Protecting Scotland’s Wild Mammals

Scotland supposedly banned fox hunting in 2002 – but actually it didn’t. What passed in the Scottish Parliament was poor legislation, flawed with a myriad of exemptions and very difficult  for the Police to enforce.

You can read more about that here:

“In the hole lived Mr. Fox and Mrs. Fox and their four small Foxes.” – Roald Dahl, Fantastic Mr. Fox

The Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act  was about far more than fox hunting. Back in January 2019 the Scottish Government conceded the Act was flawed and announced that it would be introducing new legislation.

That was 6 months ago. At the time, Scottish Government Minister for Rural Affairs Mairi Gougeon said:

Mairi Gougeon“The welfare of animals in Scotland, whether domestic, farmed, or wild, is one of this government’s highest priorities and so, when it became apparent that legislation introduced in 2002 to protect foxes from unnecessary hunting wasn’t having the desired effect, we wanted to take firm action.

“We asked Lord Bonomy to undertake a review into how we can provide a sufficient level of protection for foxes and other wild mammals, whilst allowing for the effective and humane control of them when absolutely necessary, and published a consultation which attracted nearly 19,000 responses.

“After careful consideration of those responses, I’m pleased to say that we will be taking forward many of the recommendations in Lord Bonomy’s report to clarify and strengthen the Protection of Wild Mammals Act.

“However, not only do we hope to implement the vast majority of those recommendations, we will be going further. We’re going to strengthen our current legislation and plan to introduce measures that go beyond the rest of the UK in terms of protecting the welfare of our wild mammals.”

So far nothing has happened.

Now Alison Johnstone MSP, Scottish Greens, has launched her own consultation in advance of introducing a members Bill :

to improve the protection and conservation of wild mammals by: ending the hunting of wild mammals with dogs; protecting foxes and hares; and tightening the criteria for issuing a licence for the killing of certain wild mammals

In her consultation paper Alison Johnstone states:

“I was encouraged when, in April 2018, the First Minister confirmed she would take action to end the indiscriminate slaughter of mountain hares following footage of mass killing released by the League Against Cruel Sports Scotland and OneKind. As no progress has been made on this, or the similarly routine killing of brown hares, I address these issues in this consultation too.”

You can find information about the consultation here: Protecting Scotland’s Wild Mammals

To contribute to the online survey click here: Proposed Protection and Conservation of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Bill

The closing date for responses is 15th of September 2019.

Scottish Mountain Hares

Scotland’s Mountain Hares are listed in Annex V of the EC Habitats Directive (1992), as a species of community interest whose taking in the wild and exploitation may be subject to management measures’. 

The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, which is registered as  a research and education charity, promotes “Field sports (in particular shooting and fishing)” as a means to “contribute substantially to the conservation of landscape, habitat and wildlife.” Its patron is HRH The Duke of Edinburgh and its President, The Marquess of Salisbury.

The GWCT refutes the idea that Mountain Hare numbers are declining. They insist that Mountain Hare numbers naturally fluctuate with peaks and troughs.

“The GWCT established in 2008 that the Scottish range of mountain hares is not shrinking. In fact, Scottish mountain hare densities have regularly been ten times higher than are typical in continental Europe.”

Although  protected under the EC Habitats Directive it is legal to cull mountain hares if done so sustainably.

The Mammal Society, a charity “advocating science-led mammal conservation” state:

“No systematically collected information is available on long-term changes in numbers of mountain hares over and above the usual periodic 10-year fluctuations, although on some western Scottish moors they are now rare where they were previously abundant. “

“Mountain hares have historically been considered as small game with little commercial value either as a meat source or for shooting revenue. However, the shooting, which usually takes place in the winter months, is becoming increasingly commercialised due to shortage of other game.”

The James Hutton Institute report that there is no method yet developed to estimate mountain hare numbers. It is now collaborating with the Game & Wildlife Conservation and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) : “to establish and validate a simple and reliable method for estimating mountain hare numbers so that future population trends can be rigorously monitored and managed.”

SNH is the body which can license the ‘control’ of mountain hares during the closed season of 1 March to 31 July. Outside of this period there is no license required to kill mountain hares.

OneKind,  Scotland’s leading animal campaigns charity, state that:

“land managers can freely kill hares without carrying out any surveys or monitoring and without jumping through any legislative hurdles”

The killing is unregulated, unmonitored and no surveys are carried out”


You cannot abuse or ill treat a fox, or indeed hunt it down with a pack of dogs – but you can kill it.


The proposed Bill by Alison Johnstone would strengthen the current weak legislation and if passed by the Scottish Parliament would:

  • end the hunting of wild mammals with dogs
  • protect foxes and hares
  • tighten the criteria for issuing a licence for the killing of certain wild mammals

Reporter: Fiona Grahame

I have put this video at the end – it contains images of the large scale killing of mountain hares in Scotland.

1 reply »

  1. I’ve just taken 15 minutes to complete and I hope all of you who love our wildlife will complete this questionnaire.

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