“In the last 10 years we have stamped out poisoning”, says Alex Hogg

BBC radio ScotlandThe latest quote from Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association Chairman, Alex Hogg, is one of those classics that can be added to his other fantastical claims such as, “Professional gamekeepers do not poison raptors” (see here) and, “It is unfair to accuse gamekeepers of wildlife crime” (see here) and, when asked whether gamekeepers are involved with the poisoning, shooting and trapping of raptors: “No they aren’t. We would dispute that” (see here).

His latest claim, “In the last ten years we have stamped out poisoning” is extraordinary. Why make such a statement in the full knowledge that poisoning figures are freely available in the public domain for anyone to see? Perhaps he’s suffering from memory loss (too much lead in his bloodstream?) or perhaps he’s just deluded.

His claim was made during a BBC Radio Scotland interview, broadcast last week, about the potential for landowners and gamekeepers who are suspected of committing wildlife crime to have their General Licences removed. Also interviewed was Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse, who confirmed our concerns (see here) that the removal of a General Licence doesn’t necessarily mean that estates will be prevented from carrying out their ‘vermin’ control activities – they can simply apply for an individual licence and carry on as normal.

Here is the transcript of the programme:

Presenter: Over the past few years, certainly far too often, we’ve reported on birds of prey which have been illegally killed. Now, there are laws in place for putting guilty offenders behind bars but so far this hasn’t happened. I’m not sure that’s true, I think one did. [RPS Ed: Nope, not a single raptor killer has received a custodial sentence].

As you may have heard on BBC Scotland news this week, there’s now a new tool available to those fighting this crime and the right for estates to control birds which predate on grouse and pheasants could be removed, potentially affecting their income stream. There are some who feel this measure could result in gamekeepers losing jobs. We take a look at the implications of the new legislation.

A tranquil rural scene, but, there’s anguish and anger in this area. Red kites were reintroduced here, starting 20 years ago. They’re popular with local people and visitors alike. But these illegal killings have wiped out 10% of the fragile population.

[Cut to Brian Etheridge, RSPB Scotland]: “I’m just gutted. This for me is just the worst two weeks I’ve had in this job. Going out and responding to calls from members of the public……”

Presenter: Brian Etheridge of the RSPB in Craig Anderson’s BBC Scotland report on the mass poisonings of red kites in the Black Isle. And it was cases like this that prompted the Environment Minister, Paul Wheelhouse, to call for Scottish Natural Heritage to come up with a different way of tackling the crimes.

At the start of the whole process, I spoke to the man in charge of developing those new initiatives, Robbie Kernahan, Head of Wildlife Operations at SNH.

Robbie Kernahan: “Well, the Minister in July asked us to scope out the possibility of restricting General Licences on estates and properties where we feel that wildlife crime may be taking place, and we’ve spent a bit of time trying to better understand some of the practicalities associated with that, and it’s a difficult one because General Licences are there to allow people to undertake activities such as crow control, corvid control, to prevent damage to, conserve wild birds and also agricultural crops but at the same time they are a privilege, they’re not a right, and they are a form of very light-touch regulation. I think it’s reasonable for us to look at how best to restrict those licences where we have got concerns about the potential for raptor persecution taking place”.

Presenter: So what would be the impact on an estate if the licence was not re-issued?

Robbie Kernahan: “Well, I mean corvid control is a pretty fundamental requirement for most moorland management, certainly if you’re interested in grouse productivity, certainly if you’re interested in conserving wild birds too, the corvid control is an important part of that. So withdrawing an ability for an estate to actively manage crows could be quite detrimental”.

Presenter: The new process of potentially restricting a General Licence is now up and running. But will it work to stop the killings? Environment Minister, Paul Wheelhouse:

WheelhousePaul Wheelhouse: “Well we will only know in due course. I hope it has a deterrent effect because it will increase the hassle for land managers who are needing to control particular species, they will have to apply for individual licences, so I know there is some concern about jobs on the part of gamekeepers and other estate workers, but, they’ll still be able to control, assuming that they apply successfully for an individual licence. What we’re doing is taking away the privilege of a General Licence and I hope…..”

