Category: Blog Posts

Mountain Hares (partially) protected

The Scottish Government have finally confirmed they will implement a Scottish Greens amendment to protect Mountain Hares under the proposed Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Act. The amendment came on the back of a 2019 report by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee to the EU which revealed that Scotland’s Mountain Hare populations have experienced a major decline [BTO Breeding Bird Survey mammal data concluded that there had been notable decreases in mountain hare populations in 108 of the 316 10km squares for which the species was assessed in Scotland between 1995/99 and 2011/15 time periods].The report led to the conservation status of the Mountain Hare being downgraded to unfavourable, which meant that special conservation action needed to be undertaken to halt further declines and aid their recovery. The amendment means that Mountain Hares will only be permitted to be killed under licence (for example to ‘protect’ forestry operations), and will effectively end the mass-scale killing on grouse moors.

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Language Matters | Smokescreen/Trail Hunting

The so-called Hunting Office was burnt badly when webinars discussing how to avoid being caught illegally fox hunting were leaked by the Hunt Saboteurs Association. An interesting element of the reaction to the webinars has been the way many of us have seized upon the word ‘smokescreen’ that was used in the webinars. The word has a literal origin as in laying down a cloud of smoke to conceal military operations, but it is more usually used now to mean “something designed to obscure, confuse, or mislead”. Several of the speakers in the webinars used the term while suggesting ways to create an element of doubt about whether, for example, a scent trail has been laid or whether a hunt had ‘accidentally’ killed a fox or not. ‘Smokescreen’ will now forever be linked with these webinars, while we’ll happily take whatever stick foxhunting hands us to poke them with, it’s worth taking a pause here because hunts have actually already been using a smokescreen for fifteen years – and that’s the very phrase ‘trail hunting’ itself.

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European Parliament votes to ban lead ammunition

On the 25th of November the European Parliament voted to ban the use of lead ammunition in wetlands across the EU. 362 MEPs voted in favour of the ban, 292 against, and 39 abstained. As we’ve written a number of times on this site (see – Shooting and Lead Shot), lead has been used in ammunition and fishing tackle for decades, despite all concerned knowing the terrible impact it has on wildlife, the environment, and humans. Lead is a serious pollutant. It’s dangerous – even Roman physicians knew that. Due to its high toxicity and the public and environmental health problems it causes, most releases of lead into the environment are strictly regulated in Europe (e.g. see AMEC 2012). In the UK lead was finally fully banned from vehicle fuel in 2000, removed from paint in 1992, and its use in water pipes before that. However, shooting still sprays tens of thousands of tonnes of lead across fields, moorlands, and woodlands, contaminating soil and water and besides putting at risk the health of wild birds also risks the health of people (their concerns brushed aside by disingenuous lobbyists and advertisers) that eat fragments of shot in their food.

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Hunting Office webinars | Why has ‘trail hunting’ been suspended?

The secretly-recorded and leaked Hunting Office webinars, uploaded to the internet by the Hunt Saboteurs Association two weeks ago, continue to cause huge problems for proponents of so-called ‘trail hunting’ as the number of major landowners banning hunts continue to grow. What follows is pure speculation, but we’re idly wondering why they’ve suspended licences so quickly? All five organisations have been quoted saying that they have suspended licences while the police investigations of the webinars are ongoing. That’s an odd reason to give really. Hunts sabs and monitors will (rightly) say that police investigations can take years and the interview rooms down at the local nicks will have been barely warmed up yet, so what’s going on…?

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Scotland | Licencing sends Grouse industry into meltdown

After ignoring every warning they’ve ever been given that unless things change Scotland’s government was going to be forced into doing something about grouse moors, the industry is shaking its collective head in faux-shock and faux-indignation that Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment Mairi Gougeon has decided that self-regulation hasn’t worked (“self-regulation alone will not be enough to end the illegal killing of raptors”) and has stated in parliament that, “I believe that the Government needs to act…and begin developing a licensing scheme now”. Ms Gougeon also said that the Scottish government planned to regulate the use of medicated grit (trays of the stuff litter grouse moors), and to license muirburn, the controversial practice of burning old heather to promote younger growth for grouse to feed on. This fetid industry should have been gone long ago. It doesn’t deserve the opportunity to survive that licencing gives them, but it’s so unlikely that shooting can stop behaving like a delinquent it will end up closing itself down within a few years anyway…

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Hunting Office webinars | National Trust suspends ‘trail hunting’ licences

The once seemingly impervious walls that fox hunting had built around itself with the invention of so-called ‘trail hunting’ are crumbling fast. Following on from the decision to suspend ‘trail hunting’ by Forestry England because of the secretly-recorded and leaked Hunting Office webinars, the National Trust has just announced that they too have paused ‘trail hunting’ on their land and will not be issuing any licences for the remainder of the season (which ends in March). This is another huge blow for illegal fox hunting. A highly respected charity has taken another look at ‘trail hunting’ and decided that – at the moment at least – it wants nothing at all to do with it.

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The Hunting Act and Badgers

As we and others have been reporting, in a scoop worthy of a national news organisation a fortnight ago the Hunt Saboteurs Association published a series of secretly-recorded ‘trail hunting’ webinars given by the so-called Hunting Office, which reveal the efforts hunting is now having to go to ‘prove’ they are following a scent trail when they go out foxhunting . The fall out from these webinars is just starting to be felt (yesterday, for example, Forestry England announced it was suspending all ‘trail hunt’ licences issued to hunts wanting to use their land) and in a timely twist on the ongoing ‘trail hunting is a smokescreen for killing foxes‘ narrative, the Badger Trust has issued a statement to highlight the links between foxhunting and the persecution of badgers. And while the government might not remember this as they slaughter hundreds of thousands of them to protect the dairy industry, Badgers are actually protected mammals.

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Hunting Office webinars | Forestry England suspend ‘trail hunting’ licences

The fall-out from the leaked/secretly recorded Hunting Office ‘trail hunting’ webinars is beginning to look rather like an avalanche: the snowball that started the whole thing may have taken some time to roll down the slope, but boy is it picking up pace now. News outlets took some time to carefully go over the material and come to their conclusions, but stories began to appear, first off in The Canary (‘Leaked webinar catches retired police chief advocating a ‘smokescreen’ to help fox hunters’) on the 18th, followed by The Times and others, and most damningly early morning yesterday on the ITV news website. Now both The Telegraph and ITV News are tonight reporting another blow to the hunts: Forestry England have suspended licences for ‘trail hunting’.

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