Scotland could become ‘world leader’ in animal welfare

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Activists hosted a debate at Holyrood over sweeping changes to wildlife management in Scotland.

MSPs in the Scottish Parliament have the opportunity to debate Scotland’s potential to lead the way in changing attitudes towards wildlife management and predator control.

A debate on Tuesday over sweeping changes to wildlife management north of the border could see Scotland emerge as a world leader in animal welfare.

The debate, led by Labour’s Colin Smyth, is the result of motion S6M-03023, Ethical principles in wildlife management, which received all-party support from a third of MSPs.

The debate could prove to be a crucial turning point in changing mindsets towards wildlife management as it challenges deeply rooted behaviors in how society treats wild animals perceived as ‘pests’.

Activists across the country welcomed the debate.

REVIVE Coalition Campaigns Manager Max Wiszniewski said: “The REVIVE Coalition has been advocating for some time for a more reasoned framework around grouse moorland management, and subsequently wildlife management, and we welcome the consideration that this matter will be given by Parliament.

“Land managers on grouse moorland are some of the worst offenders when it comes to weeding out much of our wildlife, including foxes, stoats, weasels and many more, to ensure that game bird stocks remain abnormally high for sport shooting.

“We believe this approach is far from acceptable and we welcome the opportunity to examine different approaches.”

Colin Smyth MSP’s motion centers on the concept of applying ethical principles, known as the Seven Principles, to all wildlife control. The seven principles ensure that where there is a perceived need for wildlife intervention, a framework is followed in which ethical reasoning is applied, evidence is consulted and animal welfare is prioritized.

Mr Smyth said: “Too often our approach to wildlife management is ad hoc. There are some good practices but also examples of appalling cruelty.

“Our laws and practices can be piecemeal, and there is no consistency across species or when evaluating methods of control, though ultimately all animals can experience pain and distress.

“Having a set of general principles to guide decisions would help everyone involved in wildlife management and ensure if, when and how a particular control method is used, animal welfare is properly considered.

“These ethical principles are internationally recognised, but if Scotland were to incorporate them ideally into law, it would make us a world leader in animal welfare.”

Figures released by the League Against Cruel Sports in 2020 illustrate the alarming rate at which wildlife is being wiped out on grouse moorland.

A mapping exercise believed to be the most comprehensive and robust field study of terrestrial predator control on Scottish ranges has concluded that 57,000 killing devices are deployed each day in Scotland, representing the equivalent of over 10,000,000 active trapping and trapping days per year.

Up to a quarter of a million animals are killed every year in an effort to totally eradicate foxes, stoats, weasels and crows to increase the number of grouse.

Almost half of the animals killed are non-target species such as hedgehogs, dippers and thrushes.

Robbie Marsland, director of League Against Cruel Sports Scotland, said: “The enormity of the number of wild animals killed each year as collateral damage to the shooting industry has shocked and appalled us. It is impermissible to kill any animal, let alone up to a quarter of a million, to ensure that hundreds of thousands of grouse can then be slaughtered for ‘sport’.

“We have absolutely no doubt that a radical change in attitude is needed, not only in the way grouse moorlands are managed, but across the whole spectrum of wildlife interventions.

“We wholeheartedly welcome Colin Smyth’s debate and the opportunity it will provide to shine a light on what can only be described as Scotland’s shame.”

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