Some comments on that Channel 4 News report

Channel-FourFor those who missed it, the Channel 4 News report on the illegal persecution of raptors on Scottish grouse moors can be watched here for a few days.

First of all, we need to be celebrating that raptor persecution has been featured on a national mainstream TV news channel. What a long way this subject has come. The awareness-raising power of a news report like this should not be underestimated. Since the programme aired four hours ago, we’ve already been contacted by three journalists whose interest has been piqued. Well done Channel 4 News.

There were excellent interviews with Ian Thomson, Head of Investigations at RSPB Scotland, who referred to “an absolute catalogue of illegal killing” over the last few years in the Angus Glens (e.g. see here), and Logan Steele of the Scottish Raptor Study Group, someone who has decades of first-hand experience recording the deaths of illegally-killed raptors in this area and beyond.

But perhaps the best interview was that with Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association Chairman, Alex Hogg. We couldn’t have wished for a better performance. Telling lies on national telly is never a good strategy. Especially when you deny that gamekeepers are involved with the poisoning, shooting and trapping of raptors, knowing full well that there is a public record of gamekeepers who have been convicted for doing just that, as well as committing other wildlife crimes. Here is a quick list of 14 convicted gamekeepers just covering the last two years (full details of each case can be found elsewhere on this blog) –

Jan 2012: Gamekeeper David Whitefield convicted of poisoning 4 buzzards.

Jan 2012: Gamekeeper Cyril McLachlan convicted of possessing a banned poison.

April 2012: Gamekeeper Robert Christie convicted of illegal use of a trap.

June 2012: Gamekeeper Jonathan Smith Graham convicted of illegal use of a trap.

Sept 2012: Gamekeeper Tom McKellar convicted of possessing a banned poison.

Nov 2012: Gamekeeper Bill Scobie convicted of possessing and using a banned poison.

Jan 2013: Gamekeeper Robert Hebblewhite convicted of poisoning buzzards.

Feb 2013: Gamekeeper Shaun Allanson convicted of illegal use of a trap.

Feb 2013: Gamekeeper (un-named) cautioned for illegal use of a trap.

May 2013: Gamekeeper Brian Petrie convicted for trapping offences.

June 2013: Gamekeeper Peter Bell convicted for poisoning a buzzard.

July 2013: Gamekeeper Colin Burne convicted for trapping then battering to death 2 buzzards.

Sept 2013: Gamekeeper Andrew Knights convicted for storing banned poisons.

Dec 2013: Gamekeeper Wayne Priday convicted for setting an illegal trap.

There are a further six cases either currently under way or due to start, all involving gamekeepers and all accused of alleged persecution including the poisoning, shooting, trapping and battering to death of birds of prey.

After lying about the involvement of gamekeepers in raptor persecution crimes, Hogg then went on to say that gamekeepers want a system in place whereby “if the populations [of raptors] are too high all over the United Kingdom” then a decision needs to be taken as to whether the species needs to be culled on grouse moors. But, “We don’t want to cull them; we’d rather the government done it”.

If anyone can explain to us (a) what is a “too high” population? and (b) why a species’ national population size should have any bearing on a proposed cull of that species on a particular grouse moor, please do enlighten us.

The final interview was a very short one with the Environment Minister, who was asked why he won’t “just fully regulate the [game-shooting] industry like other countries”?

His answer: “We want to avoid putting in place something that might be seen as a draconian response, or too restrictive a response. We’re not saying we wouldn’t do this, eventually…”

In other words, giving current measures ‘time’ to take effect (without actually defining the time scale) is just an excuse to do nothing and appease the mighty landowners.

10 Responses to “Some comments on that Channel 4 News report”

  1. 1 Dave Dick
    February 13, 2014 at 1:07 am

    Blogmeister…I dont think Ive ever taken serious issue with you on a factual point before..and I wouldn’t now, except that what Im about to say strengthens your arguments!!

    To say “..celebrate the fact that raptor persecution has been featured on a national mainstream TV channel” then “what a long way this subject has come”, would suggest that such items are a new thing. I was personally involved in dozens of such news items and indeed whole programmes on BBC, Channel 4 and various ITV channels from the breakthrough Rodenhurst poison case in Aberdeen in 1989 up to my leaving RSPB in 2006.

    Why its important to say that, is that it points out that whole generations of politicians, of various parties in power and whole generations of gamekeeper and landowners representatives, generations of police officers plus millions of watching and listening public, have been made aware again and again of the points being made on tonight’s Channel 4 item.

    …and still the killing continues….no one in this country can hide behind ignorance on this subject, from the highest to the lowest. It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t keep at it, quite the opposite…but if I had a pound for every time I was told, “well that will make them sit up and take notice, that’ll change attitudes, that’ll get the politicians working” my retirement would have a little luxury added!!

    Several generations of RSPB press officers will back me up on all of the above..

    Now, having said all that, well done to all who took part..it was an excellent piece of its type..and well timed re the royal farce of a wildlife crime conference.

  2. 2 Chris Roberts
    February 13, 2014 at 8:52 am

    The programme confirmed and proved that Hogg is indeed a liar, and should never be taken seriously again.

  3. February 13, 2014 at 10:06 am

    Best comment read so far on Twitter re: the C4 news report:

    @WeeEth: Think the gamekeeper on Channel 4 news was talking bollocks, quite honestly.

  4. 4 Robert Moss
    February 13, 2014 at 11:07 am

    “If anyone can explain to us (a) what is a “too high” population? and (b) why a species’ national population size should have any bearing on a proposed cull of that species on a particular grouse moor, please do enlighten us.”
    Hogg’s argument seemed to be that raptors should initially be translocated from grouse moors to other places. A “too high” population, therefore, is one where all possible destinations for translocated birds have reached their carrying capacity. This is the same as the national population reaching its carrying capacity (apart from grouse moors, of course). At this point, there would be nowhere to place birds captured on grouse moors, and so they would have to be culled there. Like many of the SGAs arguments, this might seem reasonable to somebody who has only a shallow understanding of the subject.

    • 5 Tony Warburton MBE
      February 13, 2014 at 2:19 pm

      Well said everybody, and ‘amen’ Dave. You are not alone in your frustration! However, what better advert could we have had than the idiotic utterances of Hogg? Not even a pretence of hiding the fact that what they really want is official sanction to allow them to cull birds of prey. It does seem that the Buzzard has now become their ‘enemy number one’ (although it’s a close tie with the White-taled Eagle) now that they have succeeded in decimating the Hen Harrier and Golden Eagle population (again!), not to mention the Peregrine in places. And many thanks RPS, I would have missed the item without your tip off.

  5. 6 Rob
    February 14, 2014 at 10:52 am

    Sadly no matter how obvious to me and many others, that people in positions such as Mr Hogg can stand up and declare that the earth is flat when we all know that it isn’t, it doesn’t seem to lose them any sleep or any followers from their flat-earth-type followers & societies. Such is the same situation with government ministers and departmental heads who will equally try to peddle deliberate untruths on the basis that there will be sufiecient mass of plebs that will believe them. Badger culling might be one but example.

  6. 7 Dave
    February 14, 2014 at 11:34 am

    It always grates with me when they say things like ‘it needs to be managed’ – what they really mean is it needs to be managed to maximise the economic return they can get. The countryside would probably get along fine if they left it alone.

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