Gamekeeping orgs’ half-witted attempts to blur the truth

Birdcrime 2012Earlier this month the RSPB published two reports: one detailing raptor persecution crimes in Scotland during 2012 (see here) and one detailing raptor persecution crimes throughout the UK in 2012 (see here).

You’d think that the RSPB’s so-called ‘partners’ in the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime (PAW) would welcome the reports, highlighting as they do the continued criminal persecution of birds of prey. That’s what PAW partners are all about, right? Raising public awareness and finding ways of cracking down on wildlife crime?

Apparently not.

Here is the response of the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation to the RSPB’s UK-wide report. In case they decide to remove it from their website, we’ve reproduced it here:

NGO Comments on the RSPB 2013 Birdcrime Report

Saturday 14th Dec 2013

The National Gamekeepers’ Organisation has issued the following comment on publication of the latest edition of the RSPB Birdcrime Report.

A spokesman for the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation said: “The NGO stands for keepering within the law and automatically condemns illegal activity. That is why the NGO is proud to be a member of PAW – the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime. Furthermore, science has proven gamekeepers to be some of the most effective conservationists working in the British countryside today.

Intriguingly the RSPB’s shrill comments on persecution appear to lack the context that is essential for the public to form its own considered opinion. What the RSPB fails to mention in its news release is that the UK’s bird of prey population, taken as a whole, is thriving, with almost all species at record high levels. 

This seems a curious oversight for a charity required by law to educate the public in a balanced manner. This very important omission is intriguing, given the RSPB’s usually conscientious approach to its work. I believe it is fair to ask whether it’s perhaps to encourage charitable donations to the RSPB in the run-up to Christmas, a time of year when people are quick to put their hands in their wallets?

To view the RSPB 2013 Birdcrime Report News Release visit http://www.rspb.org.uk/media/releases/359085-sixty-years-of-protection-but-the-killing-continues

Good god, where do we start? With the bit about gamekeepers being ‘some of the most effective conservationists working in the British countryside today’?!! Or the bit about how we, the general public, are unable to form our own ‘considered opinion’ because the report apparently ‘lacks context’?!!

How about the statement: “What the RSPB fails to mention in its news release is that the UK’s bird of prey population, taken as a whole, is thriving, with almost all species at record high levels“.

The reason the RSPB ‘failed to mention’ this is probably because it’s a big fat massive distortion of the truth! ‘Almost all species at record high levels‘? That would be ‘almost all species’ apart from golden eagle, white-tailed eagle, hen harrier, red kite, goshawk, peregrine; all of which are being held at unnaturally low population levels thanks to illegal persecution, according to countless scientific studies.

And what on earth does ‘taking the UK’s bird of prey population as a whole‘ mean? Where’s the scientific validity of that? It’s absolutely meaningless pseudo-scientific rubbish! It’s like saying there’s no need to be concerned about the near-extinction of rhinos or elephants in Africa because big mammals ‘as a whole’ are doing ok.

sam4Not to be outdone in the idiot stakes, the NGO’s Scottish colleagues at the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association have published their own statement in response to the RSPB’s Scotland Persecution report.  We’ve reproduced it here:


Following the release of an unofficial report by the RSPB today on the Illegal Killing of Birds of Prey in 2012, the SGA issued the following response. An SGA Spokesman said: “The RSPB has clearly spent a lot of money in writing this report, which entitles them to put forward their own viewpoint. “With this agenda in mind, it is important, that the public refer to the actual crimes, as published annually by the Scottish Government with information provided officially by the Police and SASA, rather than speculative possible or suspected cases, which are clearly going to confuse the public. “All PAW partners, including ourselves, are fully behind the printing of the official statistics annually, based on actual legal cases, and see no reason why this should change. “While we have been encouraged by the progress made, with the official statistics stating a record of only 3 confirmed cases of illegal poisoning of birds of prey in 2012, reports such as this do little other than damage to on-going partnership efforts designed to reduce crimes against birds of prey. “As stated consistently, the SGA continues to advocate legal means to solving countryside conflicts. Because of this, the clarity and impartiality provided by law is important to us.”

Again, not what you might expect from a PAW ‘partner’. According to the SGA, the public are ‘clearly going to be confused’ by the report’s contents. Really? Is anybody ‘confused’? We’re not – the report presents the facts in the most clear way possible – the illegal persecution of raptors continues to take place on game-shooting estates up and down the country. Our raptors are still being poisoned, trapped, shot, and bludgeoned to death on sporting estates and the majority of the criminals are still avoiding prosecution: we call them The Untouchables.

