Yesterday, the possibility of introducing the principles for ethical wildlife ‘control’ to Scotland was debated in Parliament.


We watched closely. These seven principles were relatively unknown until recently, and we and others have been working hard to change that and highlight the benefits their introduction could bring to wild animal welfare. This was an important chance to continue that awareness raising and to gauge the response of MSPs and the Scottish Government.

Colin Smyth MSP, whose motion prompted the debate, opened the discussion by noting the strong cross-party support that this motion attracted, showing that MSPs from all parties care about animal welfare.


He also acknowledged that OneKind, along with several other organisations, are “leading the way in putting welfare at the heart of the debate on wildlife, examining how ethical reasoning can be applied to wildlife management and interventions,” and that our work has “highlighted the lack of a consistent approach to those interventions, the lack of a process that guides decisions around if, when and how interventions take place to ensure that they are ethically led, evidence-based and prioritise animal welfare.”

The seven principles provide a framework to do just that, and Colin went on to outline them and give examples of how they could be applied in Scotland.

Other MSPS also spoke in support of the motion and the principles. Christine Grahame spoke movingly about the connections she feels with wild animals, and her wonder at the capacities of bees that she had just observed on Springwatch, and noted that, “We are privileged to hold the fate of these insects, birds and animals in our hands, and some of these hands lay snares, set traps, shoot, poison, and do this sometimes to protect creatures bred solely for sport. I cannot support that in principle.”

Mark Ruskell said that the seven principles “held up a mirror to our relationship with the natural world” and that “the mentality of seeing certain species as pests is very deep seated and it does need challenged.”

Jim Fairlie mentioned that this topic could be divisive and spoke of personal experiences when wild animals had harmed domestic animals in his care, and the internal conflict that brought. He wanted to “gently remind everyone that there must be a proper balance for all of the demands on our land.“ Nonetheless, he did not express any opposition to the principles, and neither did Rachael Hamilton who also spoke of a need for balance, and consultation with those people active in wildlife ‘management’.

Scottish Government response

Responding for the Scottish Government, Minister Mairi McAllan spoke of the the promised “strategic approach to wildlife management that puts animal welfare at its core” and said that this had been taken forward through the shared approach between NatureScot and other organisations. She went on to say that NatureScot was working with animal welfare organisations to see how the ethical principles can be integrated into the shared approach.

This is welcome news, as the shared approach is woefully inadequate and in no way comparable to the seven principles. We have written to the Scottish Government and NatureScot previously with a comparison document explaining that, and believe we may have helped influence their shift in approach.

We were also glad to hear the Minister speaking of the benefits of more targeted use of the seven principles and mentioning the workshop on 14th of June, run jointly by OneKind and John Muir Trust, that will explore applying the principles to deer management in Scotland.

She concluded by saying that there is “much I agree with in the principles” and that she is committed to working with MSPs and stakeholders, including OneKind, to understand how they can be implemented. We welcome this commitment and will do all we can to ensure the principles are introduced for all wildlife management in Scotland.