Wildlife and animal rights groups say that the “mass slaughter” of a much-loved Scottish species is unjustified and cruel. But landowners insist that the cull is necessary to protect grouse from disease so that they can be shot for sport.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has received evidence that between 1,500 and 1,700 mountain hares were shot by landowners across the Lammermuirs in the spring. The figures are privately confirmed by landowners as “not unrealistic”.
Several sporting estates were involved in the cull, including Burncastle, the 8,000-acre grouse moor near Lauder in the Scottish Borders owned by Ralph Percy, the 12th Duke of Northumberland. Based at Alnwick castle in Northumberland, he has been listed by the magazine, Country Life, as one of the UK’s top ten aristocratic landowners.
“Most people will be unable to see any justification for killing an iconic species, known to be in decline, on such an industrial scale,” said Libby Anderson, policy director at OneKind, an Edinburgh-based animal welfare group.
“This goes far beyond hunting for the pot or what some may call sport – it looks more like extermination. Killing in springtime is likely to involve the deaths of pregnant or lactating females, adding to the toll of suffering.”