Uists: Goose meat on sale in cull to save crofting

Greylag geese on South Uist. Picture: Contributed
Greylag geese on South Uist. Picture: Contributed
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WILD goose meat is going on sale in the Uists as a cull takes places to control the species which is being blames as the biggest threat to crofting life in the community.

In 1986 it was estimated that there were around 700-800 breeding pairs of Greylag Goose in the UK, of which around 150 were in the Outer Hebrides.

Now the Uists are year-round home to more than 10,000, and that population has been growing, causing significant damage to crops.

Work being led by Scottish Natural Heritage to control the resident goose population to tackle these issues is being trialled in Scotland on the Uists, Orkney and Tiree, and a cull of around 5,000 was agreed with the EU because the species is normally protected.

The long-term goal is to minimise agricultural damage while maintaining a viable goose population.

Selling geese shot as part of this management will help generate important income for the local community, and help pay for some of the work.

Paul Wheelhouse, Minister for Environment and Climate Change said: “I welcome the progress made by crofters and farmers who have been working with SNH to manage populations of resident greylag geese to prevent serious agricultural damage.

“These carefully controlled licences will allow the local sale of fresh wild goose meat and so prevent the waste of a resource and provide an economic opportunity for the local community.”

Johanne Ferguson, SNH’s operations manager for the Outer Hebrides and secretary to the local goose group confirmed: “This is an exciting development.

“It is something the local goose group and wider community have been working towards for a very long time. Sales of geese shot under the pilot should provide the means to make goose management self-funding in future.

“But now several local businesses are interested in developing goose products while others are looking forward to using and promoting delicious local wild goose on their menus.

“As you would expect we must demonstrate that adequate controls are in place – both for food safety and species’ protection. The local group organised a special course on meat hygiene for marksmen this month to enable them to receive a licence. Although the goose population is still very high, bag limits are reviewed annually through the local group and agreed with national advisors to ensure geese are managed sustainably.”

And Colin Shedden of the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) added: “We welcome this introduction of the sale of resident greylag goose meat.

“It builds on experience from the Orkney Pilot where goose meat was offered for sale last year. We must, however, emphasise that the sale of goose carcasses is only being trialled in Uist and in Orkney, and anyone selling goose carcasses anywhere else in the UK would be committing an offence.”

The sale of resident greylag geese and the Goose Management Pilots are being trialled in Scotland under the auspices of SNH, advised by the National Goose Management Review Group (NGMRG).