29
Jul
14

Hello, Westminster!

WestminsterIt seems that somebody in Westminster is spending a lot of time reading this blog. An awful lot of time, actually.

Take a look at the stats from our ClustrMap – this is an app that keeps track of where our site visitors are coming from. It shows a breakdown of all the countries, and then within each country it shows which cities/areas our visitors have logged in from.

The UK visitor stats show 154,070 visits between 14th September 2013 to date. Of those, 48,609 visits have come from Westminster. That accounts for almost almost one third of all UK-based visits in the last ten months.

It’s in sharp contrast to the number of visits from Orkney (3)!

Hmm, can’t think why anyone in Westminster would be so interested, unless of course they have a vested interest in what happens on driven grouse moors in northern England and Scotland….

27
Jul
14

Ross-shire Massacre: the pig’s ear of an investigation continues

RK5Ten days ago we blogged about the progress (or apparent lack of) being made in the Ross-shire Massacre case, four months on from the discovery of 22 dead raptors in one of Scotland’s worst raptor poisoning incidents (see here).

A couple of days ago, somebody told us that the ‘official’ number of birds confirmed poisoned was now 16 (12 red kites + 4 buzzards), according to Police Scotland.

We found this news intriguing. Did it mean that the remaining six carcasses (4 red kites + 2 buzzards) had not been poisoned?

No. What it turned out to mean was that toxicology tests on those remaining birds are still “continuing”, according to a news report in The Press and Journal (see here).

Still continuing, four months after discovery? Is that because the poison is proving difficult to detect, or is it because the tests have not been given priority? If not, why not?

What a shambles. And that’s only the start of it…..

Previous posts on the Ross-shire Massacre here

25
Jul
14

Game over: M&S abandons grouse sales

m&s shop frontMarks and Spencer will not be selling red grouse this year after fears of a consumer boycott, according to an article in The Times. (We haven’t read it because we refuse to pay to get past Murdoch’s pay wall but you can read the first few lines here).

This has undoubtedly come about because of the consumer pressure that began last year and has continued this year (from Mark Avery’s blog readers, our blog readers, Ethical Consumer magazine’s readers) and also some behind-the-scenes work from a couple of organisations including the RSPB.

Thanks to everyone who got involved and thanks especially to Marks and Spencer!

Previous blog posts on this issue here, here, here, here and here.

18
Jul
14

BBC agrees “too many quotes from McAdam”

McAdam 3Two days ago we blogged about some disproportionate BBC coverage given to serial raptor persecution denier, Doug McAdam, CEO of Scottish Land and Estates (see here).

The BBC article in question was about the publication of a new SNH-funded report detailing the recovery prospects for golden eagles in south Scotland (currently clinging on by their talons).

We felt that the article was biased as McAdam was given much more space than the other contributors, and we also objected to at least one of McAdam’s statements in which he tried to downplay the effect of illegal persecution by suggesting it was an historical issue and that the latest government figures show a ‘significant’ decline – which is, as McAdam well knows, patently untrue.

We encouraged blog readers to complain to the BBC and thanks to all of you that did (we reckon, from our site stats, that over 40 of you made the effort). The BBC has now responded:

Thank you for your contact. Your comments were passed to the Editor of News Online Scotland, who has asked that we forward his response as follows:

“Thank you for being in touch about the article called: Golden eagles ‘can return to south of Scotland’ – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-south-scotland-28320168

Our Environment Correspondent, David Miller, highlighted that a Scottish Natural Heritage report indicated the south of Scotland could once again become a stronghold for golden eagles. He included the views of Prof Des Thompson of Scottish Natural Heritage; Paul Wheelhouse MSP, The Minister for Environment and Climate Change; Ian Thomson, RSPB Scotland’s Head of Investigations and Douglas McAdam, Chief Executive of Scottish Land and Estates.

During our routine and ongoing review of articles published, we felt that there were too many quotes from Mr McAdam. As a result, we decided to modify his contribution to the piece. Overall, I am happy that we have reported this story in a fair and balanced way.

Thank you, once again, for taking the time to contact us.”

Kind Regards

BBC Complaints.

-END-

So, some success at least, although the modifications that were made did not include the removal of the ‘significant decline’ quote.