Presenter: Sorry, can I just nail this on the head? There are a lot of gamekeepers out there who are seriously concerned that if an estate loses its licence then their jobs are on the line. You’re saying the gamekeeper can apply for an individual licence?

Paul Wheelhouse: “Well we’re saying that to SNH the land manager can apply for a licence to control individual species they feel it’s necessary to protect livestock, you know, crows, corvids, other species they feel as necessary, we’re just not going to allow them the luxury of having a General Licence which is a privilege, not a right, and that they will have to go through a more onerous process to get permission, and it can’t guarantee that they will get permission, but clearly that’s a possibility, they can apply for an individual licence”.

Presenter: What about the other serious worry that because up until now, the lack of people in jail rams home how difficult it is to get a conviction in this sphere. By lessening the amount of proof that’s needed, are you not in danger of punishing an estate that might be innocent?

Paul Wheelhouse: Well these are factors that obviously the police and SNH would take in to account, when police, through an information-sharing protocol, share information with SNH about a landholding that they suspect perhaps wildlife crime has been on, they will take these factors in to account and they will look at the weight of evidence  there is and whether the balance of probabilities that that wildlife crime has been committed , that’s how civil burden of proof works, on the balance of probabilities rather than the definitive, if you like, basis that beyond all reasonable doubt which is where the criminal law comes in to effect”.

Presenter: The change in the legislation has come about because it is just so difficult to get a successful prosecution in cases involving birds of prey. A source of frustration for the police, SSPCA and RSPB investigators. RSPB Scotland investigator Ian Thomson:

Ian Thomson: “I think it’s a positive step, it’s certainly something that we welcome because what this mechanism that has been announced by SNH does is it uses a civil burden of proof, which is a lower burden of proof that is needed to obtain a criminal conviction, so rather than beyond all reasonable doubt, this is on the balance of probabilities, and frankly, where you have areas of Scotland unfortunately repeatedly seen to be involved in the illegal killing of birds of prey, then this is hopefully going to be a useful tool. Obviously the proof of the pudding is in the eating and it may take us several years to know how effective this is being”.

Presenter: But it’s got the potential though to, for a miscarriage of justice for want of a better expression.

Ian Thomson: “I don’t think SNH are taking this at all lightly, but the fact of the matter is there are many areas in Scotland where we know birds of prey are being killed, we have a pretty good idea of who is doing it, and certainly a group of individuals who are doing it, and so I think if the evidence is presented by the police to SNH, then ultimately they will make a decision. There is an appeal process in this, and if that process finds that there isn’t sufficient evidence then the licence will be reinstated. It’s SNH’s decision at the end of the day, but something we very much welcome, it’s another tool to tackle this on-going problem”.

Presenter: I approached Scottish Land and Estates for their reaction to the new policy but failed to get a response. But the folk at the sharp end of this whole debate are the gamekeepers, many of which fear for their jobs if a General Licence is withdrawn. A licence which people like Alex Hogg of the Gamekeepers’ Association feel is an essential part of estate management, both for game and for wildlife.

hoggAlex Hogg: “It’s so important because it means it might take the right away to trap carrion crows in the spring of the year, which is vital to remove them for the sake of your ground-nesting birds. But, more so, you could have maybe six keepers working on an estate, as a team, the whole lot could lose their licence because they’re applying it [the General Licence restriction] to the ground, on suspicion, and then you’ve got no work for them. You know, they could end up out of their homes, and young families, stuff like that. Would it happen with plumbers and joiners, if a plumber misbehaved would they take all the licences away in the town for every other plumber? It’s absolutely ridiculous, really”.

Presenter: So if a licence was taken away, is it a sweeping statement to say they wouldn’t need keepers on an estate?

Alex Hogg: “Aye. I mean, you know, we can trap stoats, and weasels and rats, and the fox population we can keep on top of, but it disnae allow us to trap birds, and that’s a really important issue for us”.

