Countryside Alliance chief springs to defence of the goat hunter

Goat hunter Larysa Switlyk, pictured with one of the animals she killed.
Goat hunter Larysa Switlyk, pictured with one of the animals she killed.

The chief executive of a countryside pressure group has launched a spirited defence of the woman who provoked a social media storm by posing proudly with a wild goat she had shot on Islay.

Pictures posted online by Larysa Switlyk, who wears a camouflage costume on her excursions, this week sparked national outrage - and a commitment from the Scottish Government to study the law surrounding animal culling.

The row erupted after Ms Switlyk wrote online: “Beautiful wild goat here on the Island of Islay in Scotland. Such a fun hunt!! “They live on the edge of the cliffs of the island and know how to hide well.

“Made a perfect 200 yard shot and dropped him with the @gunwerks and @nightforce_optics ! (Good thing too because he could have ran off the cliff into the water).”

She has since left Islay, claiming to have received death threats,

The Scottish Government has said responsible and appropriate culling of some wild animals, including deer and goats, is not illegal.

But the law will now be reviewed, while First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: “Totally understandable why the images from Islay of dead animals being held up as trophies is so upsetting and offensive to people”.

However Countryside Alliance chief executive Tim Bonner said: “Private landowners and institutions like the National Trust and RSPB carry out culls as feral goats, technically an invasive alien species (which) can cause significant environmental damage as population densities rise.

“Sometimes that culling will include landowners taking paying clients out to shoot a goat with the aim often being to take a male with a head that might end up being mounted by a taxidermist”.

He said news coverage of Ms Switlyk’s killings had “inspired a hysterical outburst across social media”.

He added: “The lady in question is, apparently, something of a ‘hunting celebrity’ in the States and obviously has an interest in self-promotion.

“Her approach is jarring by more reserved British standards, but the extraordinary reaction to her hunting holiday photographs is still difficult to explain in logical terms.

“Logic is, however, not something to be relied on in terms of public reaction to issues like this and the reality is that the allegations of ‘cruelty’ are not related to animal welfare, but a reaction to the motivation of the hunter.

“Whether we like it or not in nearly every argument about hunting and wildlife management public reaction is defined by the perception of the individuals involved, not whether the death of an animal was humane”.

He added: “Of course, that ‘ethical view’ is nothing more than the imposition of the prejudice of one part of society on another, but it is the route by which many of our activities are, and will continue to be, judged.

“We must always remember that logic, evidence and principle are largely irrelevant in debates about wild animals.

“Perception and prejudice trump them every time”.

However a campaigner for the group OneKind, which campaigns against animal cruelty, told The Scotsman newspaper: “This is not the kind of tourism we should be encouraging in Scotland, let alone allowing to happen in the 21st century”.

Meanwhile Argyll and Bute MSP Mike Russell has said that he wants to see it stopped immediately.