On Wednesday the 17th of June, Holyrood voted in new amendments and changes to wildlife laws, with strengthened protections for seals, birds of prey and mountain hares bringing and end to illegal persecution.
The new laws will prevent the unlicensed killing of mountain hares. Previously legal, mountain hares have been persecuted on the rolling hillsides of the grouse moors for years. Shooters have been filmed killing tens, sometimes hundreds of hares at a time, disseminating entire populations in a day of shooting. Scottish parliament previously had called for shooters to practice "voluntary restraint" when shooting the hares, however video footage suggests otherwise.
The reasoning behind the killings of these hares, was population reduction, a self-proclaimed cull of the population to increase the population of red grouse. However, research conducted by Glasgow university, and the Macaulay Institute found that there was "no compelling evidence base to suggest culling mountain hares might increase red grouse densities".
The new changes to the law make it fundamentally illegal to kill mountain hares.
In addition to the new protections on mountain hares, salmon famers are now banned from shooting or using acoustic devices on seals. Scottish natrual heritage has stated that these acoustic devices, used to deter seals from breaking into salmon pens, can cause hearing damage and stress in dolphins, porpoises and whales, a violation of legislation protecting cetaceans.
Previously in Scotland, the maximum terms for serious offences, such as badger baiting and animal cruelty, was 12 months and/or a £20,000 fine. With this new legislation, criminals are facing serious sentences, up to 5 years imprisonment and unlimited fines. We've seen before across the UK that weaker sentences for these wildlife crimes, mixed with the ease in which the crimes are committed and concealed, often results in appealing actions continuing to be committed and not deterring crime; these new penalties are significantly more likely to deter crime and encourage police forces to take action.
What you can do to help
If you are aware of wildlife crimes that are currently taking place, dial 999.
If you are aware of plans for wildlife crimes to be committed, or crimes that have been committed in the past, you can use our "report wildlife crime" tool on our website.
The CCW actively investigates wildlife crimes, providing much needed evidence as well as emergency care to animals where needed. We're in need of donations to help us purchase the necessary equipment to allow our experts and volunteers. Please help us by donating, and sharing this article.