BBC’s Countryfile has again sparked controversy among animal lovers after last night’s episode saw several white mountain hares gunned down.
The Sunday night programme sparked a backlash on Twitter from disturbed viewers who watched as presenter Tom Heap visited a Scottish farm during an organised hare culling.
Many praised Heap for his ‘neutral’ reporting after he admitted that it was a ‘tough watch’ to see something ‘beautiful’ being killed to protect grouse hunts.
Last night’s episode of Countryfile saw mountain hares in Scotland being shot and killed in an organised cull by grouse gamekeepers
Many found watching the gunmen pick off and kill the hares disturbing viewing
Presenter Tom Heap followed the hares journey from the mountain to being strung up and sold for their meat, something which he admitted to struggling with
Thousands of the snowy white hares are shot in organised culls every year.
Gamekeepers embark upon the culls because they believe the animals could pass on disease via ticks to grouse roaming on the fields, which in turn affects grouse hunting.
Heap told viewers: ‘I’m conditioned to admire and cherish these animals as something beautiful and rarely seen and to watch them being killed in this way… yeah, it feels quite challenging.’
A deluge of posts on Twitter took a much stronger view, with many saying they couldn’t watch the moment the hares were shot and killed on the moor.
Viewers struggled particularly with those animals that survived being shot but later died in pain from their injuries.
A dead hare lays on the snow-covered moor; gamekeepers say the animal can pass on disease to grouse and need to be culled to keep their numbers down
Presenter Tom Heap admitted that he had been conditioned to ‘cherish’ the animals and that he found filming that section of the show a ‘challenge’
The show divided viewers with some suggesting the culls were a necessary part of rural life
Gamekeepers are seen walking across the snow-covered moor as they begin to search for the hares
@PamKelly wrote: ‘Killing for fun. We lock up humans who do this to humans; the @RSPCA_official (Eng & Wales so I expect Scotland too) can prosecute intentionally causing a wild animal to suffer, but this is legal’
@9stan added: ‘Yes @BBCCountryfile the killing of an iconic species such as mountain hare to make way for another species that will also ultimately get blasted to pieces is as you say, somewhat hard to swallow.’
@Paulsgames raged: “‘Sport’ of killing animals? ‘Cultural heritage’? Rubbish. Only freaks think killing for fun is ok.’
One Kind, an animal welfare charity, also called upon the Scottish government to stop mountain hares being culled.
Others applauded Countryfile for remaining neutral on the subject.
@snapee_d wrote: ‘Killing hares doesn’t seem fair, but been going on for centuries/decades… No worse than disposing of plastic bottles that pollute the sea. None of us should be so righteous. #countryfile’