Highlands & Islands

Petition opposes Western Isles' traditional guga hunt

Gannet Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Guga are gannet chicks and about 2,000 are harvested on a small island every summer

An online petition with more than 70,000 names is calling for an end to Scotland's last traditional guga hunt.

The petition was started on the website of North America-based campaigns organisation Care2 after last month's first World Guga Eating Championship.

Guga are gannet chicks and about 2,000 are harvested on Sula Sgeir, a small island about 40 miles (64km) north of Ness on Lewis, in August.

Modern hunts are permitted under the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

The chicks are taken for their meat.

Sula Sgeir has about 9,000 to 10,000 pairs of gannets, according to Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).

The government agency has described the annual hunt as "sustainable".

However, the Care2 petition calls for the hunt to be banned.

In the past, the Scottish SPCA has opposed the hunt and described the method used to kill the birds - a blow to the head - as "cruel" and "barbaric".

The animal welfare charity has made frequent calls for the harvest to be banned.

Responding to calls in 2011 for it to be outlawed, hunt leader John MacFarlane said grouse shooting caused birds greater suffering but the Scottish SPCA was not calling for shoots to be banned.

The inaugural eating championship was held in Ness in December.

It was held as a celebration of the traditions of harvesting and eating guga.

Contestants had to eat half a guga and a portion of potatoes. The winner was the person to finish the meal in the shortest time.

A spokesman for the event said it was a legal competition.

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