129 hand-knitted hares were delivered to the Scottish Parliament, thrown into the back of a pick-up truck to highlight the callous disregard shown for the lives of real mountain hares.
On Thursday, 17th November 2016, protesters gathered at a mountain hare rally organised by OneKind. The knitted hares were gifted to MSPs with a request to halt the culling of mountain hares taking place in Scotland. Like badgers in England & Wales, the hares are being killed in vast numbers in an unscientific and unethical attempt to stop the spread of disease to red grouse. The louping ill virus is spread to the birds via a tick found on mountain hares, but there is no evidence to show that slaughtering mountain hares will halt the spread of the virus.
The mountain hare is an iconic Scottish species, so why are they valued less than red grouse?
The red grouse are preserved at all cost so that they can be shot for fun by hunting enthusiasts. The enjoyment of killing, and the profits that go along with it, are prized over the hare (and of course other species, such as raptors). In addition, blood sport enthusiasts will hunt the mountain hare themselves; eight to ten hares can be killed by a single shooter in one hunt, with up to 200 being slaughtered during a single driven hunt. With mountain hare populations falling by around 34% between 1996 and 2014, mountain hare numbers are in decline and in need of protection.
OneKind, a charity focused on protecting Scotland’s animals, have been running a campaign to raise awareness of the tragedy facing mountain hares. Their long-term goal is to see complete protection of the mountain hare, while supporting steps on the way to that goal.