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.


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….


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.


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:


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!


“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.


Dog dies after consuming poisoned bait

dyfed_powysA dog has died after consuming a bait that had been laced with the banned pesticide, Aldicarb.

The dog was being exercised in a popular dog-walking area in the Tanat Valley in Powys, mid-Wales, in May. It suddenly became ill and died within minutes.

Toxicology results have now confirmed the dog had been killed from ingesting Aldicarb on the body of a black-winged bird believed to have been used as a poisoned bait, probably for targeting birds of prey. A red kite was found poisoned with Aldicarb less than a mile away in March 2013 and the police believe the two incidents are connected.

Police are appealing for information and warning dog-walkers in the area to be extra vigilant.

Article in the Shropshire Star here.


An impressive hen harrier!


How cool is this? To find out the story behind it, check out this blog by a remarkable young man.


Four easy ways to help hen harriers

HH by Gordon LangsburyHen harriers are in trouble, and have been for some time (to read all our earlier blog posts about them, click here).

They’re not just in a bit of trouble; they are in seriously dire straits, and most of it has been caused by them being illegally killed (shot, trapped, poisoned, stamped on) whenever they venture on to a moorland that is being managed for driven grouse shooting.

A lot of people we talk to about raptor persecution in general all say the same thing – they feel frustrated and let down by the inability of the ‘authorities’ (e.g. government, police, judicial process) to put a stop to it.

Well things are changing. Recently, there has been a groundswell of imaginative initiatives that are designed to allow ordinary people like us to have our say and get our voices heard. Individually, we may not have much impact, but collectively, we can be very powerful.

Here are four things we, as individuals, can all do very easily, to help hen harriers. Some of them you can do right now without even having to leave your chair!

1. Participate in Hen Harrier Day on August 10th 2014.

There will be a number of peaceful protest demonstrations across the north of England (an area where driven grouse shooting is a dominant ‘sport’) taking place on Sunday 10th August 2014. The idea is to congregate with like-minded people to celebrate the hen harrier and to get some much-needed national and international media attention at a time when most media outlets will be focusing on the opening of the grouse-shooting season (12th August).

One of these protests will be held in the Derbyshire Peak District, with Chris Packham in attendance (see details about this event on Mark Avery’s blog here).

Other protests are planned for Yorkshire, Cumbria, Northumberland and Lancashire although we are still awaiitng full details – to be announced soon on the Birders Against Wildlife Crime (BAWC) website here.

If you can’t make it in person to one of these events, BAWC will be providing information about how you can join in ‘remotely’ by posting pictures on-line.

2. Vote for the RSPB’s SKYDANCER Project in the National Lottery Awards.

The Skydancer Project is a four-year educational initiative aimed at raising awareness and promoting the conservation of hen harriers in the north of England. They have been doing some fantastic work, delivering talks, hosting workshops, running fieldtrips etc. They have recently been nominated for a National Lottery Award (one of seven projects in the running for Best Education Project, selected from over 750 applicants). Winning will mean national media attention on prime time tv. It takes a couple of seconds to vote for them on-line – deadline 23rd July. Click here to vote.

3. Sign the e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting in England.

Mark Avery launched this e-petition almost one month ago (and here is his summary of why it is necessary). Already it has attracted 5,789 votes. Driven grouse-shooting is the number one reason why hen harriers are being killed. It really is a no brainer – please sign here!

Turn Your Back on Grouse4. Support the Ethical Consumer’s ‘Turn Your Back on Grouse’ campaign.

The Ethical Consumer has recently published a well-researched report about the damaging consequences of intensively driven grouse shooting (see here). They have started a campaign calling for a boycott on all businesses connected to the grouse-shooting industry. It’s called ‘Turn Your Back on Grouse’. You can find more info here.

We’re particularly interested in this campaign. We touched on it, briefly, last year when we blogged about Marks & Spencer selling grouse that had originated from Yorkshire and the Scottish Borders – when we asked M&S to name the estates of origin, they were surprisingly coy – see here, here, here and here.

We called in Trading Standards to investigate whether M&S’s claims that “we are working with only the most sustainable and well-managed estates, and do not work with any suppliers that interfere with hen harriers” was actually true, but we haven’t heard anything further. Unfortunately our time is limited and we haven’t pursued it, so it’s very welcome news to see the Ethical Consumer pick up on this issue.

It’s particularly timely, as the Countryside Alliance put out the following statement in April this year:

“Following a meeting with Marks and Spencer and Yorkshire Game, discussions are to take place between the Game to Eat team and the M&S PR Department to devise a suitable media plan to promote grouse in August 2014. The Game-to-Eat campaign sent out over 80,000 game recipe leaflets over the course of the season. The team is now working with development Chef Lee Maycock to create and photograph new recipes for 2014. Lee Maycock has continued to deliver game preparation courses at catering colleges around the country and has had an excellent reception from catering lecturers keen to increase game’s profile. The team attended an end-of-season game dinner at Notting Hill’s The Shed restaurant in early February. The team hosted Shooting Times, Country Life, Sporting Shooter, Fieldsports and Shooting Gazette journalists at this event. Game-to-Eat and the Countryside Alliance Awards are working together to promote the work of butchers selling game”.

Hopefully many of you will get involved with supporting the ‘Turn Your Back on Grouse’ campaign and help give this issue further media and political attention.

Hen harrier photo by Gordon Langsbury.

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