Activists will gather outside Holyrood on Thursday to call for an end to culling and hunting the species
Animal rights campaigners will gather outside the Scottish Parliament on Thursday to call for an end to the culling and hunting of mountain hares.
The mass lobby has been organised by animal charity OneKind in support of greater protections for the species which it says is subject to “unacceptable” levels of persecution.
According to the charity, tens of thousands of the creatures are killed each year despite the species having conservation status in Scotland.
OneKind said culls and hunts are not licensed in Scotland, so it is impossible to know exactly how many hares are killed each year.
The commercial interests of large sporting estates must not be allowed to trample over the conservation of highly valued wildlife
However, the charity estimates 25,000 were killed in 2006/7, thought to be between 5-14% of the total population. As well having a potentially significant impact on their population, serious welfare concerns arise over the scale and nature of the killing.
OneKind director Harry Huyton said: "The mountain hare is an iconic species in Scotland and the scale of persecution these creatures are subjected to is needless and completely inexcusable.
"OneKind is calling on the Scottish Government to provide more stringent protection for hares as an urgent priority, starting with a complete ban on hunting and culling in national parks.
"We hope politicians from all parties will attend the mass lobby on Thursday to hear the arguments in favour of greater protection of the hare and listen to their constituents’ views on this important animal welfare issue."
Scottish Greens MSP Alison Johnstone, species champion for the mountain hare, will speak at the rally.
She said: “The reports we've heard of mass culls of mountain hares, and the photos we’ve seen are deeply disturbing. The commercial interests of large sporting estates must not be allowed to trample over the conservation of highly valued wildlife.
"I hope Thursday's rally outside Parliament helps put pressure on the Scottish Government to introduce greater protection for mountain hares, starting with a ban on culls in national parks.
“To date the government's agency, Scottish Natural Heritage, has been ineffective in challenging applications for culls. The evidence is clear that culling hares does nothing to help the environment; it's simply about an industry trying to maximise profits."