Scottish Land and Estates and the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association have written a letter of complaint to the BBC, claiming ‘misrepresentation’ on The One Show programme.
The programme (see here and here) included a feature on golden eagle persecution and during a studio interview, the RSPB’s Stuart Benn laid the blame firmly at the door of gamekeepers on Scottish grouse moors.
Doug McAdam, Chief Exec of Scottish Land & Estates, took great exception to that statement and wrote a hilarious letter of complaint, on behalf of SLE and SGA, to The One Show’s executive editor, Sandy Smith.
Here is his letter: SLE SGA complaint about BBC One Show
According to dear old Doug, there have only been four dead golden eagles found since 2010 and no charges [for these deaths] have been brought against anyone involved in grouse moor management. Conveniently, he failed to include the other known incidents of dead raptors turning up on grouse moors since 2010 (including white-tailed eagles, red kites, hen harriers, buzzards, short-eared owls, sparrowhawks, peregrines, kestrels), or the critically-injured golden eagle found shot and left to die on a grouse moor, or indeed the satellite-tagged raptors (particularly golden eagles and hen harriers) who have all gone ‘missing’ after their last known signal was received from, er, a grouse moor. There may well be more of these ‘missing’ birds but of course we’re no longer allowed to hear about them after the introduction of the new PAW Scotland ’protocol’ that aims to keep these incidents away from the public’s gaze (see here).
Apart from trying to play down the extent of persecution incidents on grouse moors, and inferring that a lack of criminal convictions is a good indicator that gamekeepers are not involved with the illegal killing of golden eagles on grouse moors, Doug goes on to emphasise the SLE’s involvement with PAW Scotland, as though membership of that ‘partnership’ should be a measure of good behaviour. We’ve all seen how effective these ‘partnerships’ can be, following the near-extinction of breeding hen harriers on English grouse moors during the six-year Hen Harrier Dialogue ‘partnership’ designed to resolve the conflict. Indeed, three raptor conservation organisations have now resigned from that particular ‘partnership’ because they recognised it could be used as a convenient political cover by certain organisations with grouse-shooting interests.
Doug makes an astonishing claim about the PAW Scotland partnership: “Our combined efforts with the police, rural communities, the RSPB and over 120 other relevant stakeholders have been universally acknowledged as a key factor in reducing the number of raptor persecution incidents“.
Talk about misleading! For a start, there are not 120 ‘relevant stakeholders’ in relation to addressing raptor persecution. Many of the stakeholders have absolutely no involvement in directly addressing raptor persecution – they are there to specifically address other types of wildlife crime such as poaching, theft of freshwater pearl mussels, bat persecution and badger persecution.
Secondly, where does this notion come from that work by PAW Scotland has been ‘universally acknowledged as a key factor in reducing the number of raptor persecution incidents’? Has it been ‘universally acknowledged’? We don’t think PAW Scotland has had any demonstrable impact whatsoever on the number of raptor persecution incidents – where’s the evidence? Perhaps by ‘universal’ he means those with a vested interest in having people think that illegal raptor persecution is being dealt with effectively (e.g. the police, SNH, Scottish Government, SLE, SGA etc etc).
Doug finishes by saying, “Owners of moorland estates all over Scotland look after golden eagles” (ahem) and he invites Sandy Smith to visit a grouse moor “to find out for yourself the valuable conservation measures being implemented“. Let’s hope Sandy takes him up on his offer. Ooh, which grouse moor to choose? We could give Sandy quite a few suggestions….
Sandy Smith responded with a letter of his own: One Show’s reply to SLE
He says he’s sent an email to all One Show staff and suppliers “asking them to ensure they don’t make assumptions about gamekeepers based on out of date or inaccurate assumptions“.
Interestingly, Sandy Smith was the former executive editor of Panorama – a programme recognised for its investigative journalism and an ability to differentiate between fact and PR. Let’s hope he’s taken those qualities with him to The One Show.
We’ve sent a letter to Sandy, giving him the URL of this blog, to ensure his staff are kept up to date and are not basing their work on inaccurate assumptions (spin). You may wish to do the same – send your email, marked for the attention of Sandy Smith, to: TheOneShowEmails@bbc.co.uk
If you think grouse moor owners and their gamekeepers need to be held to account for their activities, please sign this e-petition and share it with your friends and colleagues: SIGN HERE.
Here’s a photo showing how well golden eagles are looked after on some Scottish grouse moors. This one was found critically injured on Buccleuch Estate last aututmn – he had been shot and left to die, although it is not known on whose land he was shot. He is currently recuperating with the SSPCA after undergoing life-saving surgery. Needless to say, nobody has been charged for this crime.