According to a recent OneKind news bulletin, the Scottish Government has announced that it’s going to launch a consultation on compulsory CCTV in Scottish slaughterhouses as part of its Programme for Government for the year ahead.
The consultation could go either way, and no doubt the industry will lobby for the easiest rules possible. That means it falls on us to keep on building the pressure and demonstrating the huge public support for CCTV in all parts of all slaughterhouses and independent monitoring
The Captive Animals’ Protection Society, along with campaign partners, have welcomed publication of the Scottish Government Bill to ban the use of wild animals in travelling circuses in Scotland, along with proposals to review performing animal regulations.
The Bill covers all non-domesticated animals travelling and performing in circuses, and any form of display or exhibition in static premises such as winter quarters.
A Scottish Government consultation in 2014 produced an overwhelming response in favour of banning wild animal circuses in Scotland. Out of 2,043 responses, 98% thought the use of wild animals for performance in travelling circuses should be banned; and 96.4% thought the use of wild animals for exhibition (without performing) in travelling circuses should be banned. Both aspects are covered in the Bill.
The most recent Scottish poll, carried out for the More for Scotland’s Animals coalition in March 2016, found that 75% of those polled supported an end to the use of wild animals in circuses, rising to 78% in the 18-24 age group.
The ban will be made on ethical grounds reflecting respect for animals and their natural behaviours. The same approach was taken when the Scottish Parliament banned fur farming in 2002.
Nicola O’Brien, Campaigns Director with the Captive Animals’ Protection Society commented:
“With 98% of consultation respondents stating wild animals in circuses should be banned, we applaud the Scottish Government for listening to the public by making this historic decision. Scotland has not only taken action to protect animals within its borders but also paved the way for the rest of the UK to follow. A joined-up approach across the union is needed to ensure wild animals are truly free from exploitation in circuses.”
The Scottish Government seeks to achieve early passage of the Bill in order to establish that wild animal circuses are not welcome or permitted in Scotland. Until the legislation is in place there is a risk travelling circuses could bring wild animals to Scotland.
The call to ban the use of wild animals in travelling circuses in Scotland gained overwhelming public support following an outcry as Thomas Chipperfield brought two lions and three tigers to overwinter at a farm near Fraserburgh in 2014.
Animal Defenders International, Born Free Foundation, Captive Animals’ Protection Society and OneKind are urging Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) to support the Bill when it comes before them. A ban on wild animal circuses featured in the manifestos of the SNP, Scottish Labour and Scottish Green parties for the 2016 election and the issue is widely regarded as unfinished business.
Once passed, the legislation will be the first outright ban on wild animal circuses anywhere in the UK, joining 18 European countries, and 35 around the world, with restrictions in place – and more in the pipeline.
The animal protection groups have concerns about other forms of entertainment using animals, such as reindeer displays, bird of prey exhibitions in shopping centres, and mobile zoos and animal handling parties. The organisations have welcomed a commitment from the Scottish Government today to address these activities and are calling for this review to progress in parallel with the circus bill.
Conservationists say about 80 creatures in zoos and private collections hold key to re-establishment of the endangered species
Fewer than 100 Scottish wildcats are now believed to exist in the wild, say leading experts, with no evidence of any decent sized populations anywhere in the country.
While it had been hoped up to 300 may still survive, recent extensive monitoring suggests a lower figure, with individuals or small groups clinging on in isolated and fragmented pockets.
Hopes for saving the species, often referred to as the “tiger of the Highlands”, now largely rest on captive breeding and rewilding, said conservationists, who are working with experts who successfully brought the Iberian lynx back from the brink in Spain and Portugal.
About 80 captive wildcats in zoos, wildlife parks and private collections around the UK now hold the key to the successful re-establishment of viable populations of the muscular brown and black-striped cat, which resembles a domestic tabby.
Genetic testing of all those captive cats was completed in October. Data is now being fed into a new molecular stud book, similar to that used for the giant panda, which will determine which captive cats are related and which are best matched for breeding.
