A farmer whose properties have been raided by police as part of the investigation into the Ross-shire Massacre has given an exclusive interview to the BBC (see here).
Ewan Macdonald, on whose land several of the poisoned birds were found, is claiming that he and the local farming community have nothing to hide. The report states that the police have not found anything to link Mr Macdonald to the crimes.
Mr Macdonald runs his farms in partnership with his brother, Shaun. In 2007, Shaun Macdonald was runner-up in the NFU Scotland Farming & Conservation Award, for ‘superb conservation efforts’, sponsored by the RSPB (see here).
Mr Macdonald is calling for an action group comprising landowners, police and RSPB, ‘to investigate the killings’. He suggests that there could be an innocent explanation for the deaths, such as a virus, or somebody feeding meat to the birds of prey which they do not realise has been contaminated.
Hmm. Interestingly, a number of prominent people from within the game-shooting industry have been making almost identical claims on social media in recent days.
Although the police have not yet publicly named the poison involved, it’s not that difficult to make an educated guess as to its identity, given the speed with which these birds died. An article in the Guardian last week (here) reported that a combination of poisons had been used, and also referred to “baits”. That pretty much rules out a ‘virus’ and unintentional feeding of accidentally contaminated meat then, eh?
Meanwhile, in another region of La-La Land, there are more denials about the extent of raptor persecution in Scotland. A row has broken out following Duncan Orr-Ewing’s (RSPB Scotland) comments in Holyrood magazine about persecution levels being comparable to those of the Victorian era (see earlier blog on this here).
In a BBC News article (here), Doug McAdam, CEO of the landowners’ organisation Scottish Land & Estates seems to have taken on the role of the headmaster: “For Mr Orr Ewing to suggest that wildlife crime is returning to Victorian levels is both irresponsible and untrue. He ought to know better“.
Then in a quite astonishing piece of spin, he goes on to say: “Official statistics in recent years have seen, overall, a downward trend in raptor persecution – even at some points demonstrating record low levels of poisoning incidents“.
Conveniently, by using the words ‘official statistics’ and ‘overall’, he has neatly side-stepped the fact that poisoning incidents doubled in 2013, and had the ‘official statistics’ included the discovery of poisoned baits, then the 36 pre-prepared Carbofuran baits found hidden on Leadhills Estate last year would have pushed the ‘official’ figure somewhat higher.
There’s also some waffle from Adam Smith of the GWCT (Scotland), who claims that “for a variety of reasons hen harriers may not be distributed right across the habitats which are suitable for them [i.e. grouse moors], but their national recovery is clear“.
What Mr Smith conveniently ‘forgot’ to mention was that the government’s own commissioned report on hen harrier conservation (published in 2011) demonstrated unequivocally that illegal persecution was the main reason this species isn’t present on large swathes of suitable habitat (i.e. grouse moors), and oh, the results from the latest national survey (conducted in 2010) show a 20% population decline (in Scotland) from the previous survey in 2004 (see here).
And finally, there’s a quote from Des Thompson of SNH. Surely as a member of the Scottish Government’s statutory conservation agency he’d be wanting to make sure that everyone knows that the damning, copious evidence was indisputable, right? Ah…..(we can’t be bothered to type it out – read the BBC article if you’re interested in his opinion).
For any of you who’ve had a gut-full of the on-going persecution of our raptors, the game-shooting industry’s on-going denial of any involvement, and the authorities’ on-going and almost complete failure to address the situation, you might be interested in this post on Mark Avery’s blog. Hope to see many of you on or around 12th August 2014.