Today is our 5th birthday.
Sometimes it feels like we only started yesterday; sometimes it feels like we’ve been been here for a very long time.
When we started out, we had a clear objective: to raise awareness of the illegal poisoning, shooting and trapping of our raptors in our countryside. We were well aware of the issue – it had been going on for decades – but we were also equally aware that the wider general public were less well informed because the information wasn’t held in one easily-accessible central location – you had to know where to go and look to find the details.
That awareness-raising objective has been successful: our blog hits counter has continued to rise and we’ve currently had over one and a quarter million blog views:
Our blog subscribers represent a wide cross-section of society. They include conservationists, lawyers, journalists, politicians, academics, campaigners, gamekeepers, land owners, sporting agents, civil servants, fieldworkers, police officers, wildlife rehabbers, ecologists, students, hedge fund managers, tv producers, tv presenters, newspaper and magazine editors, and most importantly, ‘ordinary’ members of the public.
Quite a lot has changed in those five years, much of it for the good. Raptor persecution has never been so prominent on the political agenda, largely thanks to an increase in public pressure. We’re on to our fourth Environment Minister since we started, and although the current Minister (Dr Aileen McLeod MSP) has yet to make her mark, her predecessor, Paul Wheelhouse MSP, engaged with this topic with sincerity and purpose. And although we were frequently frustrated that he didn’t go far enough or fast enough, he did move things along considerably.
The Government now produces an annual report on wildlife crime and although it’s had some teething issues, the intent is clear. We’ve seen the first successful conviction for vicarious liability and we’re aware that other cases are in the pipeline. We’ve seen the first custodial sentence handed out to a raptor killer after a hard-fought courtroom battle by the Crown to have the RSPB’s video evidence accepted. We’ve seen the introduction of General Licence restrictions for those thought to be involved in raptor persecution, and although these restrictions have yet to be implemented it’s highly likely that we’ll see some positive results this year. The penalties for wildlife crime offences are currently under review and we expect to see changes there. The consultation on whether to increase the SSPCA’s investigatory powers closed six months ago so we’re expecting to hear the Minister’s decision fairly soon.
Some things, though, haven’t changed in those five years. Raptor persecution continues and it’s still relatively rare to see a successful prosecution. The game-shooting industry continues to deny the extent of raptor persecution in general, and each time a new case is brought to the public’s attention we’re given every possible reason for the bird’s death apart from the obvious one. More and more people are seeing through these lies but there’s still much to be done.
Last year was significant in this war – and we make no bones about using that term – it is a war. (Extra)ordinary people gathered in Inverness town centre to demonstrate against the poisoning of 22 red kites and buzzards in an incident now known as the Ross-shire Massacre. Hen Harrier Day was launched and hundreds of (extra)ordinary members of the public gathered in appalling weather conditions at various locations across the country to stand together and say ‘Enough!’ Hen Harrier Day will continue this year – bigger and better – because more people are aware of what’s going on and care enough to want to do something about it. That’s amazing.
Thanks to everyone who has followed and supported our blog – we appreciate it.
Here are the top ten most viewed posts from the last year: