A Cry for the Wild by Holly Gillibrand

HOLLY SCHOOLS PROTEST Holly Gillibrand PICTURE IAIN FERGUSON, THE WRITE IMAGE

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Scotland’s dark secret

Scotland is renowned all over the world for its wild animals and natural landscapes but there is a darker side to this country that very few people know about.

It is our intolerance of the natural world and our need to dominate it.

Almost one fifth of this country is used for grouse shooting – an outdated bloodsport where a large portion of land is used for the sole entertainment of a very small number of incredibly rich people during a short period of four months each year.

Large swathes of the Highlands are intensively managed so that the highest possible number of red grouse can be built up for the shooting season, which begins on August 12. This day is known as the ‘Glorious Twelfth’.

However, to me and many other conservationists, environmentalists and naturalists, a more fitting name is the ‘Inglorious Twelfth’.

After all, what is so glorious about birds being driven to their death just to satisfy the shooter’s enjoyment of killing in the name of sport.

It is not just the red grouse that suffer from this. Up to 26,000 of our iconic mountain hares are slaughtered every year, so much so that their population is now at one per cent of what it was in the 1950s.

The numbers killed could be even higher than thought as these culls are unregulated and done far away from the public eye.

Birds of prey are illegally killed and predators such as foxes, stoats and crows are ruthlessly shot, poisoned and trapped.

As with the mountain hares, the true numbers killed are unknown and may be even higher than the Revive Coalition’s estimation of numbers being in the hundreds of thousands. Basically, anything that poses even a slight risk to the red grouse population is mercilessly targeted.

Grouse shooting doesn’t just harm wildlife and the red grouse. Lead shot, a highly toxic metal, is used in shotguns to kill the grouse and may pose a large health risk towards humans and our domesticated animals.

What I find so difficult to comprehend is the fact that we are almost halfway through 2019 and yet this medieval practise continues.

Grouse shooting began in the mid to late 1800s and we are now in the 21st century. Animal sentience is recognised by most people but these wild animals continue to be needlessly killed, often slowly and painfully.

Climate change and the collapse of our ecosystems has now come into the public and government’s consciousnesses but we are doing nothing about the unjust, environmentally harmful use of Scotland’s land and brutal treatment towards our wildlife.

Grouse shooting is based on tradition, power and inequality instead of the welfare of people and the environment. Less than 500 people own more than half of Scotland.

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