Animal campaigners criticise grouse shoot Covid exemption

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Grouse shoot

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image captionScottish Land and Estates said country sports supported rural jobs

Animal welfare campaigners have criticised the decision to exempt grouse shoots from Covid restrictions limiting gatherings to six people.

Scottish charity OneKind said wildlife had “thrived” during the lockdown, but was now being “shot for fun”.

Outdoor activities, including shooting, are permitted provided they are organised, licenced and physical distancing rules are adhered to.

However, most other

indoor and outdoor gatherings have been limited.

Scottish Land and Estates, an organisation representing estate owners and land managers, said country sports had been “unfairly singled” out for criticism.

Earlier this week, the Huffington Post reported a row over the UK government’s handling of its permission for grouse shoots while strict limits on people meeting up were in place.

It reported a special meeting had been due to take place at the weekend to discuss the exemption, but instead the matter was dealt with through ministerial correspondence.

‘Deeply disappointed’

In Scotland, shoots are permitted provided guidance and laws to prevent the spread of Covid-19 are followed.

The Scottish government said: “Under the regulations, a maximum of six people from two different households are able to gather together.

“However, there are some exemptions in place for organised activities. Outdoor and sporting activities such as shooting may be permitted if they meet criteria laid out in the legislation and adhere fully with physical distancing requirements.”

image copyrightPA Media
image captionOneKind said wildlife allowed to thrive in lockdown was now being shot

OneKind said it was “deeply disappointed” by the exemption.

Director Bob Elliot said: “In many places wildlife was left alone to flourish during the spring lockdown and many of us took great pleasure in immersing ourselves in nature and admiring Scotland’s native animals.

“The shooting industry is designed around cruelty and it is alarming that the killing of Scotland’s wild animals is being allowed during this crisis.”

‘A crushing blow’

Scottish Land and Estates chief executive Sarah-Jane Laing, said: “Over recent days, we have seen an array of calls being made for country sports including grouse shooting to be halted, which would deliver a crushing blow to the rural economy at a time when it has already been struggling during the pandemic.”

“Country sports is an open air pursuit where social distancing is easily practiced and a Covid-19 framework is adhered to.

“A range of other activities in the events and tourism sector are also unaffected by changes to maximum gatherings.”

The Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) said grouse shooting supported 2,640 full-time jobs in Scotland, with 8,800 people employed in different roles in total.

It said a “significant proportion” of the jobs were in remote areas, adding that holding no shoots at all this year would have led to overall loses of £8.5m across 32 estates.

SGA Chairman Alex Hogg said: “Shoots have worked extremely hard to put in place the guidance which the sporting bodies agreed with Scottish government.”

Measures include transporting smaller numbers of shooters in more vehicles, compulsory hand sanitising and staff wearing face coverings. Catering is also run in line with rules applied to restaurants.

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