It’s also interesting to see the SGA continue to peddle the myth that poisoning is in decline. According to our 2013 figures, poisoning in Scotland has actually increased by 66% in this, the Year of Natural Scotland, and that’s not including the discovery of poisoned baits…if we included every single poisoned bait found this year (as each one had the potential to kill at least one raptor had the baits not been discovered and removed), then the figure would jump to a phenomenal 1,333% increase in poisoning!!!

The SGA claims that the RSPB’s report does ‘little other than damage the on-going partnership efforts designed to reduce crimes against birds of prey’. We would argue that the SGA’s continued involvement in the PAW Scotland raptor group, and the NGO’s continued involvement in the English PAW group, does little other than taint the credibility of the PAW concept. In fact it doesn’t just taint it – it soaks it in implausibility. The sooner the other PAW partners realise this and vote these gamekeeping organisations off the panel, the better. PAW is not going to achieve anything as long as some of the ‘partners’ continue to deny and distort the facts. Oh, and harbour convicted wildlife criminals.

13 Responses to “Gamekeeping orgs’ half-witted attempts to blur the truth”

  1. 1 Chris Roberts
    December 17, 2013 at 7:15 pm

    Both the NGO and SGA have no business in being partners of PAW. I think they are the obvious reason that Golden Eagles, Hen Harriers, buzzards and in particular Red Kites around the Black Isle area, are not expanding as they should. I think they, the shooting estates and the Gamekeepers that they employ/represent have no interest at all in protecting birds of prey. It is a total joke that they are members of PAW.

  2. 2 T Chamberlain
    December 17, 2013 at 7:32 pm

    “Intriguingly the RSPB’s shrill comments on persecution appear to lack the context that is essential for the public to form its own considered opinion.”

    How possibly can we public form our own opinion…hmm…and what could be the context for large numbers of illegally killed wildlife, especially raptors,appearing on the estates ‘of’ NGO members…..Oh yes, silly me, I see now…. I’m glad that the NGO have clarified their position: as long as we have lots of buzzards its fine to poison eagles, shoot harriers and trap goshawks.

    Well done NGO.

  3. 3 Circus maxima
    December 17, 2013 at 7:57 pm

    I take the view that this is one of the “silly seasons” when daft things are said to try to get press attention…..

    Its hysterical that they think that anyone can take such palpable nonsense as worthy of coverage. please let me know if even the Daily Telegraph picks this tosh up!

    Last weekend the RSPB flexed its muscles and actually asked its membership to become political. Within a few days it had managed to get over 100K emails into David Cameron’s in-box. Even though he would like to shaft the environment….who is he going to listen to?

  4. 4 dave dick
    December 17, 2013 at 8:15 pm

    No matter how clear and how damning an RSPB report is the SGA has to attack it, in order to keep its membership…but also in order to try to confuse the politicians with the power to change all this. Always remember this “game” is about who gets to control what lives or dies out there..the shooting lobby or the will of the people through our Laws. They think that if a lie is repeated often enough it will be believed.

  5. 5 nirofo
    December 17, 2013 at 8:52 pm

    It’s a travesty that these gamekeeper organisations were ever even considered to be members of PAW let alone allowed to become members, the names of these 2 organisations alone should have been enough to set alarm bells ringing in any serious conservation body. Their inclusion in PAW is just a cover to make them appear whiter than white, fortunately you can’t make a silk purse out of an “hogs” ear and their true colours remain obvious to those of us who are not colour blind. Anybody who cares to look will find copious well documented references to Raptor persecution at the hands of gamekeepers employed by some of the same estate owners who are also members of PAW.

    No wonder the NGO / SGO are so keen to try to bamboozle the public with their ridiculous comments, they know that wildlife persecution is at an all time high on the majority of the shooting estates. The public are becoming more and more aware of just what is going down on these places, many of which receive large amounts of public funding without any proper justification for it.

    Applications to cull Buzzards, a protected species only just recovering from years of wanton persecution, just so the estates can produce a few more tame Pheasants for the privileged shooters to slaughter in their thousands, proves that these selfish people don’t care a jot about wildlife protection if it interferes with their shooting and will use any means at their disposal to get what they want, including being members of PAW.

  6. 6 Peter Harwood
    December 17, 2013 at 9:21 pm

    Of course Gamekeeper associations are going to deny the crimes! The shooting elite stick together , having grown up in a farming family in Sussex stuck inbetween Game farms I have seen at first hand the cruelty! ei Larson traps and shot Kestrels hanging rotting from trees , for them to admit it is happening is basically to hand themselves an arrest warrant, I know of 2 places which Birds of prey are killed by Gamekeepers , it happens!!

