We were devastated to see the footage of mountain hare killing in the Highlands released by OneKind, the League Against Cruel Sports and Lush. It clearly shows that estates are not practicing ‘voluntary restraint’ and instead appear to be at war with the hares.
In a talk to OneKind supporters in 2016 you confirmed that “the Government does not support mass culling” and asked that we provide “actual evidence”. We believe that this footage and the information in the OneKind report Mountain hare persecution in Scotland provides that evidence and that bold, decisive action is justified on the following grounds:
1) Protection of Scotland’s mountain hare population – We see no evidence that the current policy is compatible with Scotland’s duties under the EU Habitats Directive, which places a requirement on Scotland to maintain the mountain hare population in favourable conservation status, and prohibits “the use of all indiscriminate means capable of causing local disappearance of, or serious disturbance to, populations of such species”.
2) The prevention of unnecessary suffering – The OneKind and LACS footage shows a hare suffering injury and then being killed over a prolonged period by a dog. This is just one incident, and we can only assume that such suffering is routine.
3) Disease control is ineffective –50% of mountain hare killing in Scotland is justified on the grounds of disease management for red grouse. A 2015 Report to the Scientific Advisory Committee of Scottish Natural Heritage concluded that “there is no clear evidence that mountain hare culls serve to increase red grouse densities”.
4) Mountain hares are an important part of our natural heritage – A further 40% of mountain hare killing is apparently recreational. We consider mountain hares to be an important, much celebrated part of our natural heritage. A continued policy of mass-killing undermines this and Scotland’s reputation as a country that embraces and protects wildlife.
We recognise and welcome the review of the environmental impacts of grouse moors, and hope that this will lead to permanent protection of mountain hares. However, it will take a significant period of time before this leads to legislative change. We therefore ask that you take urgent action. Specifically, we believe that the closed season should be extended to apply all-year round. This could be done quickly under existing powers and would prohibit all killing except under licence.