Wonder if the PAW Scotland committee members will be having a quiet word with McAdam about the importance of not mis-representing PAW Scotland persecution data….

17
Jul
14

Ross-shire Massacre: 4 months on

It’s been four months since 22 birds of prey (sixteen red kites and six buzzards) were killed in one of the worst poisoning incidents uncovered in Scotland in recent years.

Here’s the latest information about how the police investigation is progressing:

nothing 2

Great, eh?

The Untouchables get away with it. Again.

Tune in next month for more of the same. Probably.

For previous posts on the Ross-shire Massacre click here.

16
Jul
14

Golden eagles in southern Scotland: the facts and the fiction

A new report has been published today detailing the recovery prospects for golden eagles in southern Scotland.

The SNH-commissioned report has been written by two undisputed experts (Alan Fielding and Paul Haworth), both of whom were involved with the impressive Golden Eagle Conservation Framework report that was published in 2008.

The report has only just been made available on SNH’s website so we’ve not had a chance to thoroughly digest its findings – although we intend to come back to it in due course.

Having skimmed through it, it looks like a very detailed analysis of the various issues that could affect the recovery of this tiny population (see here for a previous blog entry on the perilous state of the golden eagle population in southern Scotland), including, of course, the effect of illegal persecution. This photo below shows the graphic effect of persecution on golden eagles in south Scotland – this one was found shot and critically injured on a driven grouse moor in 2012 – it later died from its injuries – see here.

Wanlock Head GE Oct 2012

If you haven’t read the new report (and let’s face it, not many people will), you might just base your opinion of it on what has been written in the mainstream media, which would be fine if the media reports were accurate, balanced and didn’t contain any lies.

For example, if you read the BBC report, you’d be forgiven for thinking that golden eagles in southern Scotland are only constrained by impoverished habitat and potentially by climate change, lack of prey (apparently due to a loss of gamekeepers!) and afforestation. You’d read that illegal persecution ‘may have been an historical factor’ but apparently it isn’t any more.

Hmm. Is that what the report actually says? Er, no. The report mentions persecution in several areas (Lowther Hills, Tweedsmuir Hills, Ettrick Hills and Moorfoot Hills) and suggests that it needs to be brought under control if golden eagles are to once again survive in these areas.

So if the report didn’t say that illegal persecution ‘may have been an historical factor’ but apparently isn’t any more, then who did?

McAdam 1No surprises…..Doug McAdam, CEO of the landowners’ organisation, Scottish Land and Estates. We  blogged about SLE’s persistent denial of raptor persecution only yesterday (see here) in relation to comments made by SLE’s Moorland Director Tim (Kim) Baynes during a radio debate. It looks like McAdam was sent the same memo – just deny, deny, deny.

This time, however, we intend to do more than just make fun of him – we’re going to complain to the BBC about publishing such nonsense and we’d encourage as many of you as possible to join in. We’ve even prepared some suggested text that you can simply cut and paste if you’re short of time or not sure what to write. Here it is:

Dear BBC,

I wish to make a complaint about the content of an online article about a new report about Golden Eagles in the south of Scotland:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-south-scotland-28320168

In my opinion, a disproportionate amount of space in the written article is given over to comments made by Mr Doug McAdam, the chief executive of Scottish Land and Estates. This is in complete contrast to the amount of space given to the comments by Prof Des Thompson “who led the research” and Mr Ian Thomson of RSPB Scotland.

In addition I am very concerned that the comments attributed to Mr McAdam reflect a falsehood that is frequently stated by his organisation and others who have a long-term political agenda to downplay the issue of persecution of birds of prey. Mr McAdam is quoted as saying, “Where persecution may have been a historical factor, it is clear from the official government data – published alongside our partners in PAW Scotland in March – that the number of such incidents has dropped significantly in recent years.”

In fact, the figures published by the Scottish Government show the opposite to be the case. In the Scottish Government’s wildlife crime report for 2012:  http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/0043/00434716.pdf thirteen birds of prey are listed as being the victims of persecution.

In 2013, twenty three birds of prey were listed as victims:  http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Environment/Wildlife-Habitats/paw-scotland/types-of-crime/crimes-against-birds/Poisoninghotspotmaps/2009-2013

These figures are nowhere near being indicative of “a significant” decline – in fact they are wholly contradictory of such a claim.

