Gamekeeper accused of wildlife crimes on Glenogil Estate, Angus Glens

Glenogil sign RPSCopyA Scottish gamekeeper is facing charges of wildlife crimes alleged to have taken place in the Angus Glens last year.

William Curr faces charges that he set or failed to check the snare that trapped a deer for more than 24 hours on the Glenogil Estate last year, and that he failed to remove it. It is understood the animal died.

The 22 year old, of Game Keeper’s House, Glen Trusta, will appear at Forfar Sheriff Court on 20th August where he will also face charges that he failed to keep a record of finding a deer in the snare at Glen Trusta between 26th – 29th August 2014.

It is also alleged that Curr failed to check another snare for more than 24 hours, during which time a fox became trapped and died of dehydration between September 24th-26th 2014.

Curr did not appear or make a plea to the charges when the case called at the court on Thursday.

Depute fiscal Jim Eodonable intimated the matter would continue without plea for three weeks, after a letter from solicitors Levy & McRae asked for more time to take instruction.

We’ll be following this one with interest.

Photograph by Raptor Persecution Scotland.


Scottish farmer convicted of shooting buzzard

BZA poultry farmer in the Borders who shot a buzzard, claiming he had mistaken it for a carrion crow, has been fined £600.

Michael Harrison, 70, of West Linton, Peebleshire, who runs an egg production facility, told Sheriff Jamie Gilmour at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on Wednesday, “I just made a mistake. I shot at this crow and it came down, but when I saw it was a buzzard, I was mortified. I was born in the countryside and brought up on a farm. All my life I have been a wildlife supporter”.

Harrison had pled guilty under the Wildlife & Countryside Act to ‘intentionally or recklessly’ shooting the buzzard in November 2014. He also pled guilty to injuring the buzzard by standing on its wing – presumably in an attempt to ‘control’ it when he realised the bird was still alive. The buzzard’s injuries were too severe for it to survive and it had to be euthanised.

Sheriff Gilmour said he would reduce the fine from £900 to £600 because of Harrison’s early guilty plea and allowed seven days for payment. He told Harrison: “It is important you identify your quarry. That is an important part of shooting”.

It’s farcical that a buzzard could be mistaken for a carrion crow, especially if it’s in close enough range for it to be shot and especially if the person pulling the trigger claims to have been born and brought up in the countryside and should therefore be capable of basic bird identification skills. In light of this conviction, presumably Police Scotland will not renew Harrison’s shotgun certificate? Yeah, right.

Well done to the SSPCA for their prompt investigation of this crime, which was crucial to gather evidence, and to the Crown Office for a successful & speedy prosecution, leading to a rare conviction for the actual shooting of a protected species. The penalty, as usual, is at the low end of the scale (max penalty of £5,000 and/or six month custodial sentence).


Henry’s tour day 78: One week ’til Hen Harrier Day!

Fri 31 July Copy

This year’s Hen Harrier Day takes place one week today – Sunday 9th August 2015.

Find out what’s happening at events in England and Scotland HERE

Sign up to the social media Thunderclap HERE (current social reach is 3.9 million!)

Sign the petition to ban driven grouse shooting HERE (currently at over 8,000 supporters!)


Henry’s tour day 77: CLA

Thurs 30 July(a) Copy

Thurs 30 July(b) Copy

Henry went to visit the London HQ of the CLA (Country Land & Business Association), where he also bumped in to Philip Merricks, the Chairman of the Hawk & Owl Trust and a strong proponent of ‘brood meddling’ – a ludicrous policy decision which led to Chris Packham’s resignation as President of the Hawk & Owl Trust.

More on the CLA shortly, as Henry rocked up at the CLA’s Game Fair this weekend….


Radio debate on banning driven grouse shooting

BBC radio 4 farming todayThere was an entertaining six minute debate on this morning’s Farming Today, pitting Mark Avery against Andrew Gilruth on the subject of banning driven grouse shooting.

You’d think that G(W)CT would have a scientific representative to speak on their behalf. Apparently not. Instead they gave us someone who refused to acknowledge that driven grouse shooting causes any sort of environmental damage at all, and who advocates that all moorland in England should be intensively managed a la driven grouse moors. Mark wiped the floor with him.

You can listen here for the next 29 days (starts at 07.21).

Petition to ban driven grouse shooting HERE


Henry’s tour day 76: Milcombe

Weds 29 July  Copy

Henry stopped off in a little Oxfordshire village called Milcombe to have a read of Inglorious: Conflict in the Uplands.

