An online petition to ban a gannet chick-eating contest on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides has received almost 75,000 signatures. The protest also criticises the island?s traditional hunting of the birds.

Gannet chicks, known as ?guga?, have been caught in the same way for over four centuries: men from the Ness region of Lewis spend 10 days in August on a remote rocky outcrop harvesting 2,000 of the birds, which are swiftly despatched with a single blow to the head. They are then singed with fire and pickled in salt to create a delicacy said to taste like a cross between duck and salted mackerel. The Scottish SPCA previously called for the hunt to be banned, but it retains its exemption to a Europeanwide ban on hunting seabirds. The contest was held in late 2013 as a Christmas event to celebrate the tradition and its history. Each of the 20 contestants was served a plate of half a guga and potatoes, the winner being the first to finish.

The petition ? hosted on the website www.thepetitionsite.com ? gives only the briefest of descriptions of the tradition, but uses emotive language, describing the hunt as a ?slaughter? and saying ?Hitting gannet chicks with sticks is a ?tradition? we could do without.? It describes the competition as ?grotesque?.

Trying to paint a more balanced picture, local Lewis newspaper the Stornaway Gazette commented that: ?Many of those who have put their name to the petition don?t appear to have looked into the tradition and are basing their dismay at the hunt purely on the misleading blurb, with many commenting on how ?live gannets? are being eaten.?