a HERIOT septugenarian is so appalled by the death of rabbits by gassing that she is campaigning for a change in the law.
Retired scientist Jennifer Ellender is going to lobby her local MSP Christine Grahame to introduce a bill to ban it.
She said: “It’s appalling, I was really distressed. I want to see the law changed.”
She said she spotted someone on the hill opposite her home on the outskirts of Heriot and had asked what he was doing.
“He said it was a slow-release gas to kill the rabbits.
“I was so upset and I didn’t know what to do, ” she said.
A check with and visit from the SSPCA established the culler was using phostoxin, a legal rabbit killer which maker Rentokil warns is very toxic to aquatic life.
She contacted Onekind (formerly Advocates for Animals). She said they had told her: “It’s a horrific death, it’s prolonged and terribly painful.”,.
“I was in tears looking out at the hillside – there was nothing there,” she said.
She said rabbits had repopulated the area but she said: “That’s going to make them do it again.”
The former university senior technical officer, who worked in the haemophilia, HIV and hepatitis fields, has posted letters about gassing on the Heriot noticeboard and in the bus shelter.
A Onekind spokesperson said the rabbits would experience internal burning and choking and said the experience would be “very painful”.
“There are more preferable ways to control rabbits than gassing which is particularly inhumane. Also it is not a long-term solution,” he said.
He listed other options, including rabbit-proof fencing, tree guards and non-toxic chemical repellents, and as an absolute last resort, shooting.
But Scottish Gamekeepers Association and Peeblesshire gamekeeper Alex Hogg says gassing is necessary when culling large numbers of rabbits.
“It’s not nice using gas, it’s a horrible job, you get a headache but it is a necessary evil,” he said.
And culling rabbits was necessary so they didn’t eat grass, crops and trees he said.
“You would gas to establish forestry plantations, for farmers’ crops and bare hillsides like you get in the Borders. It’s very effective when you’ve got massive warrens. I would rather use gas than them have myxy [infectious, fatal rabbit disease myxomatosis.”
He disputed claims that the animals suffered: “You don’t know what is happening because it is underground, but for my own peace of mind I did it once where I could see the rabbit and it was dead instantly.”
Gamekeepers carry out the job mostly for farmers and foresters.
“If you have got a massive rabbit problem – sometimes you can look up at a hillside and the whole face of it moves [with rabbits] – then you start with gassing because it is the most effective.”