There’s an amusing article in today’s Mail on Sunday from Ian Botham, frontman of the increasingly-ludicrous You Forgot the Birds ‘campaign’, funded by the grouse-shooting industry.
It follows on from last week’s attempt by YFTB to discredit the RSPB (see here). This time, Botham is playing the victim card and is threatening legal action because he thinks that the RSPB has accused him of killing birds of prey (see here).
Playing the victim card is nothing new from the game-shooting industry – we’ve seen it played over and again, especially when video evidence, collected by the RSPB’s Investigations teams, has been used to successfully convict criminal gamekeepers of wildlife crimes. It’s all just so unfair.
Botham also claims that the RSPB is ‘constantly slurring gamekeepers as criminals’. Poor, slurred gamekeepers. Why ever would anyone think their industry is a hot bed of criminal activity against protected wildlife? Perhaps this has something to do with it:
In January 2012, the RSPB reported that since 1990, over 100 gamekeepers had been convicted of raptor persecution crimes (here).
And here’s a list of 29 gamekeepers convicted of wildlife crimes in the last 5 years alone, many of whom were convicted thanks to the work of the RSPB:
Feb 2011: Gamekeeper Connor Patterson convicted of causing animal fights between dogs, foxes and badgers.
May 2011: Gamekeeper Ivan Mark Crane convicted of using an illegal trap.
May 2011: Gamekeeper Ivan Peter Crane convicted of using an illegal trap.
May 2011: Gamekeeper Dean Barr convicted of being in possession of a banned poison.
May 2011: Gamekeeper James Rolfe convicted of being in possession of a dead red kite.
June 2011: Gamekeeper Glenn Brown convicted of using an illegal trap.
October 2011: Gamekeeper Craig Barrie convicted of illegal possession & control of a wild bird
Dec 2011: Gamekeeper Christopher John Carter convicted of causing a fight between two dogs and a fox.
Dec 2011: Gamekeeper Luke James Byrne convicted of causing three animal fights and possession of three dead wild birds (heron, cormorant, buzzard).
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.
Feb 2014 Gamekeeper Ryan Waite convicted for setting an illegal trap.
May 2014 Gamekeeper Derek Sanderson convicted for storing five banned poisons.
July 2014 Gamekeeper Mark Stevens convicted for setting illegal traps.
October 2014 Gamekeeper Allen Lambert convicted for poisoning 11 raptors, illegal storage and use of pesticides & possession of a poisoner’s kit.
December 2014 Gamekeeper George Mutch convicted for illegal use of traps, illegal killing of a goshawk, illegal taking of a goshawk, illegal taking of a buzzard.
May 2015 Gamekeeper James O’Reilly convicted for illegal use of leg-hold traps and illegal use of snares.
It’s not that they’re all at it; on the contrary, we personally know some fantastic gamekeepers who contribute a massive amount to wildlife conservation. The problem is, they are few and far between and many within the gamekeeping industry are most definitely at it. You don’t get population-level effects on a species’ distribution and abundance (think hen harriers, golden eagles, peregrines, red kites) if ‘only a few rogues’ are at it.
In a lot of ways, Botham’s attack on the RSPB is a soft target. They’re high profile and subject to strict conditions laid down by the Charity Commission – there’s only so much they can say and do (although some of us think that they could do more than they already are, even within those constraints). However, it’s not the RSPB that Botham & his grouse-shooting industry mates should be worried about. It’s not just the RSPB who are aware of what is going on. He (and the industry he is representing) should perhaps be more concerned about the growing rise in ordinary members of the public who are finding out the truth about the game-shooting industry. We know what’s going on and we’re not hampered by Royal Charters or other bureaucratic constraints. And we’re getting louder and stronger by the day. It’d be foolish to underestimate us.