Hares Need Protecting, not Shooting

A former member of Tynwald has joined Manx Wildlife Trust in calling for greater protections for the Mountain hare.

David Cretney and the charity were both commenting on the proposed 2021 Animal Welfare Bill that aims to protect animals from harm and mistreatment and the ongoing consultation. Under the proposed Bill, mountain hares would be designated as game animals, meaning people would need a licence to shoot them and closed seasons could also be created to limit hunting.

At the start of the consultation, a statement from Environment Minister Geoffrey Boots says that ‘noting concerns have been expressed over the dwindling numbers of Mountain Hares on the island, the Bill also makes changes to existing legislation to provide greater legal protection for mountain hares’. 

Mr Boot adds: ‘This is achieved by changing the legal categorisation of mountain hares from ‘vermin’, for which no legal protections from hunting apply, to ‘game’, the same category that is given to brown or common hares .  This change in categorisation will allow for all hares to be protected by regulatory controls on hunting game provided by the Game Act 1882, such as the issuing of game licences before hares may be hunted, and the setting of closed seasons during which hares may not be hunted.  By making this legislative change it is hoped that hunting of this animal will be reduced, mitigating against further reductions in the number of this species on the island.’

In a statement on its website, the charity said it is ‘pleased’ that the gov is consulting on animal welfare which is designed to bring protections for pets and companion animals on island in line with the UK. 

It added: ‘However, we think the proposal for mountain hares, Lepus timidus, to be reclassified from ‘vermin’ to ‘game’ does not go far enough. We believe mountain hares would have been native to the Isle of Man in the post-glacial period and, following their re-introduction in the 1950’s, the island now supports a small but potentially vital population. 

‘Numbers of mountain hares are in decline in the British Isles due to loss of habitat and climate change. We therefore recommend mountain hares be classified as ‘protected’ rather than ‘game’. Any potential damage that mountain hares may cause to trees could be mitigated with the use of tree protectors rather than requiring management through hunting.’

Further protection for hares also has the backing of former MHK and MLC David Cretney who reminded residents of DEFA’s previous attempts to expand the hunting season for grey partridges. 

He posted on Facebook: ‘As a member of Tynwald I served on the enquiry into animal welfare on the Isle of Man following a petition to Tynwald. We made a number of recommendations to DEFA and they also had this on the agenda. When I became a member of DEFA I Chaired an animal welfare working party which included a number of vets, animal charities, the police and government officials and we made a number of recommendations to the Department to progress a long overdue piece of legislation covering pets and companion animals.

‘Unfortunately this coincided with the Brexit situation and the legislative officers had to undertake a great deal of work to make sure the Isle of Man was legally ready for any changes. This resulted in a further delay but eventually we got an animal welfare bill on the government legislative programme based on the UK model. I have been left a year so have been looking forward to this matter progressing to Tynwald. 

‘I was surprised to see suggestions about the status of mountain hares. I knew neither the Tynwald committee nor the DEFA committee I chaired had considered this and emailed the Department to enquire. I was informed that the provisions relating to mountain hares were suggested as a consequence of other work the Department undertook in relation to game legislation for grey partridges in mid 2020. Remember that? Not a lot to do with animal welfare as is the present suggestion.’

The consultation, which can be found here, closes on April 5.

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