May 09

Stop the mountain hare killings: where does Scottish Labour stand?

The mountain hare is native to the Scottish Highlands. In their white winter coats, bounding over the snow, they are an iconic image of the ‘untameable’ wild Scotland that we all love. Yet this beautiful animal is routinely shot – even in the Cairngorms National Park – by hunting parties out for the thrill, and by gamekeepers managing land for red grouse shooting. They fear the mountain hare will spread disease, reducing the amount of grouse they can shoot. As a result, tens of thousands are thought to be eradicated every year, with one study finding that between March 2006 and February 2007, 24,529 mountain hares were killed in Scotland.

Many mountain hares are likely to suffer. Shooting hares is notoriously challenging as they are small, fast moving animals and because the shooting takes place in an environment where plenty of cover is available. This heightens the risk of injury rather than clean kills. Furthermore, commercial hunts may involve hunters with little experience, adding to this risk. As shooting is not a licensed activity there is no welfare monitoring or reporting so it’s impossible to know the scale of the suffering.

Where does Scottish labour stand on this shocking treatment of these beautiful animals?

Below is the description of Labour’s position from Scottish campaign group One Kind.

Scottish Labour

15 out of 23 MSPs have responded so far – Alex Rowley MSP, Richard Leonard MSP, Johann Lamont MSP, Daniel Johnson MSP, Colin Smyth MSP, Elaine Smith MSP, Anas Sarwar MSP, Jenny Marra MSP, Neil Findlay MSP, Claire Baker MSP, Kezia Dugdale MSP, Claudia Beamish MSP, Rhoda Grant MSP, David Stewart MSP, Neil Bibby MSP

We’re delighted to see that the Scottish Labour Party are opposed to the mass killing of mountain hares and state in their response to our campaign that they will “do everything possible to make sure that the unnecessary killing of hares does not take place in Scotland.”

The email reply given from the majority of MSPs stated that:

“Mountain hares are a vital part of our heritage of the Highlands, and it is a tragedy that so many are needlessly killed each year. We agree that there has been no evidence to support the rationale for a cull, and we support an audit of hare numbers in Scotland.”

Both Alex Rowley MSP and Colin Smyth MSP gave more personalised responses – Alex Rowley stated that he was “horrified by the terrible pictures we saw of mass killings” and Colin Smyth MSP said “ongoing killing of mountain hares is extremely worrying” and that he was “deeply concerned that the Cabinet Secretary does not appear to recognise the need to better protect mountain hares.”

It was also pointed out that Claudia Blemish MSP has submitted a Mountain Hares in Scotland Motion  that notes that “mountain hares are a vital part of the heritage of the Highlands, and that it is a tragedy that so many are needlessly killed each year”

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If you feel strongly about this issue, why not raise it at your local party meetings?

Below is a draft motion for you to take to your local branch and/or constituency Labour meetings.

For further information on the mountain hare killing in Scotland, see the One Kind website.

Draft CLP or Branch Motion

XXX Branch believes that XXX CLP should condemn the mass killing of mountain hares in Scotland.

This Branch/CLP notes:

  • Mountain hares are native to the uplands of Scotland. They are different from brown hares by the way their coats change to white during the winter months.
  • Most mountain hare killing is conducted as part of ‘culls’ on commercial shooting estates.
  • Estate managers kill the hares as they believe it will help control a virus that affects red grouse but scientific experts to the Scottish Government advise: “There is no clear evidence that mountain hare culls serve to increase red grouse densities”.
  • Tens of thousands of mountain hares are killed every year.
  • Mountain hares suffer greatly in the culls. Shooting hares is notoriously challenging as they are small, fast moving animals. This heightens the risk of injury rather than clean kills.
  • Campaigning groups have documented the practice of mountain hare killing and their videos show the true extent of the cruelty involved.

This Branch/CLP believes that:

  • This extraordinary carnage has no place in the Scottish countryside.
  • The only rational response is to give these beautiful animals the protection they urgently need.
  • The Scottish government needs to take urgent action if it is to prevent further killing before the open season starts once again in August.
  • The Stop the Mountain Hare slaughter campaigns organised by OneKind, League Against Cruel Sports and Lush, backed by the Labour Animal Welfare Society, should be supported.

This Branch/CLP resolves:

  • To write to Richard Leonard, Scottish Labour Leader, and Claudia Bleamish, Scottish Labour’s Shadow Minister for Environment and Climate Change, thanking them for supporting the Stop The Mountain Hare Slaughter campaign and urging them to keep up the pressure on the Scottish Government to take action.

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