Wonder if anyone else in this village will be reading this book….?

Inglorious is officially published tomorrow, although it’s been available for a while now. There’s a beautifully written review by Mike McCarthy in today’s Independent – see here.

The petition to ban driven grouse shooting is going well – add your voice here.


SNH responds to complaints about ‘Scotland’s Natural Larder’ campaign

Aim Click Collect June 2015Last month we blogged about SNH’s joint campaign (with BASC Scotland) called ‘Scotland’s Natural Larder’, which aims to promote ‘natural local produce that has been harvested sustainably’.

According to their campaign materials, lead-shot red grouse are to be considered ‘healthy’, ‘natural’ and ‘sustainable’.

We had a few problems with SNH’s promotion of Scotland’s pantry of dead wildlife, namely that lead-shot red grouse are not ‘healthy’, are not ‘natural’ and certainly haven’t been harvested ‘sustainably’ if they originated from a driven grouse moor (see here).

We (and many of you, thank you) wrote to SNH’s chief exec, Susan Davies, to ask some questions about this campaign and here is the generic response:

Thank-you for your recent email on the topic of Scotland’s Natural Larder’s (SNL) grouse banner which is one of a suite of banners we use under this initiative, others include seafood and foraging.  The SNL is a partnership project between SNH and the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) and is about reconnecting people with local and natural produce that has been sustainably harvested or hunted, encouraging best practice and responsible use of natural food resources.  The grouse banner is specifically used in support of the “Field to Fork” project which makes links between sport shooting, wildlife management and the food industry.  The goal is to secure long term behavioural change by working with students to help them understand and take responsibility for exemplary practice and good quality food.

One of SNH’s primary functions is to promote the sustainable use of nature’s assets. We work within the current legislative framework to secure multiple benefits, including those of an economic nature. Across the breadth of different land uses in Scotland there are a number of practices where changes in behaviour and raised standards would deliver greater benefits and improve environmental outcomes.

Our approach to moorland management is no different. We believe that when lawful moorland management for grouse is undertaken responsibly, and to assured standards that the ‘harvest’ of this wild game bird may be regarded as sustainable.   We are involved in a number of strands of work that seek to address the sustainability of moorland management; particularly the more intensive and single-minded approaches to managing some grouse moors as well as practices such as burning. These are highlighted in the report of our Scientific Advisory Committee’s Review of Sustainable Moorland Management, which we will be publishing shortly. They include working with the wide range of stakeholder groups represented on the Moorland Forum to agree and promote refreshed best practice standards, and with the Wildlife Estates Scotland initiative to provide independently assessed assurance of the extent to which they are being met. We need to use the full range of available tools to engage with all stakeholders, stimulate discussion, promote high standards, and seek solutions that work for all interests.

The Scottish Raptor Persecution blog site raised a number of specific issues and for completeness I have responded to each of these below.

Use of lead shot

The use and impact of lead in shooting is currently being discussed by the Westminster Government (DEFRA) Lead Advisory Group (LAG). This has considered evidence on lead ingestion both in humans and wildlife. SNH await the recommendations from the LAG. In the meantime the use of lead shot to kill quarry in sport shooting and wildlife management is standard but non-lead alternatives are being trialled.  As regards the use of food products killed in this way, Scotland’s Natural Larder promotes the skills needed to handle, inspect and prepare shot game to assure the quality of the final product and minimise health risks. SNL promotes best practice inspection which includes removal of visibly affected meat (i.e. bruised or containing shot / bullet tracking) which in turn will minimise risk from lead in game meat.

The Food Standards Agency are the statutory advisors on food safety and have undertaken research into game meat which informed advice to consumers. The advice suggests a reduction in the consumption by those who eat large quantities of game.  This is in line with advice proffered for red meat and oily fish.  According to FSA, the risk to infrequent consumers (less than once a week) is minimal, and for frequent consumers effective game meat handling can minimise the risk.

Use of medicated grit

Medicated grit is used under licence on many grouse moors and is administered by a vet. A four week withdrawal period (based on its use in comparable species) is recommended prior to treated birds going into the food chain.  Compliance with this withdrawal period has been facilitated by the development, promotion of best practice advice, and use of compartmentalised grit boxes to allow controlled access to medicated or non-medicated grit. SNL’s clear aim is to make sure that the people running the shoots and managing the species understand the responsibilities they have for the product entering the food chain.


