I see that Rob Edwards has written an article in today’s Sunday Herald about the slaughter of 1500 mountain hares in the Lammermuirs. If a few hundred are shot for the food chain I don’t object to that but the reason for killing such a massive quantity of mountain hares – not only in the Lammermuirs but in many parts of Scotland – is invariably to reduce the spread of ticks from the hares to red grouse. There is a clear absence of ethics in killing large numbers of mammals, or birds for that matter, which are not considered as ‘pests’ (I detest the term ‘vermin’, which I see as wee creepy crawlies such a head lice) so that another species prospers. It makes the situation even more disgusting when many of these shot mountain hares are destined for a hole in the ground or to be used as bait in middens surrounded by fox snares.
It is no secret that driven grouse moor owners and those who manage the moorland for grouse production are despised by a sizeable chunk of the public. Most people are aware that driven grouse shooting is only a sport for the very rich, though some could live with this. It is the mounting tally of illegal activities and those activities that go against good conservation in the pursuit of a monoculture of grouse that now disgust a large proportion of the population of Scotland. In addition to this abhorrent and disgraceful near-elimination of mountain hares I have witnessed the slaughter of deer – for the same reason: to reduce tick numbers for the preservation of grouse – and with few if any of the carcasses reaching the human food chain, but simply left where they are shot. If the deer have not been slaughtered they have been fenced out by electrified fencing that may also prevent the deer accessing sheltered ground in winter and hinders legitimate access to the countryside by walkers. Raptors are all but absent on many driven grouse moors, and it is most unlikely that birds such as hen harriers and golden eagles are able to breed successfully. I have also witnessed native trees along the side of hill burns cut down to eliminate roosting or nesting places for raptors and protected mammals such as badgers and otters in snares..
Many of the owners of driven grouse moors seem to think that the law does not apply to them, that they can do as they wish on their own estate or they feign ignorance of what their servants are up to. They are marching inexorably towards either being licensed or towards a complete ban on their sport. Many are confident that their wealth and position will safeguard them but in their arrogance they may not have noticed that people no longer doff their cap to them or refer to them as ‘Sir’ or ‘m’lord’. I echo the closing sentence in a recently published article on bird of prey persecution by Ian Thomson, senior investigations officer with RSPB Scotland. ‘Enough is enough’.