Presenter: You’re saying you want to protect curlews and lapwings, but is the reality not that you want to protect grouse and pheasants, you know, because this is a money-maker for an estate? You guys, your employers, estate owners, aren’t running charities here.

Alex Hogg: “No, no, we’re running businesses and it should be recognised as such, but we can work round a lot of the issues to do with pheasant poults, and buzzards and things, which we’ve had to do, but let’s get right back to the things we cannot work round and that’s your waders. We feel we’ve been really done, badly done by. We’ve had raids on houses, dawn raids, you know, at 6 o’clock in the morning, 50 policemen, the wives have had their cupboards searched, the kids’ medicine bottles have been taken away, all to no avail. Now, in the past ten years, we have stamped out poisoning. We have come down so hard on it. We’ve had meetings up and down the countryside, we’ve absolutely finished it, and I think that if the police got murder, house-breaking down to the numbers we’ve got it down to, which is a minimal, below half a dozen this year apart from the Ross-shire incident, you know, we feel we’ve done our job. So the next part of the process should have been licensing, where you can apply for a licence to control a species that’s having a detrimental effect on another species”.

Presenter: But there are many people who’d say one poisoned bird is one too many. You’re saying you’ve sorted it, I would say you haven’t sorted it.

Alex Hogg: “One bird is too many but you’ve got to get it down to a minimum and we feel we’ve done that”.



22 Responses to ““In the last 10 years we have stamped out poisoning”, says Alex Hogg”

  1. 1 Dave
    October 17, 2014 at 5:19 pm

    Well done to the presenter for picking up on him saying we’ve stamped it out, then saying there was only 6 incidents, well apart from the biggie. Pity they didn’t pick up on ‘which’ species the others are detrimental to, and in what way they are detrimental.

  2. 2 Marco McGinty
    October 17, 2014 at 5:43 pm

    Ah, typical of the EBC to allow the final say to the liar representing the establishment. Why was Hogg allowed to issue a blatant lie, without the BBC presenter pulling him up on it? Why was Hogg allowed to issue a blatant lie without Robbie Kernahan, Paul Wheelhouse or Ian Thomson being permitted to challenge this claim?

    It’s the independence referendum all over again! The corrupt mainstream media deliberately ending an article with an absolute lie, disabling any attempts to challenge the lie, thereby giving the impression that the establishment figure is telling the truth. Absolute, fucking scum!

    • October 17, 2014 at 5:48 pm

      Hi Marco,

      It wasn’t a studio debate with all speakers present at one time. Each interview was conducted individually and at different times, so the speakers probably wouldn’t have been aware of what else had been said.

      To be fair to the presenter, he did challenge Hogg’s assertion that the poisoning issue had been ‘sorted’.

      • 4 Anand Prasad
        October 17, 2014 at 7:27 pm

        I think Marco was criticising the BBC editing and he has a point.
        Personally i think to the half intelligent reader Hogg’s statement just hangs himself. He is actually saying that he is happy with ‘below half a dozen this year apart from the Ross-shire incident’ and tops it all with ‘but you’ve got to get it down to a minimum and we feel we’ve done that.’ A truly shocking admission.
        The idiot doesn’t even know how bad that sounds and how he just brushed the Ross-shire ‘incident’ away as it was some irrelevance.

        • 5 Marco McGinty
          October 17, 2014 at 9:00 pm

          Yes, it is the BBC that I have a problem with in this case. If the interviews were pre-recorded, then why would they deliberately air this piece, knowing full well that it is an absolute lie?

          Would establishment media air an interview with any given RSPB representative, in the knowledge that the said representative was deliberately lying or exaggerating about the extent of raptor persecution being carried out by gamekeepers? Not a chance!

          The BBC are a pro-establishment disgrace.

