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
Country lover, amateur naturalist and fox lover fighting to preserve the ban on hunting