Failure to stop mountain hare cull shows “commercial interests are driving government policy”, says Alison Johnstone

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 2 August 2018 in News

Ministers have faced criticism over mass culls, with tens of thousands expected to be killed before the mountain hare shooting season ends on February 28

Image credit: Stuart Anthony

The Scottish Government’s failure to prevent large scale culling of mountain hares shows “commercial interests are driving government policy”, according to Scottish Green MSP Alison Johnstone.

Ministers have faced criticism over mass culls, with tens of thousands expected to be killed before the mountain hare shooting season ends on February 28, mainly by gamekeepers on shooting estates.

Johnstone has called on ministers to step up efforts to prevent mass culls, claiming they have turned a “blind eye” to killing.

It comes after Nicola Sturgeon warned the large-scale killing of mountain hares on grouse moors was “not acceptable”, with the First Minister confirming ministers would consider legislation and a licensing scheme to prevent mass culls.

While estate owners claim culls limit the spread of viruses, campaigners and opposition parties have called for an end to the practice, warning culling has no basis in science.

Johnstone said: “Today marks the start of a season of shame across Scotland's hills and moors, with a blind eye being turned to large-scale culling of mountain hares. Sporting estates' belief that it protects grouse against viruses has no basis in science, so the failure to ban this horrific practice shows commercial interests are driving government policy.

“When I raised this issue with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in March, she said she shared my concerns, would explore all options to prevent mass culling, and would hold urgent talks with gamekeepers. Did these talks happen? And what progress has been made on preventing culls?

“Scotland is a nation of animal lovers and outdoor enthusiasts and the public are fed up with the Scottish Government dragging its feet on animal cruelty and allowing our hillsides to be used for blood sports.”

An estimated 26,000 hares are killed each year in Scotland, though in 2014 the number rose to over 37,000.

Responding to Johnston in March, after the BBC revealed a video of a mass hare cull, the FM said: “I share Alison Johnstone's concern and anger.

“There is real public concern and we share the public concern about this iconic species on the Scottish mountains.

“Large-scale culling could put the conservation status at risk and that is clearly unacceptable.”

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