  7. December 17, 2013 at 9:31 pm

    Dr Adam Watson’s book, ‘Birds of North-east Scotland Then and Now’, mentions the effects that WW ll had on the local Golden Eagle population when grouse moor keepers were mainly absent and interest in grouse shooting had waned. In a short period eagles had recolonised many territorially vacant grouse moors and succeeded in breeding, not only in the North-east but also in Tayside and Highland regions. This trend soon stopped in the late 40’s when keepers returned to the moors and numbers of eagles fell drastically, but then, maybe no ‘associations or organisations of game-keepers’ had been formed.

    AW states that deer stalkers on estates in his study area did not persecute eagles but keepers on most grouse moors did.
    Sadly he describes seeing a pair of immature eagles displaying over a shooting estate’s eastern hill beat that his grouse research team tenanted yearly and that they attempted to nest but failed because of inexperience. The next year in 1972 an immature hen eagle was found poisoned on the western part of the same estate. No eagle has seemingly attempted to reclaim that territory for forty years until……. well, some attitudes can actually change!

    An interesting snippet from the book recalls a story about a stalker (who must have been a game-keeper too) who was burning heather when a snow-storm started and he left his 8 foot long, wooden handled fire-beater behind. When they returned after a few days it had vanished only to be found later in an occupied, eagle’s eyrie 6 km away with the wire mesh end sticking out from the nest! (think it is still in there by the way)

  8. 8 Merlin
    December 18, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    Cases against 5 Gamekeepers have been in courtrooms in the last five days, there are more gamekeepers in the dock than poachers, should gamekeepers continue to have representation on paws and if so isn,t it only fair poachers have some kind of representation to make the same kind of ridiculous coments as to how benifical they are to our wildlife

  9. 9 Anand Prasad
    December 18, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    I didn’t read the RSPB Uk report in detail but i glanced across something at the end were there was a mention of PAWS re-evaluating their members according to commitment. Maybe we are not the only ones who have had enough hypocrisy.

    • December 18, 2013 at 2:54 pm

      You’re right. Here’s the PAW statement:

      “Work has begun to carry out a ‘light touch’ review of the PAW NGO membership [presumably NGO means Non-Governmental Organisation rather than National Gamekeepers Org!], which is aimed at clarifying what contribution each organisation has made or is making to the objectives of PAW. Any organisations which do not demonstrate their commitment are likely to have their membership removed during 2013. Membership procedures are also under review with the objective of strengthening them”.

      However, it looks like the National Gamekeepers Org are still PAW members, sitting on some pretty high-level committees concerned with tackling raptor persecution!

  10. 11 Tony Warburton MBE
    December 18, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    So who exactly makes the decision as to which organisations are legitimate ,members of PAW? And by the way, they had better be quick with their ‘light touch’ (why a ‘light touch?} review of current members during 2013 – just 12 days to go I make it! I wont hold my breath that the two ‘worthies’ highlighted in this blog will be shown the door, but if they aren’t, surely PAW itself is no longer credible and should be treated as such. Let us be honest, we are getting nowhere at the moment and our birds of prey continue to be slaughtered on game-shooting estates on virtually a daily basis. Until the government, judiciary and police are made to take these crimes seriously, this ridiculous state of affairs will continue until all birds of prey follow the English Hen Harrier trail., Take the latest fine reported by RPS – Gamekeeper Wayne Priday fined a total of £545 on 9th December after being found (and pleading) guilty having been filmed checking a pole trap he had set in August. Poor man. On the BBC ‘One Show’ this week a man said he expected to spend c.£400 on a Christmas present for his girlfriend Puts things in perspective I would suggest? For me, such a penalty is not worthy of the name, it simply makes ‘the Law’ looks like a toothless ass! Until this changes – i.e. ‘Vicarious Liability’ and Licensing of Estates, which is actually used, unlike the Scottish fiasco, I am afraid we are well on the way to seeing our birds of prey joining the Dodo, Great Auk and Passenger Pigeon. Like Nero, we are simply fiddling while Rome burns. But please RPS, keep up the great work and keep us informed. Are you able to name who Priday was working for. It would be useful to know whether he has been sacked, and whether he is (was) a member of the NGO (and yes, I do mean the ‘good guys’, and not the headless chickens!

  11. 13 Tony Warburton MBE
    December 18, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    Having now read the Lambert case I rest my case!

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