Bird flu outbreak forces Western Isles to cancel guga hunt

Due to bird flu, the annual hunt for young seabirds on the Western Isles won't take place this year.

Bird flu outbreak forces Western Isles to cancel guga hunt

Due to bird flu, the annual hunt for young seabirds on the Western Isles won't take place this year.

Around 2,000 gannet chicks, approximately 40 miles (64km), north of Ness, on Lewis are taken each year to be consumed as delicacy.

Since the 15th century, two-week hunting has been a tradition. Modern harvests are allowed under licence.

The men who were going to take part in this year's event have decided not apply for permission.

Sula Sgeir, an uninhabited island, is home to between 9000 and 10000 pairs of gannets.

The island hosts Scotland's last remaining guga hunt every August. Participants spend two weeks there.

Avian flu has struck seabird colonies in the Western Isles, St Kilda archipelago and remote St Kilda islands. Gannets are among those affected.

Tam Murray, the Ness Guga Hunters' team leader, stated: "This decision was not taken lightly. However, in light of the current circumstances, we were forced to make this decision.

"All being well, the hunt will resume on 2023."

The hunt was cancelled for the second time in the history of the war. Due to the Covid pandemic, it was canceled in 2020.

The Scottish SPCA has repeatedly called for the cancellation of the hunt, describing the method used in killing the birds - a blow on the head - as "cruel and barbaric".

However, the hunters have defended the hunt before and argued that grouse hunting causes greater bird suffering.

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