I urge the BBC to remove these erroneous comments from the article, given that they suggest to its readers a picture which is patently untrue.

Yours faithfully, (your name).

Here’s where to send your complaint: https://ssl.bbc.co.uk/complaints/forms/?reset=#anchor  [click on 'Make a complaint']

Some links:

BBC news article (and accompanying video) here

SNH press release about the new golden eagle report here

RSPB Scotland press release here

Download the new report here: Fielding & Haworth 2014_Golden Eagles in south Scotland an overview

UPDATE 17.40: Interestingly, the BBC appears to have retracted some of McAdam’s quote, but not the offending part! (Many thanks to those of you have already complained – we can see from our site stats that quite a few of you have done so).

Here’s McAdam’s quote from this morning:

Douglas McAdam, chief executive of Scottish Land & Estates, said: “We have been involved with Scottish Natural Heritage and other partners in this study since its inception as we felt it was crucial to understand the real underlying reasons why Golden Eagles were struggling in certain parts of Scotland.

This thorough and detailed study makes clear that SNH believes that habitat improvements are needed to encourage more breeding golden eagle pairs in the south of the country. We fully support this conclusion and we will encourage land managers to work in partnership with SNH and other bodies to make improvements to these habitats wherever possible.

Other factors, including climate change, lack of availability of prey base for eagles – often because these areas are no longer actively managed by gamekeepers – as well as expansion of forestry and changing land use may also be inhibiting eagle presence in these areas. Where persecution may have been a historical factor, it is clear from the official government data – published alongside our partners in PAW Scotland in March – that the number of such incidents has dropped significantly in recent years. However, everyone remains resolute that where persecution exists it must be eradicated.

Golden Eagles are iconic Scottish birds, adding greatly to Scotland’s natural landscape and welcomed by estates as part of our natural heritage. This study will add greatly to our understanding of what limits the presence of these magnificent birds and should therefore help us to understand how best they can be conserved.”

And here’s what’s currently online at 17.40: 

Scottish Land and Estates chief executive Douglas McAdam said: “Where persecution may have been a historical factor, it is clear from the official government data – published alongside our partners in PAW Scotland in March – that the number of such incidents has dropped significantly in recent years.

However, everyone remains resolute that where persecution exists it must be eradicated.

Golden Eagles are iconic Scottish birds, adding greatly to Scotland’s natural landscape and welcomed by estates as part of our natural heritage.

This study will add greatly to our understanding of what limits the presence of these magnificent birds and should therefore help us to understand how best they can be conserved.”

Come on BBC editors, get your act together!

15
Jul
14

“Very little proof” of raptor persecution, says Scottish Land & Estates

There was a radio debate on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme today, with RSPB Scotland Director, Stuart Housden and Scottish Land & Estates’ Moorland Group Director, Tim Baynes.

If anyone still needs evidence that the grouse-shooting industry is in hopeless denial about the link between driven grouse moors and the illegal killing of raptors, this was it.

denial 2

The debate centred on whether there was a ‘need’ for the introduction of a licensed regulatory system for driven grouse moors, as recently called for by the RSPB, both in England (here) and in Scotland (here).

According to Tim (Kim) Baynes, the RSPB’s data on raptor persecution are “out of date” and there is “very little proof” of raptor persecution. In Tim’s world, driven grouse moors are great because waders do a lot better on them than they do on moorland managed by the RSPB. Unsurprisingly, he failed to acknowledge that if you kill every predator that dares to even look at a driven grouse moor then of course waders (and grouse) are going to thrive but at a significant cost to the wider biodiversity, such as that that you’ll find on an RSPB-managed moor. He also tried to use the woeful rate of criminal convictions as evidence  that persecution wasn’t happening, and ignored the massive pile of scientific papers that tell a different story. Oh dear.

It’s astonishing that such a PR-savvy organisation such as SLE has not yet grasped the idea that the recent up-swell of public interest and anger against driven grouse moor management is largely thanks to the shooting industry’s failure to accept that there is an issue.  Ah well, never mind, you keep denying it, Kim – you’re doing wonders for our cause!

Well done Stuart Housden for not guffawing out loud on national radio.

The radio debate can be heard here (01:52:08) for the next seven days.




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