Gamekeepers put under pressure to use poison, claims retired Angus keeper

Colin GairA retired gamekeeper whose 50-year career included working on Angus sporting estates has claimed that gamekeepers are being put under pressure to use illegal poison to protect grouse stocks, according to an article in today’s Courier (see here).

Colin Gair, 66, says the situation in Angus has deteriorated in the past two years and he is encouraging other gamekeepers to speak out if they are being asked to use poison.

His comments come after the discovery of ‘Fearnan’, the golden eagle found poisoned on a grouse moor in the Angus Glens in December. Fearnan is the latest victim in a long line of alleged poisoning incidents in the area (see here).

Mr Gair deserves a great deal of credit for his willingness to speak out on a subject that is usually vehemently denied by all connected with the game-shooting industry, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, and we applaud his courage.

It’ll be interesting to see whether there’s any response to his claims from certain game- shooting industry organisations that are usually at the forefront of the denials.

UPDATE 10th January 2014: see here

17 Responses to “Gamekeepers put under pressure to use poison, claims retired Angus keeper”

  1. 2 Hazel
    January 8, 2014 at 12:41 pm

    This is good to hear, well done to Mr Gair. We need more people like him to speak out. It is absolutely outrageous that anyone should be put under pressure to break the law in this way.

  2. 3 Richard M Nixon (Deceased)
    January 8, 2014 at 1:12 pm

    Reblogged this on Dead Citizen's Rights Society.

  3. 4 Anand Prasad
    January 8, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    Pity there isn’t a ‘recommend’ button. So to repeat the sentiment of the above. This gamekeeper deserves a bloody medal!

    • 5 Anand Prasad
      January 9, 2014 at 2:47 pm

      I wrote that before reading the Courier article where Gair recommends trading with the Mafia by allowing the killing of raptors. So although i still applaud his honesty i will have to revoke my medal.

  4. January 8, 2014 at 2:55 pm

    In a week when Paul Wheelhouse ( Environment Minister ) is being put under pressure to actually do something positive about raptor persecution this admission by a former gamekeeper may come as welcome news. But is it?

    Mr Gair is now retired and, one imagines, no longer limited by the strictures of “provided” accommodation. Encouraging current keepers to come clean is not likely to meet with a lot of success if their livelihoods’ are on the line. The more skins one peels away from this particular onion, the more despicable the whole process is seen to be. Whilst those directly responsible for persecution out on the hill are to be vilified, and rightly so, the equally guilty villains of the peace are the owners, tenants and agents who know full well nothing will be revealed because staff implicated are caught in a vicious circle, into which they willingly contribute maybe, but against which they can’t rebel if they wish to retain employment etc. What sort of feudal hell are we seeing operate in our midst and in the 21st Millenium ? If ever there was a a clear cut case to focus attention on and act against such sporting estates , now is the time. Few people are prepared to accept that this, at its roots, is a social problem, fed by the distorted views and dysfunctional operation of the wealthy, intent on retaining their “way of life”, be it to the detriment of their employees, or what those people are responsible for, and running counter to the wishes of the many who wish to enjoy wildlife.

    And the SGA would have us believe all this is part of a responsible pastime ! Perhaps it should be renamed SSA…Scottish Serfs Association recognizing , sadly , that many within it have little choice within their chosen employment! Unfair, offensive , untrue ! To deny such then suggests persecution is , after all, a preferred line of action!

    • January 8, 2014 at 3:26 pm

      There’s what looks to be an interesting programme on land reform tonight. Wonder if it’ll feature the views of any sporting estate landowners?


      BBC Scotland 22.35

      • January 9, 2014 at 2:40 pm

        If anyone missed the programme last night, it’s now available on YouTube:

        If you don’t have time to watch the 30 min programme, here’s a brilliant 12 second summary from Andy Wightman:

        [audio src="http://www.andywightman.com/audio/BBCScotland_MenWhoOwnScotland_20140109_clip.mp3" /]

    • 9 Lazywell
      January 8, 2014 at 5:42 pm

      But John, it is not an “admission”; he expressly confirms that he didn’t have pressure applied to him to use poison during his career. It is a claim, in pretty vague terms, and based on hearsay. Nor is it clear when he is referring to, or when he retired. Even if pressure was applied on young keepers by unscrupulous shoot tenants in the past, I can’t believe any shoot owner or manager would be crazy enough to suggest such a practice now, since the introduction of vicarious liability.

      Interesting to see he has some sympathy with the idea of licensing shooting estates (though I see that your own Petition has had only very limited support). Do you agree with him that the killing of certain raptors should be allowed in return?

