Scottish sporting estates are charging clients up to £1,000 to shoot wild goats years after public outrage over the practice prompted the Scottish Government to review shooting laws.
The Ferret found five hunting companies advertising goat hunting trips in the Highlands and Islands, the Scottish Borders and Dumfries and Galloway.
This sparked international media coverage and condemnation from senior politicians and members of the public, which prompted the Scottish Government to review shooting laws.
The government told The Ferret its review “was paused during the pandemic but will be resumed shortly”. The Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting said it was “frankly baffling” that the government hadn’t acted more quickly, given public support for a ban.
The Scottish Greens condemned “a small cabal of wealthy trophy hunters who take pleasure from killing animals” while animal charity OneKind urged the government to stop sporting estates profiting from “this cruel type of tourism”.
But the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) said culling feral goats was necessary to stop damage to vegetation and generate woodland in many parts of Scotland.
Goats are culled in the same way as deer, and goat management is backed by the government and conservationists, said Dr Colin Shedden, BASC’s Scotland director.
Goat trophy hunting in Scotland
An email shared with The Ferret shows that hunting holiday firm, River and Green, based in the Scottish Borders town of Hawick, offered a goat hunting trip from 29 May to 4 June on Jura.
Clients would be able to shoot between seven and eight goats, and stay in the private wing of a hunting lodge.
“Goat hunting weeks like this are extremely rare,” the email said. “There are only a few places in the whole of Scotland that this can be done and they usually get [booked] up many years in advance by repeat clients.”
The company does not refer to goat hunting on its website. Companies which advertise goat stalking include the Ardnamurchan-based West Highland Hunting (WHH), whose senior staff were pictured posing with Switlyk and a dead stag in 2018.
Its website says clients can hunt goats in both Ardnamurchan and the Scottish Borders.
In a 2020 WHH price list, obtained by The Ferret, the company charged £1,000 to clients in order to shoot feral goats and £8,000 to kill rare stags. “If an animal is struck and leaves blood on the ground it will be considered taken and charged, recovered or not,” the price list added.
The London-based firm, Athina Sporting, offers goat hunting trips to the edge of Galloway Forest Park, with prices starting from £250. It promises a number of “trophy animals” and advises clients to book in advance due to high demand.
The company also advertises South African hunting trips to clients, where it says they can shoot “antelope, zebra, springbok, hartebeest, wildebeest or any other of the vast range of plains game species” from prices of £2,000 upwards.
“Regrettably, ill-informed comments in the press have the potential to harm the same animals that the press purport to be trying to help,” the Capreolus Club told The Ferret.
“By publishing one-sided, ill-informed comments, many journalists are doing a disservice to wildlife and the environment, both of which deserve more serious, sensible debate,” argued Peter Jones, the club’s founder and chief executive.
He added: “The Capreolus Club is committed to the environment and betterment of species via the careful harvesting and selection of sustainable, wild, free-range, non intensively farmed animals, and to the reduction of CO2 through a climate focused diet.“
No other firms responded to our requests to comment.
Among those who admonished Switlyk’s killing of Islay goats in 2018 were the island’s then-local MSP and cabinet secretary, Michael Russell. Nicola Sturgeon said it was “totally understandable” that people would find the images “upsetting and offensive”.
Russell said such practices should be “stopped immediately” and promised to raise the issue “as a matter of urgency” with then-environment secretary, Roseanna Cunningham.
Cunningham said the government supported the responsible culling of animals for land management, but would review and “consider whether any clarification of or changes to the law might be required.”
Calls to ban ‘cruel pastime’ of goat hunting
OneKind said it was “incredibly disappointed” but “not surprised” that sporting estates were still able to offer wild goat shooting trips years later.
“The killing of wild animals should be as a last resort and carried out by professionals, and we most certainly should not be offering the chance to kill these animals for fun,” said the charity’s Eve Massie.
“Until the Scottish Government takes a real stand against this cruel ‘pastime’ and bans the recreational hunting of animals, estates will continue to profit from the deaths of Scotland’s wild animals.”
Massie acknowledged that the Scottish Government was working with the UK Government on proposals to restrict the import of hunting trophies – body parts of animals kept by hunters as a souvenir – to the UK.
But, “bafflingly”, the Scottish Government “is not implementing any type of legislation to ban trophy hunting in its own country,” she added.
The Scottish Government said that the “sustainable management of Scotland’s wildlife” is backed by legislation and NatureScot’s shared approach to wildlife management.
“Following discussions with stakeholders we decided that a best practice/code of conduct on trophy hunting should be produced so that anyone undertaking hunting in Scotland is aware of their responsibilities under the law,” said a spokesperson.
“The work to develop this guidance was paused during the pandemic but will be resumed shortly.”
They added: “We work to ensure management of wildlife is carried out in a lawful and humane manner, with the highest possible animal welfare standards and in a way that recognises this a sensitive issue.”
The Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting highlighted a 2019 Survation opinion poll it commissioned, which found that 86 per cent of people in the UK backed a trophy hunting ban, including 89 per cent of Scottish respondents.
“I would imagine a similar proportion would be horrified to learn that Scottish estates are making a killing from those who like shooting goats for fun,” said the group’s Eduardo Goncalves. “It’s astonishing and frankly baffling why the Scottish Government hasn’t moved more quickly on this.”
The Scottish Greens said their party was “completely opposed to bloodsports”, which was ”listed as an excluded area” from its government cooperation agreement with the SNP.
“It’s clear Scotland is a world-leading destination because of its nature and natural beauty, so we shouldn’t have to chase the custom of a small cabal of wealthy trophy hunters who take pleasure from killing animals,” said the Greens’ rural economy spokesperson Ariane Burgess MSP.
“The fact is more people want to shoot wild goats with a camera than a rifle.”
Image credit: Danny Chapman