      • 6 Marco McGinty
        October 17, 2014 at 8:06 pm

        Right, with you there, but I would argue that the presenter did not argue it well enough if he allowed Hogg to end with the lie. So, are you saying the interviews were pre-recorded? If so, then questions must be asked as to why the BBC deliberately allowed a known lie to be broadcast in the first place.

        Deceiving the public again, just like they have for decades.

  3. 7 Merlin
    October 17, 2014 at 7:06 pm

    Presenter: I approached Scottish Land and Estates for their reaction to the new policy but failed to get a response.

    This doesn’t surprise me in the least, it is probably because they couldn’t control their laughter, imagine having to fill in an individual license form to be able to carry on controlling Corvids if your suspected of other wildlife crimes, that is really going to hit them hard, these people already pay others (out of subsidies paid by our taxes) to make sure they are getting all the subsidies they can claim, one extra bit of paperwork is really not going to force their hand, another time wasting piece of bureaucratic nonsense that wont work

  4. October 17, 2014 at 7:18 pm

    When the police are raiding houses at 6am then they are doing what they always do when they suspect that their is evidence of criminal activity in a house. Why should game keepers, suspected of criminality, be treated any different from any other suspected criminal? The police will have very good reason to raid a house and if their are children and others in the house, not connected to the reason for the raid, then so be it. Sadly, in our view, their are not enough raids on estates and homes on those estates where there have been incidents of wildlife crime. When there is a raid it is often far too late and evidence has been vanished away.

    As for keepers losing their jobs if they cannot use a crow cage trap? Pathetic argument but one that a few naïve and gullible people may believe. Think they said that when the fox hunting ban came in but nobody did lose their employment, was just emotional blackmail or as we like to call it, Hogg-wash! Crow traps are just another lazy way of killing birds such as corvids instead of shooting them, like snares that cause untold suffering to mammals. Crow traps also commonly catch birds of prey such as buzzards (We have seen not long ago what can happen when keepers find raptors in their traps) and have been used by game keepers to unlawfully catch raptors such as Goshawks.

    That Hogg does really live on another planet doesn’t he.

    • 9 keen birder.
      October 19, 2014 at 12:04 pm

      Project Raptor,
      crow cage traps are certainly not just another lazy way of killing corvids, they are only as good as the man operating them, I agree they do catch buzzards,i I know that as ive had many in my large fixed cages, sometimes the same on will go in many times, I simply take hold of them and let them out, we once had a ringer come up and ringed one, and then caught it again about 5 years later, I informed the BTO, the carrion crows must be controlled, for lambing time and nesting time, crow roost shoots are also very dangerous times for buzzards, many a one has been accidentally shot in mistake for a crow at dusk/dark, at least with the cages they are completely harmless to non target species, also anyone operating a cage trap should be well aware that they are sitting targets for the RSPB to monitor by use of hidden stealth cams, as we all know about the case against late buzzard beater. You try shooting getting up to any number of carrion crows to shoot, its not easy as they soon learn and get wary, you will get quite a few but not enough, so cages are used as well as shooting, a mixed attack. The cages are working all the time, you couldn’t be going around with a gun all that time , no one has that time to spend, I had a ewe this April that had an eye pecked out by a carrion crow, it was down whilst lambing stuck with a lamb half out of her, the lamb was also badly pecked, its tongue was cut off and it died the next day, the mother survived, and recovered, she has only one eye, and is still with us, about 6 carrions came back to the lambing field for the last time, I shot them, .243 rifle V max, blew them up, you cant have them around, then hang them up as a deterent to others. Ive been among it all my life seen it all, if its a crow it has to go if its a rook its off the hook. As far as the general licence is concerned, well it wont make a bit of difference, do you think im going to sit back and see my stock eaten, no, and nor will anyone else.
      Also Mr Marco MGinty were not all f ing scum, im a keen birder, RSPB member for 37 years, BTO for about 15, have out hundreds of boxes and, I love buzzards.so there.

      • 10 Marco McGinty
        October 19, 2014 at 5:18 pm

        Excuse me, but if you go back and analyse my comments, you will realise that the “fucking scum” comment was aimed at the UK mainstream media, and in particular the BBC. So, get your facts right before issuing your ill-informed comments. If you can’t understand basic English, then that’s your problem.

