'Killing to kill': Campaigners call for grouse moor reform in Scotland

Revive said that the killing of animals like foxes, weasels and crows by grouse hunters was 'senseless'.

Revive coalition calls on Scottish government to stop ‘killing to kill’ wildlife in grouse moors iStock
Hunting: Coalition wants 'non-target species' protected under reforms.

A campaigning group has called for the Scottish government to put an end to the “senseless killing” of wildlife in the country’s grouse moors.

Revive, a coalition of environmental and animal protection groups, said that thousands of “non-target species” are killed annually in Scotland to increase the number of grouse available for sport hunters.

It said that “killing to kill” was not representative of a country such as Scotland, two years on from news that grouse shooting was set to be licensed.

The proposed licensing policy was based on a study examining grouse moor management conducted by Dundee University’s Professor Alan Werritty.

He was commissioned by the Scottish Government to make recommendations on how to reduce the illegal killing of raptors but also give due regard to the socioeconomic contribution that grouse shooting makes to Scotland’s rural economy.

The proposed reforms would require grouse shooting businesses to acquire licenses to operate legally.

In 2020, rural affairs minister Mairi Gougeon had insisted that law-abiding gamekeepers “should have nothing to fear” from the plans but warned that evidence of “illegal raptor persecution” would lead to licences being revoked.

Revive wants the government to include the “senseless killing” of species such as foxes, hedgehogs and weasels, among many others, into the proposed licensing reforms.

In a statement, the group said: “Minister Màiri McAllan has given us some encouraging indications that the seven ethical principles of wildlife control will be looked at by Government.

“These principles, if applied properly to grouse moors, will end the unnecessary wildlife killings and will make way for more reasoned, ethical and less divisive wildlife management practices.”

The “seven principles for wildlife control” are summarised by the coalition as follows:

  • Modifying human practices when possible
  • Justification for control required
  • Have clear and achievable outcome-based objectives
  • Cause the least harm to animals
  • Social acceptability
  • Systemic planning
  • Base control on the specifics of the situation rather than labels (like “pest species”)