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Shooting group says mountain hare protection celebrations will be short lived

By Louise Glen

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Mountain hare
Mountain hare

The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) say celebrations over new laws to protect mountain hares in the forthcoming Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Bill will be short lived.

After the Scottish Parliament moved to include in legislation protection for the much-loved mountain hare in the final stages of the committee debate last week, the BASC said the law would be another wedge between conservationists working on the land and desktop policy makers who did not understand the impact it would have. The amendment was brought by Green Party member Alison Johnstone MSP.

Last week, charity OneKind welcomed the news that the Scottish Government said it would back new laws that would offer protection to the mountain hares in the Animals and Wildlife (Scotland) Bill.

As the bill makes progress through its final stage in the Scottish Parliament, rural affairs minister Mairi Gougeon MSP announced that the Scottish Government would support an amendment. making it an offence intentionally or recklessly to kill, injure or take a mountain hare without a specific licence.

OneKind said that mountain hares were persecuted in mass scale culls by the driven grouse shooting industry, with around 26,000 mountain hares killed in Scotland each year.

However, Dr Conor O’Gorman, head of policy and campaigns at the BASC, disagreed. He said: "Celebrations by the Green Party and the animal rights charity OneKind following a vote in the Scottish Parliament to grant the mountain hare full protection will not last long.

"Mountain hares thrive on grouse moors because of how these wildlife rich upland areas of Scotland are managed.

"Scottish ministers have already recognised the necessity of a licensing system for control to avoid damage to the environment and mass deaths through starvation or disease. This is not a win for animal welfare just more red tape being wrapped round successful moorland management.

"The amendment was brought up at the third hearing of the Animals and Wildlife (Scotland) Bill allowing no time for proper scrutiny and debate at the committee stage. The government’s support for this amendment has driven another wedge between conservationists on the ground and the desktop policy makers.

"At a time of national and biodiversity crisis, it beggars belief that the Green Party is politicising wildlife management issues by fast-tracking ill-judged legislative amendments."

OneKind director Bob Elliot said: “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.”

Related article: Animal protection charity OneKind hails new hare protection

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