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Animal protection charity OneKind hails new hare protection

By Louise Glen

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Mountain hare
Mountain hare

An animal protection charity has hailed the Scottish Government’s decision to offer full protection for mountain hares in Scotland.

The move by the government ends mountain hare culls in game shooting areas. It is believed that around 26,000 mountain hares are killed in Scotland each year.

OneKind called the move “a triumph” for mountain hare champions and thanked MSPs for listening to public opinion on the status of this cherished species.

The Scottish Government said if would support an amendment allowing the mountain hare to be added to Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act. When it passes into law it will be an offence to intentionally or recklessly kill, injure or take a mountain hare without a specific licence.

OneKind director Bob Elliot said: “This is a triumph for one of the Scottish Parliament’s hare champions, Alison Johnstone MSP [who brought the amendment] and also underlines the willingness of a minister to listen to public opinion on the status of this cherished species.

"As soon as it became possible for Alison to lodge her amendment, the upsurge in public support has been momentous. OneKind is delighted to have been part of this and to see a successful conclusion to one of our most heartfelt campaigns to end the mass scale mountain hare killings.

“Different reasons given by the grouse shooting industry for the supposed need to control mountain hares, such as the prevention of louping ill, a disease carried by ticks, have been successively discounted, and animal welfare has taken precedence.”

The announcement comes in the wake of repeated calls for change from animal welfare organisations, such as OneKind, and conservation organisations, highlighting the fragile nature of Scotland’s mountain hare population and the welfare consequences of shooting a small, fast-moving animal as part of a wildlife “management” or recreational pursuit.

OneKind lodged a Petition to the Scottish Parliament in 2017 calling for full protection of Scotland’s mountain hares and has written an open letter to the Minister which has now collected over 23,000 signatures. OneKind has thrown its weight behind the action of the Scottish Greens, whose petition in support of the amendment gathered over 20,000 signatures in around one week.

OneKind is also a member of the Revive coalition which brings together raptor protection, animal welfare and land reform bodies to call for reform of Scotland’s grouse moors, and has also strongly supported Amendment 30.

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