The Hare Preservation Trust group on Face Book has been asking people to sign a petition to protect hares from persecution from gamekeepers on Scottish grouse moors. The Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) pointed out its not illegal to ‘cull’ hares in Scotland. Shooting hares is a popular activity amongst blood sport enthusiasts, who can rack up as many as 400,000 dead hares each year. It's a money spinner too, with a day's shooting costing anything up to a £1000.
The Scottish gamekeepers are shy about the killing of hares and they don’t like being questioned too closely about the activity either.
When pinned down they prefer to expand on how all animals including hares, benefit from grouse moorland management because of the removal of predators like foxes, weasels, raptors etc. It makes not a jot of difference that Scottish Mountain Hares are reportedly being driven to extinction by gamekeepers, and one of the reasons, apart from the enjoyment of a fun day out shooting, is because they believe that hares carry a tick which can kill grouse. And so the obscene massacre of the gentle hare continues in spite of calls from the Scottish government and animal groups for voluntary restraint.
Back in November 2015 the Wildlife Crime Penalties Review Group (WCPRG) published its findings on how wildlife crime in Scotland is dealt with by the criminal justice system. It was clearly shown that the present system is failing woefully and the punishments do not act as deterrents The WCPRG highlighted ten short and medium term recommendations for the Scottish Government to consider, all of which are supported by the Hare Preservation Trust. The most significant of these recommendations is a hefty fine increase from the current £5,000 to £40,000.
Environment Minister Dr Aileen McLeod has responded to the report and has accepted the recommendations.
She had this to say, “Wildlife crime has no place in modern Scotland, this is why I have decided to increase the maximum available penalties to bring wildlife offences into line with other environmental crimes. It is important we have appropriate penalties that deter criminality but also reflect the impact these crimes can have on our environment and Scotland’s reputation as a wildlife tourism destination. Work will now begin on bringing together a list of relevant offences this change would apply to.”
They hire the gamekeepers to protect the game birds for their canned hunting, and they aren’t fussy about what form that protection might take. Another silent but deadly killer of huge numbers of hares are wire noose snares. Deadly loops of death which catch all manner of innocent animals from hares to domestic pets. The snares are set for foxes, which are hated by game keepers because the eat grouse.
Snaring is not illegal, although it should be, and two thirds of the animals that die in snares are not the target species. Hares make up a huge proportion of the animals that are caught in snares every week. Often in the breeding season, and the hares that die are pregnant, or even worse they may leave young leverets who will starve to death.
Images from IShoot and the Hare Preservation Trusts facebook page
Originally written in 2014 this post is as relevant as ever as the British Conservative party look at ways to overturn the UK hunting ban.
The hunters are today attempting to negate the anti-hunting argument by inferring that banning hunting has nothing to do with a love of unmolested wild life, and everything to do with spiteful bullying and jealousy of the upper classes. What they omit to mention is that they themselves are not strangers to some horrendous upper class bullying and hatred of the plebs who dare to stand against them.
The Protection of Wild Mammals Bill, a forerunner of the hunting Act we have today, was a modest but welcome step which had to be critically defended in the face of a seven-year counter-assault by the forces of a militant tendency in upper class Britain. The introduction of the Bill saw venomous resistance in the House of Lords and fierce extra parliamentary attacks with direct action and civil disobedience.
Building on the Wild Mammals Act, and to give UK wildlife the right not to be hunted and torn apart by a pack of dogs, came the hunting Act, and if we had seen sedition in the upper echelons with the forerunner of the Act, it was nothing to the mayhem and anarchy that prevailed in town and country alike when the toffs thought their cruel pastime was about to be snatched away for good.
Notoriously, a plummy mob of violent protesters hijacked Parliament Square in London, and members of the 'Ledbury set' led by their pro hunt pin up boy Otis Ferry, broke in onto the floor of the House of Commons to protest about what they thought should be their human right to kill for fun.
*The old aristocracy and the parvenus who ape them and their bloodthirsty ways, bile-belching reactionary journos, the Tory Party's front bench and backwoodsmen, along with a rag tag army of retainers, hangers-on and village idiots, took to the proverbial barricades in rebellion against townies, democracy and the 21st century.
And the battle for the British countryside began, but it wasn’t started by the common decent folk. It was started by that privileged minority who had never in their lives before been told that they must defer to the rule of law and desist in pursuing that nefarious and cruel pastime known as fox hunting. That symbol of aristocratic privilege and the natural order of things where the upper classes ruled and the surfs did as they were told, or at least didn’t argue back, had come to an end. Their God-given right to do as they like had been challenged by Labour party upstarts no less and they were jolly well going to see about it. They immediately declared the Act a waste of time and unworkable. They called it an unjust law, and on that premise they took their grievance to the Court of Human Rights where they were promptly told that it is not a human right to kill.
Bloody-nosed but undeterred the hunters signed a declaration to break the law, and they hoorayed and trumpeted their defiance, dressed in hunting pink, the length and breadth of the land, killing and chasing foxes as before whilst pretending all the while they were following trails of foxes which had long been turned into American fur coats.
Then the RSPCA successfully prosecuted the Heythrop for illegal hunting, and the toffs turned really nasty. The aristocratic and land-owning elite and their right-wing middle class allies, aided and abetted by the right wing press, orchestrated a prolonged, vicious and scurrilous attack on the RSPCA, the League Against Cruel Sports and any other animal charity that dared voice an opinion against hunting. Sir Barney White Spunner, recently erstwhile CEO of the Countryside Alliance, wrote in the Telegraph saying that the RSPCA was a sinister organisation. Simon Hart MP, himself an avid hunter, who it is rumoured entered politics specifically to fight to repeal the ban, wrote to the Charity Commission complaining that the RSPCA had over stepped its remit and the prosecution was politically motivated. The Charity Commission ruled that the RSPCA had no case to answer. Mr Hart went so far as to discuss the matter in Parliament, but again the RSPCA was vindicated, with the Attorney General adding that the Charity performed an essential and valuable service which could not be easily picked up by the police or the CPS.
Undeterred and still charging over the fields on horseback, and still breaking the law whilst at the same time declaring themselves Martyrs and decrying the infringement of their basic human rights, they attempt to align themselves with heroes like Nelson Mandela and Martyn Luther King. As if these hunt apologists ever lifted a finger to protest at the true injustices visited on the working classes during the miners’ strike or the present day hardships of those on zero hour contracts and people that are made homeless because of the bedroom tax.
Odd that these very same people who admit gleefully to breaking the law are ardent supporters of law and order when it comes to prosecuting hunt saboteurs for aggravated trespass. (A law brought in specifically to stop our sabs entering private land to record video evidence or prevent illegal hunting. Aggravated trespass carries a stiff fine, a criminal record and may incur a term of imprisonment.)
When it comes to defending their privilege, whatever it takes becomes their credo and violence against anti-hunt people and property is common place. The battle is not just about foxhunting. Fox hunting is part of a long class war and the toffs are determined to show the rest of us just who runs Britain.
Country lover, amateur naturalist and fox lover fighting to preserve the ban on hunting