Once the stud book is operational, in the coming months, it will help establish a quantity of the highest quality genetically diverse cats. Mixed with genes from cats already in the wild, through artificial insemination or through capture of the most vulnerable cats, it will produce a population of wildcats suitable for release into the wild.
It is hoped the first trial releases will happen within five years.
The main threat has been hybridisation – breeding with feral or domestic cats. Those in the wild tend to have less gene purity than captive cats not exposed to hybridisation.
“The population of wildcats estimated in the wild is horribly low,” said Barclay. One estimate, within the last five years, put the number between 100-300. “To be honest, I think it is under 100,” said Barclay.
Recent camera trap monitoring of six priority sites, thought to be ideal wildcat habitat, revealed just 19 possible cats out of 200,000 images, said Vicky Burns of the SWA.
Captive cats selected for possible release will be transferred to special conservation breeding enclosures. A prototype is currently being tested at the Highland wildlife park within the Cairngorms national park. Placed at least half a mile from the nearest paths, out of view of the public, these large enclosures will gradually allow the cats to be rewilded.
Pairing wild cats with captive cats will introduce wild behaviour, and the gradual introduction of live prey will trigger instinct and perfect skills, it is hoped. Human contact will be at an absolute minimum, with the cats spending up to two years in the enclosures, and their kittens better equipped for wilderness survival.
The breeding plan is not without its critics, who claim capturing wildcats and introducing them to captive cats will kill off the wild population.
Barclay said there was a lack of understanding about the project, and the facts spoke for themselves.
No wildcats would be captured in the six priority areas for fear of harming any populations there. Instead, semen would be taken from adult males. In less hospitable areas, where an isolated cat might be spotted on private land, it made sense to remove it.
“If there is a wildcat just clinging on, surrounded by feral cats, and at high risk from other issues, we want to bring it into captivity, wrap it up in cotton wool and for it to be beneficial to the captive population and a source for further animals that can be released in future,” he said.
“Without the safety net of the captive population, and the semen samples stored, then the future of wildcats is incredibly bleak. I honestly think these insurance policies are the only ones that are going to save the species.”
Along with the planned releases, SWA is undertaking a vast programme neutering feral cats in the priority areas. This would continue. There is evidence from Europe that once a sizable wildcat population is established – perhaps 40 or 50 cats – feral cats stay away, thus reducing future risk of hybridisation.
Another measure is exploring a change in Scottish legislation. Dogs must now have microchips, so one option would be to extend that to domestic cats.
Saving the wildcat will not be cheap. There is Scottish government and lottery funding of £2.5m over five years for initial research and rewilding, but costs will be ongoing. The hope is it will boost local economies and bring in tourist pounds, as well as put Scotland on the global map as a leader in conservation.
“As a country we want to be able to say we care about our landscape, we care about our environment, about the diversity. We do want to conserve our native species, we don’t want to have a country a bit like Australia that has been overrun with no native animals,” said Barclay.
“When we make the decision we don’t really care about our wildlife, or we don’t want to do that project because it is too controversial or it costs too much money, then we are bordering on giving up on the environment in Scotland,” he said.
“Go to any rescue centre and you will see there are more than enough puppies already in Scotland. We don’t need any more.
“Dogs are not animals that should be bred in factory-like settings.”
The proposed pup factory will be sited on a farm near Galston.
The application has been made by Hazel Hamilton who is married to a businessman linked to a massive puppy farm.
Husband Stephen Hamilton, 46, is the brother of David and Jonathan Hamilton who run the UK Dog Breeding Academy, in Fivemiletown, County Tyrone.
It doesn’t sell to the public and is claimed to be the largest licensed dog breeding establishment in the UK.
The Fivemiletown facility previously featured in a hard-hitting BBC documentary about puppy farming.
In the programme, footage from inside the rural kennels showed dozens of young dogs huddled together in disused trailers without their mothers.
The reporter claimed she found hundreds of breeding bitches in battery-farmed and “freezing” conditions at the Irish premises.
The footage was blasted by Sheila Voas, chief veterinary surgeon with the Scottish Government, who said at the time the programme was aired: “It was barbaric. It was a production line. It was using animals as a commodity.”