        I honestly don’t care how long you say you’ve been a member of the RSPB, or of the BTO. I also don’t care how many boxes you have.

        On the issue of your dislike for crows, and of the “impacts” they have during lambing and nesting seasons, have you considered bringing the ewes inside to lamb? That would act as a deterrent to these supposed impacts. Oh aye, and you do realise that crows and an enormous amount of other bird species have managed to co-exist for millennia, without any interference from man? Very few species, more likely none at all, have become extinct because of crow populations. Through the passage of time, all of these species have managed to adapt to the presence of others. They all contribute to a natural balance. By removing some predators from the landscape, it could be argued that the prey species are becoming weaker, or less adaptable, as a result. Your attitude to crows is seriously warped.

        On the subject of Buzzards, you have stated that “crow roost shoots are also very dangerous times for buzzards, many a one has been accidentally shot in mistake for a crow at dusk/dark…” Did you report these illegal killings?

        • 11 keen birder.
          October 19, 2014 at 6:24 pm

          no not reported, how can you when youre told of it ages after the event, but its pretty obvious, they come in and sit like crows, very hard to tell, in the dusk, if in doubt don’t fire, that’s my thinking. Theres no way of bringing in the sheep at lambing time, no room, sorry if ive ruffled your feathers.

          • 12 Marco McGinty
            October 19, 2014 at 8:38 pm

            Interesting that you cannot issue an apology for your wrongdoing!

            If you can’t tell a buzzard from a crow, even in silhouette, then you need you shouldn’t be allowed a gun. It’s as simple as that.

            On the reasons for your failure to report many illegal killings, I honestly find them baffling. So, if someone had told you they committed a murder many years ago, would you consider reporting it, or would you simply ignore the issue because the admission of guilt came “ages after the event”? And considering you were not present at the time of the many killings, how do know the Buzzards weren’t deliberately shot, and passed off as accidental killings? If I had any concerns on such an issue, I would have no hesitation in reporting it, and allow proper investigations departments such as the RSPB or SSPCA (or the RSPCA if not in Scotland) to take it forward.

            As you will know, killing should be a last resort, but it is quite clear that you have deliberately ignored all non-lethal measures. You have stated that you have no room, and in the process you have admitted that you have not explored every avenue before carrying out your killing sprees. Have you ever considered creating an extension to your existing buildings, or building a larger structure? Obviously not, therefore, in theory, you are in breach of the terms and conditions of the General Licence.

        • 13 Anand Prasad
          October 20, 2014 at 12:52 pm

          Personally i don’t like the killing of crows either especially at roosts which is so indiscriminate. The roost in front of my house seems to have a constant number and they come from miles to this roost. For a very short while the farmer was cage trapping but otherwise there has been no control and yet the roost number are stable. But i do sympathise with farmers when Hooded Crows do so much damage to newly born lambs. I am conflicted because although i presume that many of these fatalities were sick or weak lambs but some of these lambs are those which the dedicated farmer would be able to rescue. But how many weak and sick lambs are spotted by the hill farmer? I suspect that on the hill very few because the farmer is just too busy lambing and weak and sick lambs are often hard to identify.
          But as for bringing in ewes for lambing, it just isn’t an option for hill farmers. Not unless they changed their whole farming strategy. Obviously it just isn’t a viable option for hill farmers otherwise they would do it.

          • 14 Marco McGinty
            October 20, 2014 at 9:43 pm

            Anand, I wholeheartedly agree that it would be incredibly difficult and time-consuming for hill farmers to bring in their ewes at lambing time, but there are many other farmers that could easily do a lot more for the welfare of their animals, especially during the lambing season. For example, the erection of temporary structures for lambing purposes would drastically reduce the opportunities for crows to get at lambs or ewes.

