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Controversial hunt for baby gannets takes place in Outer Hebrides

Gannets. Photo: DCT Media
Gannets. Photo: DCT Media

The controversial annual hunt for baby gannets for food has taken place after being cancelled last year due to the pandemic.

A group of men travelled to the small remote island of Sula Sgeir, 40 miles north of the Isle of Lewis, to take part in what is known as the guga harvest.

The hunt takes place over 10 days with the men having now returned with their haul.

Sula Sgeir is the only place in the UK where guga – baby gannets –  can be killed for food.

However, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic meant that the event was unable to go ahead for the first time in many years.

The harvest has been taken place for at least 400 years.

The divisive practice has not gone unnoticed with death threat being made to a group of hunter in 2017.

NatureScot, known as Scottish Natural Heritage at the time, issued a report that said the practice of culling guga was not affecting the bird’s numbers.

The study also found the harvest to be sustainable long term.

The hunting of sea birds was outlawed in 1954 with the only exception being the guga harvest.

The Scottish government has said it is satisfied the methods used to kill the birds are not inhumane if done competently.

The birds are slain with a stick – the hunters say death is quick and humane – decapitated, singed in fire and pickled in salt and sold as a delicacy.

Many find their way in vacuum packs to relatives around the world. The birds are usually so much in demand that they have to be rationed.

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