Today, proposed amendments to the Wildlife Management and Muirburn Bill will be debated and voted on by the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Affairs and Islands Committee. Scotland has a chance to outlaw many of the cruel practices of the hunting and shooting industry and to tackle the climate emissions resulting from pointless burning of peaty soils.
The Bill aims to reform the management of grouse moors, ban some types of animal traps and better control the use of others, and extend the control of the practice of muirburn.
The Bill will also help tackle the illegal shooting of birds of prey, which has been widely linked to shooting estates.
The Scottish Government introduced the Bill in March last year, in part in response to the independent Werritty Report on grouse moor management commissioned by the government and published at the end of 2019.
At the end of November the Parliament debated the principles of the Bill and voted for it to proceed. Since then the Committee has been taking evidence and now there are over 170 amendments in front of the Committee. Some come from the government, some from Committee members and some from other MSPs. Some of these amendments are inspired by groups like the Revive Coalition, who are trying to make the bill as strong as possible, but others come from those who want to weaken it to the point of irrelevance.
An amendment from Colin Smyth, Labour MSP for the South of Scotland, would mean that animal traps could not be used for protecting grouse which are destined to be shot for sport. A recent poll found that there was some support for the use of traps for conservation and protecting livestock but more than three-quarters of people in Scotland are against killing wildlife to keep up grouse numbers for shooting.
Further amendments from Colin Smyth would create a water-tight ban on the immensely cruel use of snares for trapping and killing animals, and introduce international standards for justifying the use of any kind of trap.
Muirburn – the burning of heather or grassland on moors, usually to increase grouse numbers – releases climate emissions, reduces flood protection to surrounding areas and kills wildlife. When the moor is on peat, as many grouse moors are, burning can release even more climate emissions and stop new peat forming, which would have reversed the process and removed climate change gases from the atmosphere. Amendments up for discussion include one to ban muirburn for the purpose of managing habitats for moorland game and one to extend protection to all peaty soils.
After the Committee considers the amendments a revised Bill goes to the whole Parliament for a final vote, including the chance to discuss any last-minute amendments.
Many people would like to see grouse shooting banned entirely. Rearing and protecting animals just so that a few rich people can ‘enjoy’ killing them is barbaric. This Bill is not a ban but it will go a long way to curbing the massive toll the shooting industry takes on wildlife and the wider environment. These key amendments will make it even stronger. Let’s hope our MSPs do the right thing.
A version of this article appeared in the Scotsman newspaper on 24th January 2024.