            It’s similar to the pheasant-rearing industry’s refusal to provide enclosed pens for their birds. Sadly, prejudiced beliefs and the lust for killing far outweighs any sensible, non-lethal approach.

  5. 15 Chris Roberts
    October 17, 2014 at 7:23 pm

    As usual from Alex a load of Hogg-wash. I would argue that poisoning is on the increase. Also how come so many gamekeepers are being found with poisons, that for many years have been banned? Doesn’t sound like the SGA have any idea or control over what their members are doing.

  6. 16 Circus maxima
    October 17, 2014 at 7:24 pm

    Usual drivel from sga.

    I think we need to pay a bit of close attention to SNH. Why are they so certain that they need to kill wild birds to conserve wild birds? Is this a scientifically backed policy statement or just an anecdote from the former member of the Deer Commission (the shooting estates former representatives in government).

  7. October 17, 2014 at 7:37 pm

    Houses raided and all to no avail. Well apart from when they found sufficient carbofuran to wipe out every raptor in Scotland and quite a few other instances. Is Mr Hogg suggesting that finding the illegal poisons in the possession of his members is to no avail. This would then suggest they will simply go out and obtain more

  8. 18 nirofo
    October 17, 2014 at 8:15 pm

    Does Alex Hogg live in an alternative reality where only gamekeepers tell the truth and everyone else makes up stories to get at them. He needs to come back into the real world where only gamekeepers lie and all the others tell the truth about them.

  9. 19 Merlin
    October 17, 2014 at 9:33 pm

    Alex Hogg’s comments have been made to distract you from the main issue, look deeper than the smokescreen, this is about the new legislation, do you honestly believe this will affect the criminal estates? SNH and the Scottish Government don’t want to upset the shooting industry, they don’t have the money to front legal action, check Mark Avery’s Wuthering moors blog if you have any doubt were I’m coming from, how long have we waited for a vicarious liability case to come to court? How long do you think it will be before we ever get a positive outcome in one? And finally if your still not convinced by my argument just check back to the George Mutch case and how long that has been going on, were being led on!

    • 20 George M
      October 18, 2014 at 4:51 am

      I agree very much with Merlin but would add that the problem with SNH might run deeper.. A few years ago an incident I was involved with saw the Keeper issued with a police warning. Things were becoming hot for him on the Estate in which he worked. So what happened? He changed jobs and gained employment on a prominent NTS Estate in Aberdeenshire. ‘Nuff said. Any person who was not a gamekeeper would have been in serious danger of losing their firearms licence, never mind getting a job on a prestigious Estate. Too much informal networking by far I fear.

  10. 21 Jimmy
    October 18, 2014 at 12:46 pm

    Alex lives in a parallel universe if he believes the nonsense he is spouting

  11. 22 Merlin
    October 18, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    If your still in any doubt check out this weeks Shooting times, Lindsay Waddell (NGO) has also written an article that is in the same context, this has got to be aimed at distraction. Waddell criticises the release of White Tailed Eagles after he claims “ONE” pair has ousted a pair of Golden Eagles from their territory, Waddell implies this could happen across Scotland and predicts a bleak future for the “majestic Golden Eagle that has been long protected by many a highland stalker and KEEPER!” you just couldn’t make that up
    He then goes on to mention the huge 44,000% increase in the Buzzard population in the East Midlands, this figure was released recently by the BTO and has already been jumped on by the shooting fraternity, its been mentioned in shooting times twice already that I know of. Putting this into context 20 years ago sighting a buzzard in the east midlands was a rarity and none bred there, there are now 450 breeding pairs there, that is a 44,000% increase. Waddell has expressed this as there are now hundreds of thousands of Buzzards around and it is most likely one of these that killed the satellite tagged Montagu’s Harrier recently. Buzzard population UK 57,000 – 79,000 pairs

    Funny both these two, Waddell and Hogg have been quiet for months on end then suddenly both come out of the closet with what can only be described as bullshit articles the same week Wheelhouse more or less announces his new initiatives to combat Raptor persecution are little more than filling an extra form out!

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