Ministers turning blind eye to wildlife mass slaughter as open season on mountain hares begins

Scottish Ministers are being accused by a Green MSP of turning a blind eye to the mass slaughter of important wildlife with today (1 Aug) marking the start of the open season on mountain hares, when landowners can shoot as many as they like until February.

Mountain hare shooting is an activity offered by Scottish game estates, and it is estimated that 26,000 are killed on average each year. This is up to 14 per cent of the population, despite the species being classified as a priority in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.

Scottish Green MSP Alison Johnstone, Species Champion for the Mountain Hare and Brown Hare, and deputy convener of Holyrood's cross-party group on Animal Welfare, raised the issue of mass culls with the First Minister in March.

Today Alison 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."