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The Guga Hunters of Ness

Ness is the last place in the UK where young gannets, known in Gaelic as guga, are hunted for their meat. The hunting of sea birds was outlawed in 1954 in the UK, but the community of Ness on the Isle of Lewis continues to be granted the only exemption under UK and EU law allowing them to hold the annual hunt.

Every August, ten men from Ness set sail for Sula Sgeir, a desolate island far out in the Atlantic. Following in the footsteps of countless generations, they leave their families behind to journey through wild storms and high seas to reach the remote hunting ground.

The men live on the island for two exhausting weeks, sleeping amongst ruins left behind by monks over a thousand years ago. They work ceaselessly, catching, killing and processing 2000 birds using traditional methods unique to the hunt.

Today the future of the hunt is uncertain. Island life has changed dramatically in recent years. The population of Ness has halved in the last 50 years as the young head south. Distinctive Hebridean traditions such as crofting and peat cutting, which have long since disappeared elsewhere in Scotland, are finally vanishing in Ness.

1 hour

Last on

Thu 20 Jan 2011 21:00
BBC Two Scotland only
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