Cryptosporidiosis has long been present in poultry and wild game and has not been reported as presenting a risk to human health. Under the inspection responsibilities that we promote as part of Scotland’s Natural Larder the shot game will be inspected by trained personnel and birds that are suspected of being infected, badly shot or otherwise contaminated will not enter the food chain.  The first inspection of this nature takes place at the estate larder and a secondary check would be made by the butcher or game dealer during processing.

It is clear that the deeply held and strongly divided opinions surrounding moorlands and grouse shooting present challenges but we believe that a twin track approach of development and promotion of good practice with strong enforcement of legislation is a proven approach in raising standards in wildlife management.   I hope that this background at least helps you better understand the basis for our approach even if you do not agree with it.

Yours sincerely,


Susan Davies, Chief Executive


Field-to-Fork RHShow 2015_BASCThe first three paragraphs are a bit contradictory to SNH’s previous statements about the sustainability of red grouse, in as much as they say red grouse ‘may be regarded as sustainable if the moorland management has been lawful and undertaken responsibly’. Er, that’s the whole point – we are arguing that moorland management (on driven grouse moors) is rarely undertaken responsibly and quite often involves unlawful activity, as SNH knows all too well. SNH also acknowledges the need ‘to secure long term behavioural change, and that changes in behaviour and raised standards would improve environmental outcomes’. In which case, SNH is admitting that current practices are not up to standard and therefore red grouse cannot currently be considered as a sustainably harvested product. So why promote it as such?

Turning to the specific responses made about the use of lead shot, use of medicated grit, and Cryptosporidiosis:

Use of lead shot

SNH is waiting for the recommendations of DEFRA’s Lead Advisory Group. Aren’t we all. Meanwhile, SNH is blatantly ignoring the multiple scientific studies that have demonstrated the significant health risks from lead to humans, wildlife and the environment – e.g. see here and note the number of cited references. Removing visible lead shot from the meat may ‘minimise risk’ [of lead poisoning] but it definitely doesn’t remove the risk – see this paper, published five years ago, which shows the level of lead contamination in gamebird flesh even after visible shot has been removed. A high proportion of birds still contained lead concentrations that exceeded the European Union Maximum Level by several orders of magnitude. It’s absurd that SNH is still trying to pass off lead-shot red grouse as ‘healthy’. Massive fail, SNH.

Use of medicated grit

The statement, ‘Medicated grit is used under licence on many grouse moors and is administered by a vet’ is wholly misleading. Medicated grit (containing the drug Flubendazole, banned for human consumption) is purchased from a vet but it certainly isn’t administered by a vet. It’s administered by gamekeepers, who, as far as we are aware, are not qualified members of the veterinary medicine profession. In addition to the provision of medicated grit, where worm burdens are high gamekeepers are also catching up wild grouse in the dead of night and direct dosing them by shoving a tube down their throats to administer the drug as a liquid. (This practice raises other interesting questions about whether those gamekeepers are qualified and licensed to catch wild birds, let alone administer a veterinary drug – we’ll return to this issue another time).

SNH suggests that compliance with the requirement to remove medicated grit 28 days prior to the onset of the shooting season has been ‘facilitated by the promotion of best practice advice’. The provision of ‘best practice advice’ is useful, of course, but it in no way ensures compliance. And let’s face it, many of those involved with the management of driven grouse moors are not best known for their compliance with the law, let alone ‘best practice advice’. So, who does ensure compliance? Well, according to our research, the Food Standards Agency is responsible for monitoring compliance, by testing shot birds prior to their entry in to the human food chain, and also by making random visits to grouse moors during the shooting season to examine the contents of medicated grit boxes. We’ve made an FoI request to the Food Standards Agency to find out a bit more about how much testing has been going on and we’ll report on that in due course.


SNH claims that infected red grouse will not enter the food chain. The problem is, some infected birds ‘may not have any apparent symptoms’ such as a swollen eye or discharge from the nasal orifices, according to ‘guru’ Mark Osborne (see here). So how can SNH be so sure that diseased birds will not enter the food chain? Another massive fail, SNH.

In summary then, nothing in SNH’s response leads us to change our position that lead-shot red grouse are unhealthy, unnatural and unsustainably harvested. On the contrary, they may contain excessive concentrations of poison (lead), Flubendazole and be infected with Cryptosporidiosis. In addition, the evidence of the environmental damage caused by intensive moorland management just keeps growing (e.g. see here for the latest).

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