 from VisitScotland in the last five years.
OneKind Director Harry Huyton said:
“Mountain hares are an iconic species in Scotland that should be protected. Our report shows that instead they are persecuted in enormous numbers for entertainment. This killing is unregulated, and there are no guarantees that it is not further driving the decline of these species or causing unacceptable suffering.
“Today, the day before the open season begins, OneKind is calling on the Scottish Government to take urgent action and introduce a moratorium on large-scale hunts and culls before the season gets into full swing.”
On the apparent endorsement of large-scale recreational hare killing by Scottish Government agencies, Harry Huyton said:
“I hope that Visit Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage share our surprise and displeasure with what we have revealed in our report. It’s simply not appropriate for Government agencies to actively promote the large-scale recreational killing of native wildlife, and I am writing to both agencies today to ask them to remove their endorsement of the Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group and businesses that offer these services.”
Mountain hare killing is not monitored in Scotland, however an estimate from an SNH study suggests that 25,000 mountain hares were killed in 2006/7. This is understood to be between 5-14% of the total population. It is thought that approximately 40% of those killed are shot for sport shooting, and 50% as part of organised culls.
The report lays out a series of recommendations including the introduction of complete protection of mountain hares within Scotland’s national parks, prohibiting mountain hare killing except under licence all year round, and strengthening and bringing transparency to the licensing arrangements.
A number of businesses advertising recreational mountain hare killing on their websites were approached for comment on the report last week. The following responses have been observed:
- The Balavil Estate website has been taken down and the following comment was provided: “A website set up by the previous owners of the Balavil Estate does not present an accurate description of the estate as it is today. We are seeking to close this website which is not in our ownership. Since 2015, Balavil Estate has had a new owner who is investing in land and properties on the estate, particularly in relation to its farming activities. The estate has no plans for hare shooting.”
- Viscount Sporting are no longer advertising mountain hare hunting. Their website now says that “hunting experiences will exclude Mountain Hare shooting as of the 2017 shooting season” and that they are “firmly in line with the current position of the Scottish Wildlife Trust”.
- The Mirani Hunting entry on VisitScotland.org appears to have removed the image of a mountain hare hunt.
Notes to editor:
- OneKind is a Scottish animal protection charity working to end cruelty to Scotland’s animals.
- Read OneKind’s report Mountain hare persecution in Scotland here.
- The image attached shows a screen grab of the Mirani Hunting page on VisitScotland.org taken in July 2017 (https://www.visitscotland.com/info/see-do/mirani-hunting-p1190411).