Archive for May, 2012


Scottish gamekeepers in court: latest

Two cases against two Scottish gamekeepers have been heard recently at Perth Sheriff Court:

David Campbell, head gamekeeper at Edradynate Estate, Perthshire, is charged with various offences relating to firearms and explosives (see here). His case has been continued for an intermediate diet on 26 July 2012. At that hearing it will be decided whether the case proceeds to trial on 20 August 2012. This is an interesting one for several reasons which will become clear in due course.

Jonathan Graham, apparently a gamekeeper at Glenlyon Estate, Perthshire, is charged with three offences under the Wildlife & Countryside Act (Section 5 (1) (b) relating to the prohibition of certain methods of killing or taking wild birds. The hearing was continued today until 27 June 2012. Those of you interested in the topical subject of crow cage traps (see here) might want to follow this case.


DEFRA backs down on buzzard ‘management’ trial!!

News just in, from Defra’s twitter account, Richard Benyon says the following:

“We’ve listened to public concerns, so we are stopping current research and developing new proposals on #buzzards”

Fantastic news (well, at least until we find out what these ‘new proposals’ entail). A big, fat, massive WELL DONE to everyone who blogged, tweeted, emailed, petition-signed etc about this outrageous ‘study’. The people have been heard! It’s incredible to see how effective 9 days of campaigning can be!

By the way, it looks like GWCT had tendered for the buzzard ‘study’ (see here). They seem to be quite good at undertaking unpopular ‘research’ – they’re currently carrying out  a ‘study’ funded by those doyens of conservation, Songbird Survival, which involves a large scale corvid removal experiment (basically killing crows & magpies and calling it science….hmm, sound familiar? See here). If you’re not sure who Songbird Survival are, see here.

We’ll post responses about the DEFRA u-turn here as and when they are published:

Update on DEFRA website here (scroll down underneath the ‘mythbuster’ bit)

Article in the Guardian here (includes info about new research proposals)

RSPB response here

BBC news article here

Article in the Independent here

Article in the Telegraph here

Mark Avery’s thoughts here

Country Land & Business Association (CLA)  response here

British Assoc. for Shooting & Conservation (BASC) response here  (just a statement, no opinion offered)

Countryside Alliance response here (Benyon’s glum chums)

National Gamekeepers’ Organisation response here (not very happy either)


Glen Orchy poisoner: sentence deferred ’til July

Tom McKellar, a gamekeeper/farmer at Auch Estate in Argyll who was convicted last month of possession of the banned pesticide Carbofuran (see here and here) was due to be sentenced today. Sentencing has now been deferred until 23 July (we don’t yet know the reason for this further delay).

The Carbofuran was discovered at McKellar’s place nearly three years ago in June 2009 during a police raid in connection with the discovery of a poisoned golden eagle at Glen Orchy on 7 June 2009 (see here). Toxicology results showed the dead eagle had been poisoned with Carbofuran. McKellar reportedly admitted during a police interview that he had previously laid out poison baits to kill foxes (see here) but he wasn’t charged with poisoning that golden eagle.

Also discovered during that police raid was a stash of illegal handguns in McKellar’s loft. On conviction at the High Court in Glasgow in December 2010, instead of receiving the mandatory five-year prison term he was given a sentence of 300 hours’ community service (see here).

There is a lot more to the Glen Orchy eagle-poisoning incident than meets the eye but we’re unable to disclose further information until McKellar has been sentenced. Rest assured, we’ll be writing more about this in due course.


Buzz off Benyon, & other news from the murky underworld of raptor persecution

There are no signs of the public’s outrage subsiding over #Buzzardgate. You only have to type in the words ‘buzzard’ and ‘DEFRA’ into a search engine and the strength of feeling against DEFRA’s outlandish plan is almost palpable.

The best article we’ve read, so far, is that written by George Monbiot in the Guardian (here). There’s also a good article by Michael McCarthy in the Independent today, entitled ‘Richard Benyon: The bird-brained minister (see here). Although McCarthy seems to think that the buzzard-nest destroyers will start their shotgun antics as of this Friday (1st June), presumably because that was the proposed start date in DEFRA’s research tender document (see here). However, the buzzard breeding season is well underway and many nests now contain small chicks and the DEFRA ‘study’ suggests that nests will be destroyed during ‘construction’; it doesn’t say anything about destroying active nests containing breeding adults, eggs and/or young (not that that would stop the trigger-happy nest destroyers, of course).

But perhaps the destructive parts of this study won’t start this Friday (if they ever start at all, depending on how loudly we all shout our objections). According to the June edition of ‘Modern Gamekeeping’ (which could just as easily have been called ‘Victorian Gamekeeping’ because nothing seems to have changed except for new bits of kit designed to help the ‘keeper kill more wildlife), the trial’s start date is not that clear:

Though DEFRA insists it is too early to comment on the finer details of the study, it is expected to launch some time this year. A spokesperson said: “The tender for the research project on management techniques to reduce the predation of pheasant poults by buzzards closed yesterday. We will announce the successful bid later in the summer“”.

Modern Gamekeeping isn’t available online (another example of its misnomer) but a photograph of its buzzard trial cover story can be found on Alan Tilmouth’s blog (here). Incidentally, Alan Tilmouth has been one of the most prolific tweeters on this issue and we know he was directly responsible for directing some ‘important’ people to this blog when we led on this story last week, so many thanks Alan, and good luck with your DEFRA FoI request to find out which Northumberland estates are involved; we’re all VERY interested in those results.

Another DEFRA FoI request has been lodged by ‘SWBirdWatch’ which can be followed on the public website ‘What Do They Know?’ (see here).

Since the buzzard trial story hit the news last week, several commentators on various blogs and websites have mentioned that the game-shooting lobby may have shot themselves in the foot over their latest attempt to get rid of raptors, because now the full glare of the spotlight has been turned onto their industry, with mainstream media taking a real interest. Mark Avery’s blog this morning (see here) focuses on some of the questions now being asked by a wider audience where previously they were just being asked by a smaller minority of special-interest groups. All good stuff.

For those who haven’t already done so, there are two main petitions to sign to show your disapproval of the buzzard trial – please, take a minute to sign both of them and let Mr Benyon feel the full force of our discontent:

In other news, Tom McKellar is due to be sentenced today (he’s the gamekeeper from Glen Orchy who was convicted in April of possessing the banned pesticide Carbofuran, although he didn’t face any charges over the dead golden eagle found at Glen Orchy which had been poisoned by er… Carbofuran – see here). We’ve received some further information about that poisoned eagle and we’ll discuss it once McKellar’s case has ended.

Another hearing opening today concerns the head keeper at Edradynate Estate in Perthshire. More on that case in due course…


BTO backs out of buzzard plan

The following statement has appeared on the British Trust for Ornithology’s website:

Following recent discussion in the media on Defra’s proposals regarding Buzzards and Pheasants, Andy Clements comments on the BTO’s position.

“Alongside RSPB, Raptor Study Groups, GWCT & a range of other stakeholders, BTO has attended two meetings at Defra in a scientific advisory capacity. 

BTO has not tendered for the work and we have declined an invitation to be part of the Project Advisory Group. We have also indicated we no longer wish to be part of the ongoing stakeholder group.

If Defra ask us for specific independent scientific advice, for example up to date population estimates for Buzzard, we would provide that advice as normal.”

Andy Clements, BTO Director

Well done, BTO!


Add your name to petition against buzzard ‘management’

A petition has been set up against DEFRA’s outrageous plan to ‘manage’ buzzards. Please sign it! (It doesn’t matter which country you’re in, anyone can sign this) –


DEFRA responds to public outcry over buzzard ‘management’ trial

The weight of public pressure on DEFRA after it was revealed they were funding a ‘study’ to explore methods of buzzard ‘management’ (see here, here and here) has led them to put out a statement.

You can read it here

The statement is just as laughable as their study idea. They’ve completely missed the point of the public’s anger – DEFRA thinks that we’ve all misunderstood the proposal and we’re worried about them ‘killing’ buzzards; they don’t get it that we’re all opposed to the use of public funds to ‘control’ buzzards (native species just recovering from decades of persecution) for the benefit of 40 million non-native gamebirds that are released into the environment every year for the purposes of being shot for ‘sport’!

Here are some of the ludicrous sentences in their statement:

‘We work on the basis of sound evidence’ (er, you clearly don’t!)

‘This would only be in areas where there is a clear problem’ (how have you quantified a ‘clear problem’? Where’s the scientific evidence to back it up?)

‘…destroying empty nests…’ (note the inclusion of the word ’empty’ to try and convince us that adult birds, or eggs or chicks won’t be shot out of the tree).

‘The results of this scientific research will help guide our policy on this issue in the future’. (Just because you’ve used the term ‘scientific research’ doesn’t make this a valid scientific study. For it to be that, a hypothesis would first need to be tested (e.g. do buzzards have an impact on pheasant poults?) instead of going straight in with the assumption that they do have an impact and so let’s remove some to see what happens).

Interestingly, DEFRA doesn’t mention anything about the illegality of their methods (well, methods #3 & #4 anyway – permananent translocation [removal of adult birds] to captivity at falconry centres and shooting out nests with a shotgun). Hopefully the RSPB will get their lawyers on to this!

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