The facility’s former vet also made a number of allegations about practices at the HQ.
Mr David Bailey, a former Northern Irish government veterinarian who worked for the Hamiltons for three years, claimed David Hamilton had been reluctant to keep a log of every dog kept at the kennel.
The expert said: “It was like a production facility that you would expect to find in a bad pig-raising plant. Every animal on the premises was given an antibiotic injection every week, then we’d change the antibiotic every month because we could not control the infections.”
But the Hamiltons were furious at the documentary and complained to TV regulators Ofcom.
A solicitor for the family said that they had not broken any laws running their business.
The Hamiltons also complained they had received death threats after the programme aired.
But their complaint of “unwarranted infringement of privacy in connection with the obtaining of material included in the programme” was thrown out by the watchdog earlier this year.
There is no suggestion the planned Ayrshire farm would be run along the same lines as the large farm in Northern Ireland.
Futhermore there is absolutely no suggestion either Stephen or Hazel Hamilton have any track record of cruel behaviour to animals.
However that fact is unlikely to stem objections to the proposal from being made to East Ayrshire Council on animal welfare grounds.
SNP MSP Emma Harper, who is campaigning on the issues of puppy farms, is fearful that animal welfare practices at the Irish kennels could be replicated at the proposed new Scottish mass-breeding centre.
“My concern is the welfare of potentially hundreds of dogs,” she said.
“I don’t think a licence should be granted until a thorough investigation into this proposal is done.
“This family’s operations in Ireland have been implicated in welfare issues.”
A spokeswoman for animal welfare charity the Scottish SPCA confirmed it would be objecting to the plans.
“We will be discussing the current application with the East Ayrshire Council as a matter of urgency,” an inspector told The Sunday Post.
“We are liaising with councils across Scotland in an attempt to ensure the welfare of puppies and breeding bitches involved in the licensed and unlicensed commercial trade.”
Dr Rachel Connor, who signed an objection on behalf of the local community council, said: “Although the community council was unanimous in its opinion that there should not be a puppy farm, it’s not a planning situation.
“Nobody was in favour but we had to think about it in other ways like access and traffic in our objection.”
May Anderson, formerly of Waterside Action Group, is backing the Scottish SPCA.
She said: “Mr Hamilton put the application in his wife’s maiden name to ask for planning permission to change a barn to a building for rearing dogs. I think it’s a matter for the Scottish SPCA.”
A spokeswoman for East Ayrshire Council said: “We can confirm we have received an application for a dog breeding licence.”
She added it states a maximum of 40 breeding dogs would be kept on the site.
The plans were lodged with the council last month and will be considered at an upcoming planning meeting.
A council spokeswoman told The Sunday Post that objections to the plan are expected – including from Police Scotland.
However, she declined to reveal on what grounds police chiefs were expected to object.
Police Scotland said it couldn’t comment either. A spokeswoman said only: “We have not currently put in any objections.”
A Sunday Post reporter tried to contact Stephen and Hazel Hamilton at their farm in rural Ayrshire.
However, they refused to comment when approached on Friday evening.
The two lead partners in the Scottish Beaver Trial – the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) and the Scottish Wildlife Trust – have warmly welcomed today’s (24 November 2016) announcement from the Scottish Government that the Eurasian beaver is to be formally recognised as a native species, 400 years after being hunted to extinction in the UK.
Returning beavers to Scotland’s lochs and rivers is the first formal mammal reintroduction in UK history. Today’s announcement is a major success story for conservation, and the culmination of nearly two decades’ work.
The project partners are delighted to be given the green light to reinforce the existing population in Knapdale, Argyll, and welcome the news that the established population on the River Tay will be allowed to remain in place. However, in order for the species to have a long-term future in Scotland and recolonise across much of its former range, further releases – following the Scottish Translocation Code and with the full support of a range of stakeholders – will be necessary over the next few years.
The Scottish Beaver Trial has set the standard for species reintroductions in the UK. Today’s announcement from the Scottish Government underlines the widespread benefits beavers can bring both to habitats, other species and the local economy.
