Thursday, April 5, 2018

Hare Today...Slaughtered Tomorrow.

Image: OneKind 
For the German artist and co founder of Die Grunen, Joseph Beuys, the hare is a sacred animal. His installations and exhibitions often used the hare as a focal point for his work. Not least his seminal ‘How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare (German: wie man dem toten Hasen die Bilder erklärt). Performed by  Beuys on 26 November 1965 at the Galerie Schmela in Düsseldorf. For Joseph Beuys.....

....the Hare is a symbol of incarnation, which the hare really enacts- something a human can only do in imagination. It burrows, building itself a home in the earth. Thus it incarnates itself in the earth: that alone is important. So it seems to me. Honey on my head of course has to do with thought. While humans do not have the ability to produce honey, they do have the ability to think, to produce ideas. Therefore the stale and morbid nature of thought is once again made living. Honey is an undoubtedly living substance- human thoughts can also become alive. On the other hand intellectualizing can be deadly to thought: one can talk one's mind to death in politics or in academia

Joseph Beuys and dead hare: Image Gerd Ludwig
Well...exactly!!! However, what is not beyond dispute is the level of affection lovers of the great outdoors have for this iconic creature. Not surprisingly it is Lepus timidus-the mountain hare who for many, symbolizes the spirit of the mountain. The mountain hare- also known as blue hare, tundra hare, variable hare, white hare, snow hare, alpine hare, and Irish hare, is a Palearctic hare that is largely adapted to polar and mountainous habitats. It is  is native to Britain and unlike the brown hare (Lepus europaeus) and rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), which were introduced by the Romans. It is smaller than the brown hare, and is easily distinguished by its tail.

Not surprisingly, the mountain hare’s retreat to the wild open spaces more especially the Highlands of Scotland, has seen its presence exploited by many Scottish shooting estates.Some of which offer specific hare shooting excursions when for over £4000, a portly band of nine guns can have their fat arses ferried up the hillsides where they can shoot up to 100 hares which will be slung into the back of trailers by skivvies and then dumped in pits or occasionally sold to butchers. 

However, it is not the specific hunting of hares which has caused alarm amongst animal rights groups, environmentalists, mountaineers and the general public. It is the wholesale slaughter based on the dubious premise that mountain hares carry ticks which cause the red grouse to fall victim to louping virus. According to the Scottish wildlife charity OneKind ...Whilst there is no doubt mountain hare carry ticks, there is no clear evidence that their control could be part of an effective red grouse management regime. Indeed, its scientific basis is so tenuous that scientific experts to the Scottish Government advise that “There is no clear evidence that mountain hare culls serve to increase red grouse densities”.

In the past month, the issue has really come to the surface after the NFU’s...sorry...BBC’s Countryfile programme included a feature by Tom Heap- he who in a previous piece sympathetic to the hunting lobby, described foxes as ‘Vermin’- showed white hares being blasted by gamekeepers and their underlings. Despite the programme giving full voice to the hunting lobby and allowing the industry to justify the slaughter, viewers were incensed enough to voice their concerns via the social media and even The Daily Mail picked up the widespread anger and ran an anti hunting feature. And now a BBC Scotland news feature has been widely circulated showing a military style operation on the Corrybrough Estate in the Findhorn Valley, Invernesshire where hunters on quad bikes swept across the hillsides, leaving hundreds of dead and injured hares in their wake.

Image:Raptor PersecutionUK

To those like myself who are generally well disposed towards the Scottish government and the First Minister, it is deeply disappointing that the adminstration remains feart of the powerful Scottish landowning and Shooting lobby. Presumably on the specious grounds put out by its propagandists that it contributes to the rural economy. Opponents might point out that there are many other areas which could be exploited to provide employment on these estates such as pony trekking, mountain biking, photography expeditions, parascending, etc. Activities which are healthier for the participants and which don’t involve slaughter and ecological degradation.

The latter being the widespread practice of heather burning by the grouse shooting estates to stimulate the growth of the heather green shoots which form the main element of the grouse’s diet.A practice which wipes out ground nesting birds like the Skylark, amphibians like lizards, destroys saplings which would otherwise grow on the hillsides like Rowan and Silver Birch and keeps the hillsides as ecological barren, heather deserts. 

Raptor PersecutionUK
In those all too rare upland areas which are free from shooting parties and where sheep and deer are absent,  a natural re-wilding process all too quickly takes hold and sees the hillsides develop a green mantle as trees return and a species diversification thrives. Often this process needs to be a managed re- wilding as in the case of Ennerdale in the Lake District. However, for the general public and more especially for those who value the uplands for their spiritual value, the transformation of the Highlands from killings fields for the rich and boneheaded to an ecologically diverse environment has to be the goal. Scottish Government....are you listening?

Further Reading..

Chris Packham


Raptor PersecutionUK

John Appleby:

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