For almost half the year Scotland’s mountain hares are protected. For the rest of the year, it’s open season. The result? Organised culls that can see hundreds - even thousands - of hares killed in just one day, even in our National Parks.
If you believe National Parks should be safe havens for wildlife, please take action now and sign our postcard to the Cairngorms National Park Authority calling for urgent action to stop the culls.
Mountain hares are native to Scotland. In their white winter coat they’re a thrilling sight that is iconic of Scotland’s rugged and wild landscapes. Yet they are persecuted on an enormous scale throughout the country for bloodsports.
For almost half the year, from March to August, mountain hares are protected. Any persecution without a licence from the Scottish Government is illegal. For the remainder of the year, they can be killed freely with no permissions and no transparency. We’re calling for mountain hares to be protected all of the time, starting in the Cairngorms National Park, which is at the core of the mountain hare’s range in Scotland.
The Cairngorms National Park Authority have the power to stop this, but the lobby who support the culling is strong. No one will take action unless they see that the public, and particularly those that live in and use the Park, won’t tolerate our Parks being undermined in this way. So take action now: sign our postcard to the Cairngorms National Park Authority and help end the culls in the Cairngorms. We will hand a giant copy of this postcard with everyone’s name on it to the Cairngorms before the killing season begins again in August.
Why are mountain hares being killed?
Mountain hares are killed in large numbers across Scotland by hunting parties who view it as a legitimate sport, by gamekeepers to manage land for red grouse shooting, and, to a lesser extent, to protect forestry. This photo, which was taken in the Cairngorms last year, shows a large-scale cull in action on a grouse moor. Some grouse moor managers cull mountain hares in large numbers because they fear the hares may transmit the tick-borne louping-ill virus to red grouse, reducing the number of grouse available to shoot. Red grouse shooting is a lucrative business in Scotland, so less grouse means less income for the estate.
However, even if you accept eradicating native wildlife to maximise the numbers of grouse to shoot, there is little evidence that mountain hare persecution ‘works’. Indeed, its scientific basis is so tenuous that the Scottish Government’s scientific experts advise that “There is no clear evidence that mountain hare culls serve to increase red grouse densities”.
What is the Cairngorms National Park doing?
In a letter to OneKind in January 2016, the Cairngorms National Park Authority confirmed that it is aware that culls are taking place across many estates in the National Park. They “accept that culling may be justified and necessary” but “do not advocate large-scale culls”. They are currently encouraging land managers within the Park to share data on culling activity.
Scotland’s National Parks were established with a number of aims, including to “conserve and enhance the natural heritage of the area”. We believe that that includes conserving mountain hares, a native species that is iconic of the Park, and are therefore calling on the Park to use its powers to protect them.
How many hares are being killed?
Because it’s a free-for-all outside of the closed season, now one really knows. Individual culls can be very large. In just one reported incident in the Lammermuir hills, one and half thousand were estimated to have been culled on one moor.
The only official estimate found that 24,529 mountain hareswere killed in one year back in 2006/7. For comparison, in 2015, 1467 badgers were culled in England, which would mean that Scotland’s mountain hare culls are ten times bigger than the badger culls.
Why are we targeting the Cairngorms?
Mountain hare are killed throughout Scotland, and we are calling for their complete protection so that the culls are stopped entirely. However, the fact that our National Parks offer no additional protection at all to this native species is particularly shocking and contrary to public expectation of what our National Parks are for. The National Park Authorities have the powers to halt killing, or at least to regulate it and demand transparency, so we think it reasonable that we ask them to use these powers. The Cairngorms themselves are at the heart of the mountain hare’s range.
What is OneKind doing and how can I help?
Our petition to the Scottish Government got over 11,000 signatures and has been handed in to the petitions committee. We sent a really powerful message to the Scottish Parliament back in November when we held our #HareCare rally and mass lobby, and presented every MSP with their own knitted hare. The Cabinet Secretary addressed the crowd and said “the Government does not support mass culling of these animals at all”.OneKind will keep calling on the Scottish Government to take action, but we believe there is no reason why Scotland’s National Parks should wait for this to happen.
Please take action now to add your name to our postcard which we will present to the Cairngorms National Park on 1st August, the first day of the open season.