These benefits include creating new wetlands that support a wide range of other species such as otters, water voles, fish and dragonflies; creating more diverse woodlands through naturally coppicing trees; and helping to regulate flooding and improve water quality. An increase in beavers is also certain to boost wildlife tourism in Scotland, helping to grow a sector that is already worth £127 million per year to our economy.
(Beaver at Loch of the Lowes by Ron Walsh)
The project partners recognise that beaver activity needs to be carefully monitored and managed, particularly where it impacts on other land uses. RZSS and the Scottish Wildlife Trust are committed to working closely with government, farmers, landowners and other key stakeholders to establish an effective management framework for the species, something which we would seek to put in place ahead of the next breeding season in March.
Barbara Smith, Chief Executive of RZSS, said: “Today is a truly historic day for Scottish conservation. Returning a keystone species to the wild for the first time in 400 years is a tremendous achievement for RZSS and our partners the Scottish Wildlife Trust, and we welcome the government’s commitment to the species both in Knapdale and further afield.
“Establishing a clear and comprehensive management plan for the species should now be our top priority, drawing upon IUCN best practice guidelines and bringing together stakeholders from across the conservation, land management and farming spectrum. We would urge government to take a lead on this issue and firm up plans ahead of the breeding season next spring.
“We also feel strongly that further release sites will need to be considered in the short- to medium-term if the species is to fully re-establish itself as part of the Scottish landscape.”
Jonathan Hughes, Chief Executive of the Scottish Wildlife Trust, said: “This is a major milestone for Scotland’s wildlife and the wider conservation movement. Beavers are one of the world’s best natural engineers. Their ability to create new wetlands and restore native woodland is remarkable and improves conditions for a wide range of species including dragonflies, otters and fish.
“The return of beavers also has great potential for education and wildlife tourism. We have already seen at Knapdale how their presence is a tremendous draw for visitors from all over the world, which in turn brings social and economic benefits to the rural economy.
“We’re now looking forward to continuing to work with the Scottish Government and partners in the next phase of this initiative. The Scottish Beaver Trial is a textbook example of how to approach the reintroduction of a keystone species that should set the standard for future projects.”
The Scottish Beaver Trial was a five-year partnership project between the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, the Scottish Wildlife Trust and host Forestry Commission Scotland to undertake a time-limited, five-year trial reintroduction of Eurasian beavers to Knapdale, Mid-Argyll. It concluded in 2014.
Scotland’s mountain hare are culled in huge numbers on grouse moors, even in our National Parks. OneKind are asking supporters to join forces on the 17th November 2016 to call on the Scottish Government to end the culls.
In one year, as many as 25,000 mountain hares were killed in Scotland. Why? For blood sports and the unfounded belief that their eradication could mean more red grouse to shoot. OneKind are calling on the Scottish Government to urgently introduce greater protections for the mountain hare, starting with a complete ban of culls and driven hunts in our National Parks. The Scottish Government has the powers to do this tomorrow – we just need to put the pressure on to make it happen!
Show you care for the mountain hare: join OneKind on the 17th of November at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh for a mass lobby against mountain hare culling. They will be rallying in front of Parliament at 12:00. Join the team for a fun and worthwhile afternoon speaking up for Scotland’s embattered wildlife.
Thursday 17 November from 12 -2PM or for as long as you can spare.
In front of the Scottish Parliament in central Edinburgh.
This will be a small, fun and good-natured event that will send a powerful signal to our elected representatives that they must take action and end the killing. The group will gather at 12:00 for a media photocall and rally, when you will hear from MSPs on what they think should be done about the culls, and leading mountain hare advocates. OneKind have invited all MSPs to drop by and meet us at any time between 12:30 and 2:00 to receive a special present and, if they wish, to show their support for the campaign. Please invite your MSP to come along by signing this e-action.
What do I do next?
Let OneKind know you’re coming by signing up here. This gives them an idea of numbers and once you’ve signed up they will email you more information about the day.