      • January 9, 2014 at 7:44 am

        That’s not how I read the first part of the article presented on this site. Seriously, are we reading the same piece? Have I missed the main article? Where does he say he was never put under pressure? So , your point is that it is keepers who are expressly to blame as they involve themselves and are not under instruction to be responsible for persecution. This also expressly paints owners and agents as being squeaky clean and that keepers are doing things of their own volition. Not sure I can accept that!!!

        And where does he mention licensed shoots ? I have never received one response since setting up the petition from within the “industry” so I’m obviously more than interested. Thanks. John.

        • January 9, 2014 at 9:31 am

          Hi John,

          I couldn’t understand Lazywell’s comments either, so I went back to the Courier article and realised that the current version (published at 2.07pm) is very very different to the original version that was first published yesterday morning (at 9.07pm).

          Missing from the current version is the info that Mr Gair had worked as a gamekeeper in Angus for 50 years. Also missing is his claim that things have ‘deteriorated in the last two years’ [in relation to poisoning incidents in Angus] and that the Tayside Division of Police Scotland is ‘still investigating’ the poisoning of the golden eagle Fearnan.

          New stuff in this current version includes a brand new opening paragraph:

          Original opening paragraph: “Gamekeepers are being put under pressure to use illegal poison to protect grouse stocks, a retired gamekeeper has claimed”.

          Current opening paragraph: “Gamekeepers are being urged to contact police if they are asked by landowners or tenants to use illegal poisons to protect grouse stocks”.

          Quite a difference, eh?

          Also new in the latest version of the article is: the reference to this blog, Mr Gair’s claims that he was never asked to poison anything throughout his career, his claim that ‘young keepers could easily be coerced’ [into poisoning], his view that ‘many moors do not use poison’, his view on the ‘difficulty’ of obtaining poisons, the reference to Keith Brockie and Keith Brockie’s view that estate licensing should be on the cards, and Mr Gair’s view of estate licensing.

          I don’t know why the journalist (or his editor?) has made such fundamental changes, although the changes do not alter his assertion that gamekeepers in Angus are being put under pressure to use poisoned baits to protect grouse stocks.

          NB: IF ANYONE HAS A COPY OF THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE (EITHER HARD COPY OR DIGITAL), PLEASE GET IN TOUCH! Email: raptor.persecution.scotland@hotmail.co.uk

          • January 9, 2014 at 5:47 pm

            How bizarre……..and confusing!! It would be so easy to be utterly cynical and ask who owns the paper, but let’s not go down that route, and simply conclude that if that is the quality of reportage and positioning we can occasionally (even) expect on the matter , then I believe it’s worrying!! I can understand how Lazywell found my own reaction confusing thanks to the Courier’s changes. Thanks RPS.

  5. January 8, 2014 at 4:47 pm

    I would advise people to look at who the estate managers are at the most troubled of the Scottish shooting estates. These are often the people who will employ the keepers. xxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxx. Of course, these managers are employed by the estates themselves.

  6. January 8, 2014 at 4:55 pm

    Lewis Whitham was a game keeper who I observed setting out bait laced with Carbofuran on top of a hill at Leadhills Estate. In mitigation, the court was told that Whitham was trying to “impress his employers……….”

  7. 15 Jimmy
    January 8, 2014 at 10:08 pm

    I don’t think anyone will be suprised by this admission – wildlife criminality and grouse estates go hand in hand these days.

  8. 16 John Miles
    January 9, 2014 at 1:19 pm

    We have estates near us that continually kill birds of prey. As seen in the figures for Peregrine only 11 pairs left from 77 nest sites on Red Grouse moors south of the Wall. The first Langholm project gave a figure of 98% removing birds of prey. Students leaving college to enter keepering have to do as the head keeper tells them even if they were taught that BOPs are protected species. The buck lands at MPs from all houses that go shooting ‘driven’ Red Grouse. They are causing the deaths of BOPs by just being there. If they all said ‘I will only shoot on estates which have breeding Golden Eagle, Hen Harrier and Peregrine regardless of the bag’ we might be getting somewhere!!

  9. 17 nirofo
    January 9, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    Until the police and the courts start to even admit that wildlife persecution is actually a serious crime and do what the public purse pays them to do, then we’re most unlikely to see any improvement. This is especially so when many of the Red Grouse shooting estate owners are capable of wielding absolute power in just the right places, making sure the police chiefs, sheriffs and MP’s are probably too afraid to do anything that might upset them.

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