An Oxford-led academic study has claimed a staggering 260,000 animals are killed in Scotland every year to protect the grouse population for shooting on country estates.
They said the practice of using traps to cull predators on Scottish moors causes “tremendous, unjustifiable suffering” to creatures and must be fully banned.
Animals targeted include foxes, weasels, stoats, rats and rabbits, as well as crows, magpies, jackdaws, and jays.
However, other animals often end up caught by the traps, such as hedgehogs, badgers, deer, hares and rare pine martens.
The study, by the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, claimed even the most humane traps only kill 80 per cent of animals quickly, leaving the other 20 per cent to suffer “for days” with “appalling injuries”.
The Scottish Government’s new Wildlife Bill is proposing to ban snares – one type of trap – and more tightly regulate other types of predator control.
Use of snares “inevitably means that animals can struggle for hours in considerable pain or distress”, researchers said.
The report, which was also backed by experts at St Andrews, Edinburgh, Stirling and Aberdeen unis, said the widespread killing of predators is designed to “artificially inflate” numbers of gamebird like grouse so there are plenty around for the shooting season.
Centre director Professor Andrew Linzey said: “This is a major moral issue. It simply cannot be right to cause tremendous suffering for non-essential purposes.
“When we began the report, we knew hardly anything about these control measures, but we have been staggered by the degree of suffering.”
Titled ‘Killing to Kill’, the 71-page report graphically details how each method of control “causes suffering, or prolongs suffering, or makes animals liable to suffering”.
Ahead of Scotland’s Wildlife Management and Muirburn Bill – which passed its first stage at Holyrood last week – the report concluded Scotland could “lead the way in pioneering legislation” that protects both domestic and wild animals.
Robbie Marsland, director of the League Against Cruel Sports Scotland, said: “We are not surprised that many people believe Scotland’s ‘grouse moors’ are an animal ethics-free zone.
“Polling shows that 76 per cent of Scots do not support the practice of predator control to kill hundreds and thousands of animals so that more grouse can be shot for entertainment.
“This report clearly outlines the ethical case against this uncontrolled killing.
“The biggest surprise is that any suggestion that this killing should stop is met with incredulity by the shooting fraternity.”
But Ross Ewing, of Scottish Land & Estates, hit back: “Successive scientific studies have demonstrated the pivotal role predator control plays in conserving some of our most at-risk species, including lapwing, golden plover, meadow pipit, merlin, snipe and hen harrier.
“The role of predator control in combating biodiversity loss is well recognised… we question the scientific basis of this report and the quantitative data to support its conclusions.
Environment minister Gillian Martin said the Bill will “strengthen protections for our wildlife” and “ensure that grouse moors are managed in a sustainable way”.
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This article by Dan Vevers was first published by The Daily Record on 7 December 2023. Lead Image: