Our 5th birthday

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:

Blog growth 5 yrs - Copy

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:

1. George Mutch sentenced to four months in prison.

2. They forgot the birds.

3. Scottish gamekeeper George Mutch guilty on all 4 counts.

4. Chris Packham resigns from Hawk & Owl Trust.

5. GWCT takes aim at Scottish pine martens.

6. Ross-shire Massacre: death toll rises to 19 – public protest this Saturday.

7. Hawk & Owl Trust getting it badly wrong.

8. East Scotland sea eagle chick ‘disappears’ on grouse moor.

9. First Irish-bred sea eagle shot and killed.

10. Bastards.

21 Responses to “Our 5th birthday”

  1. 1 Mo Richards
    March 2, 2015 at 11:44 am

    Happy Birthday! Keep going – you do a great job.

  2. March 2, 2015 at 12:00 pm

    Happy birthday doesn’t seem appropriate because of the evil and criminality you are fighting. But “very well done” for helping to raise awareness and make the public realise what our countryside custodians are really doing.

    Keep up the good work. Keep on promoting vigilance. Keep on catching the b…… Keep on pushing for meaningful sentences and penalties.

    I only have one request – How do we subscribers inform you of events we discover?

    • March 2, 2015 at 12:08 pm

      Hi Douglas,

      If you suspect a raptor persecution incident you should call the police (dial 101). If the crime is in progress, call them on 999.

      You should also inform the RSPB Investigations Team, so they can follow up with the police and ensure the crime is being investigated.

      RSPB Investigations Team Scotland: 0131-317-4100 (out of hours mobile: 07887-596004).

      RSPB Investigations Team England: 01767-680551 (out of hours mobile: 07803-241452).

      If you want to contact us in confidence, please email: raptor.persecution.scotland@hotmail.co.uk

  3. March 2, 2015 at 12:08 pm

    Congratulations! well done. You’ve more than met the initial objective and intentions you set out. Please keep up the good work.


  4. 5 Jeff
    March 2, 2015 at 12:37 pm

    Great work – well done! It would be nice to think that in another five years time you might be “out of business” but somehow I doubt raptor persecution will be going away (sadly).
    Keep up the great work!

  5. 6 Les Wallace
    March 2, 2015 at 12:46 pm

    Happy Birthday!!! Only became aware of RPS very recently, but am holding it up as excellent example of what a campaigning website should be – immensely well informed, intelligent and committed. Whoever is running it, please be assured of our genuine respect, sympathy for what you have to deal with and personal thanks for all your efforts, have a birthday dram or three!

  6. 7 George M
    March 2, 2015 at 1:17 pm

    Happy Birthday and Well Done. The site is quite well known now and just a couple of days ago my wife had a conversation about it when she met a stranger while walking the banks of the North Esk. Sharing the posts via FB and other social media resources seems to be very well received.

  7. 8 Damion Willcock
    March 2, 2015 at 1:38 pm

    Excellent work RPS.

  8. March 2, 2015 at 1:39 pm

    Happy birthday! Through your very informative reporting over the years you have helped to educate so many people of the realities of raptor persecution. By doing so we are sure that raptors are the better for it and have gained many more friends as people learn the truth of their plight, unlike those criminals who continue to poison, shoot and deliberately trap raptors, who no doubt will have only collected many more enemies over these past five years as the truth of their sickening and cowardly activities are uncovered. Information is power, power to you all.

  9. 10 Keith Brockie
    March 2, 2015 at 1:39 pm

    Many (Happy) Returns, keep up the good work!

  10. 11 Marco McGinty
    March 2, 2015 at 2:01 pm

    Happy birthday, and hearty congratulations for the tremendous success your site has proven to be. You have been instrumental in educating the wider public of the issues facing our protected wildlife, and in highlighting the extent of the organised and widespread illegal activities carried out by the game shooting industry.

  11. 12 Mikey Naylor
    March 2, 2015 at 2:09 pm

    Happy Birthday and Thank You so much for the fantastic work that you do.

  12. 13 Chris Roberts
    March 2, 2015 at 2:26 pm

    I would like to add my heartfelt thanks to the tremendous work that you do. Hearty congratulations and a very Happy 5th, Birthday to all concerned.

  13. 14 Dave Dick
    March 2, 2015 at 2:55 pm

    Many Happy Returns…its well worth all readers having a think about how much they owe their knowledge of ongoing widespread raptor persecution to this site. Without it the killers would have convinced the public of the lie that this is only a minor problem by a few rotten apples. Very well done….

  14. 15 Mr Greer Hart, senior
    March 2, 2015 at 3:38 pm

    Congratulations for knocking the “Berlin Wall” down that existed in Scotland between the killers of our birds of prey and those wished to protect them; your coming into existence has heralded the beginning of a determined battle to remove the TOTALITARIAN control over the Scottish landscape, and indeed, the whole British landscape, that has existed for hundreds of years!

    RPS has given Birds of Prey another champion besides the RSPB, which had courageously and valiantly fought court cases to have those guilty of wildlife crime indicted and punished.

    What makes me disappointed is that many of those campaigning for a separate identity for Scotland, have not shown much interest in its wildlife and the deterioration of its landscape. We have some fine conservation groups in Scotland acting to conserve various species of wildlife, from butterflies and bugs to mammals and birds. Many habitats would have been lost were it not for these organisations doing splendid fund raising and conservation work to restore and protect them.

    Animal welfare groups such as the SSPCA, Scotland for Animals and Animal Concern, have campaigned strongly on various matters relating to the cruel way wildlife, farm and domestic animals have been abused.

    We are beginning to see the coming together, like a jigsaw, of conservation of wildlife and animal welfare interests, as they have begun to touch one another’s remits. This can only be a good thing, as it could lead to a massing of their members to swell a great tide of public disgust with those in authority and in politics, who have come to be associated with a bias towards protecting shooting estates and blood sports. Eire and Northern Ireland are beginning to show the emergence of humane public concern over the killing of their birds of prey and hare coursing. For Scotland to still have a “country” sport such as the industrial size shooting of game birds, and the concomitant suppression of wildlife species that may encroach on that, is tantamount to our still being part of a past that saw the Scottish landscape being taken over by those who saw it as one big killing zone for their pleasure. That, and excessive grazing by sheep and deer, has given Scotland a desert environment, bereft of species diverse forests and plentiful wildlife. An Iron Curtain had descended and there followed a cruel and determined effort to make the propaganda that the gamekeeper and his employer, were giving us a wonderful countryside, free of vermin species. Thanks for helping to free us RPS, what we now do with that energy now released is very important.

    • 16 Dave Dick
      March 2, 2015 at 7:02 pm

      An excellent precis of the situation Greer Hart…I too found it depressing that the inspiring Referendum Campaign last year paid so little attention to environmental matters – I would hope with the rise of the Greens in Scotland the SNP [likely to be in power for some time] will be forced to do more in that area. However they do seem to be taking Land Reform, the real answer to the “raptor problem”, more seriously.

    • 17 Marco McGinty
      March 19, 2015 at 4:51 pm

      “What makes me disappointed is that many of those campaigning for a separate identity for Scotland, have not shown much interest in its wildlife and the deterioration of its landscape.”

      Really? Considering that Labour, Conservative, LibDem and UKIP are all pro-union, and therefore wholly against Scotland having its own identity, I take it this is a dig at the pro-independence parties of the SNP, the Scottish Greens, the SSP and Solidarity? If I’ve got that wrong, then I apologise.

      However, if I am correct, then I must point out that many of those “campaigning for a separate identity for Scotland” have introduced Vicarious Liability (not available in the rest of the union), alongside a suite of other progressive wildlife and landscape initiatives that could eventually benefit life and the land, such as Land Reform. We must also remember, that the Scottish Parliament was only re-established in 1999, and only since 2007 have the “separatists” wielded any power. I think that in the very short time that they have been in power, the SNP has had a decent showing as far as wildlife crime and land management is concerned, albeit nowhere near enough, but progressive nonetheless.

      Having said that, we must also remember that in that eight years that the SNP has been in power (yes, it is only 8 years), they have had to deal with a backlog of 300 years of unionist corruption. If people wanted the Scottish Government to have full control of its destiny, then perhaps voting for full independence may have been the preferred route, but unfortunately the people of Scotland voted to remain part of the union, shackled to the corrupt and dysfunctional Westminster system.

      As for Scotland for Animals, didn’t they campaign against the SSPCA gaining more powers in the recent consultation?

  15. 18 nirofo
    March 2, 2015 at 4:14 pm

    Happy 5th birthday, excellent work so far, keep up the pressure, make them squirm all the way to the law courts !!!

  16. March 2, 2015 at 4:58 pm

    Happy Birthday folks, many happy returns. Keep up the great work.

  17. March 2, 2015 at 6:10 pm

    Well done for doing such a fantastic job – you’ve achieved a lot in past 5 years – not least that you’ve become the “go to” place for those of us who want to ensure we keep up to date with what’s happening on raptor persecution. My monthly updates to my local RSPB Group wouldn’t be the same without you! Keep up the great work.

  18. 21 Stewart Love
    March 2, 2015 at 9:22 pm

    Congratulations on reaching your 5th birthday, you are doing a great job of bringing the persecution of Birds of Prey to the notice of the public. I try spread the word on Facebook, email and word of mouth and will continue to do so. Keep up the great work.

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