Strong leadership and zero tolerance required

Zero-toleranceThere’s been quite a reaction to the strong words of condemnation provided by the National Association of Regional Game Councils (NARGC) in response to the recent shooting of a buzzard in Ireland.

For anyone who missed it, here is the story and here is what Des Crofton, Director of NARGC had to say:

“The shooting of birds of prey, who are all protected, can only be condemned in the strongest possible terms. The person who shot this bird is not fit to have a firearm. I would urge the authorities, if the person is identified, that they are prosecuted, have their firearm licence revoked and never allowed have one again. This is inexcusable. If I ever found one of my members was responsible for something like this, he would be out of the association so fast his feet wouldn’t touch the ground”.

Have we seen the same level of leadership from the equivalent groups in Scotland when raptor persecution incidents hit the news? If only. To be fair, sometimes there will be a public statement of condemnation, but more often than not there’s either silence, or an attempt to deflect the blame, usually onto the RSPB who have been consistently accused of stashing raptor carcasses in freezers and then wheeling them out and ‘planting’ them on various estates up and down the country as some sort of elaborate plot to ‘frame’ the estates!

The Scottish (and English for that matter) game-shooting industry would do well to follow the example of Des Crofton. He left no room for misinterpretation. The NARGC is clearly operating a zero tolerance policy and that’s what we should all expect from the Scottish and English counterparts, as a bare minimum.

There will be those within the game-shooting industry who claim that they ARE working against raptor crime. They’ll cite their membership on various ‘partnership working’ initiatives such as PAW Scotland and the Environment Council’s Hen Harrier Dialogue process. That’s all fine and good for what it’s worth (which so far is very little – the persecution continues), but when you examine their activities outwith these groups, it begins to look more and more like they’re just paying lip-service to it all.

For example, if you were a leader within the game-shooting lobby and you had a serious intent to crack down on raptor persecution, would you want your organisation to attend an industry-related event on an estate with a shocking record of raptor persecution? Would you accept raffle prizes from estates with a known track record for persistent illegal raptor persecution? Would you list notoriously bad estates in a Top 20 of ‘great shoots’? Would you run ‘best practice’ training courses on estates with a long history of raptor persecution? Would you give a ‘prestigious’ industry-award to an estate with a history of raptor persecution? Would you accept sponsorship from a company owned by someone who also owns a notoriously bad estate? Would you have the owner of an estate with a 20+ year history of raptor persecution on your governing Board?

No, you wouldn’t. Not if you were serious about eliminating raptor crime. You’d blacklist them as soon as there was the faintest whiff of criminality. You’d distance yourself from them at every opportunity. If you were serious.

These ‘leaders’ need to stop legitimising the criminals. Only by doing so will we believe that their intentions are credible. If the industry itself doesn’t distinguish between the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ guys, why the hell should we?

4 Responses to “Strong leadership and zero tolerance required”

  1. 1 Lin Murray Hawk and Owl Trust
    January 22, 2013 at 1:41 pm


    Well done for posting this � I have been tweeting it out right left and centre. Do you think we should send it to all the new regional police commissioners? I was at a dinner party with one recently and think he would benefit from seeing the strength of feeling and backing we are getting from ‘the other side’ so to speak.

    Kind regards


    [Ed: Hi Lin, thanks for all your retweets! Yep, send it to everyone you can think of – it all helps!]

  2. 2 Alister J. Clunas
    January 22, 2013 at 2:47 pm

    We should be pressing for clear condemnation from SLE and SGA when wildlife crime incidents occur in Scotland rather than the standard “few rotten apples” response.

    Des Crofton’s quote that “The person who shot this bird is not fit to have a firearm.” is an important one.

    We are about to have a national police force in Scotland. In the past Shotgun and Firearms Certificates were issued by the Chief Constable of each force. My understanding is that there were differences between forces in the list of convictions that resulted in the removal of Shotgun and Firearms Certificates. There is an opportunity for Stephen House, the new Chief Constable of Scotland, to produce a list of convictions that will result in the removal of Shotgun and Firearms Certificates. The list should include wildlife crime in all its forms including possession of illegal poisons.

  3. 3 Merlin
    January 22, 2013 at 10:59 pm

    Well said that man, going off on a tangent but still on the subject of Buzzards it was refreshing to see Ray Mears “Wild Britain” series 3 episode 2 on the Isle of Wight, Ray showed some footage of Buzzards circling above a woodland were Red Squirrel’s were feeding, he mentioned the Buzzards sometimes hunted the squirrel’s then mentioned there were an estimated 3,500 Red Squirrel’s on the island. This came as a massive surprise to me as only just over two years ago Shooting times magazine ran an article on its inside pages stating that Red Squirrels would be extinct on the Isle of Wight within two years due to spiralling Buzzard numbers and suggested some kind of control was needed, reading the cutting edge article, the in depth research had come from a woman who had seen 2 squirrels killed in her garden by a buzzard and another woman who ran a squirrel sanctuary. Surely its time this magazine dropped the country magazine from its title, it’s a shooting rag for people who think putting a pair of ridiculous tweed breaks on makes them at one with the countryside, all the gear but no idea.

  4. 4 Marco McGinty
    January 23, 2013 at 8:50 pm

    Yes, strong words indeed from Des Crofton, and very encouraging for the future of Irish raptors. I truly hope they catch the individual. However, given all the worrying activities mentioned by the host in the main article and considering that there are repeated calls for the legalisation of raptor culling in mainland Britain, it is highly unlikely that the Scottish and English game-shooting industry will follow suit.

    On a slightly more positive note, there was a short piece about Golden Eagle radio-tagging on the One Show this evening, with a couple of RSPB staff (with one of them interviewed in the studio). But the really good bit was that twice they managed to get the message across about persecution still being a problem, particularly where driven grouse shooting takes place. No doubt the BBC will be flooded with complaints from the shooting lobby and GWCT or BASC will be demanding air time to show the public all the “good” work they do in the countryside.

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