Earlier this month we read a fascinating article published in Fife Today about the alleged illegal tampering of traps (see here).
Landowner Sir Robert Spencer-Nairn (Rankielour Estate) was talking about how he’d installed CCTV cameras ‘following a spate of incidents’ where ‘vicious’ crows had been released from traps to ‘wreak damage in the countryside’ (yep, you get the idea – he has links with GCT so what do you expect?). The article also suggested that Police Scotland ‘is reporting a rise in the number of traps being tampered with’.
Is that right? Well, how about we look at the evidence.
Regular blog readers may recall former Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse telling the RACCE Committee in November 2013 that there wasn’t any evidence to support or refute claims from the game-shooting industry of widespread trap interference/damage, but that a study (funded by Scottish Government – i.e. tax payers) was about to begin to try and assess those claims (see here).
That year-long study began in April 2014 and finished at the end of March 2015. BASC (Scotland) issued a press release in February 2014 to announce the start of the study, and it’s really worth a read (see here) – especially the comments attributed to Mike Holliday (BASC Scotland), Tim (Kim) Baynes (Scottish Land & Estates Moorland Group) and Alex Hogg (SGA), who all claimed that trap interference was widespread (ooh, is that the old victim card being played once more?). As well as BASC, the study was reportedly widely supported by SLE, SGA, GWCT (Scotland), Scottish Countryside Alliance, Scottish Assoc for Country Sports and NFU Scotland. Pretty good coverage then.
So how did the study go? What were the findings? An FoI has revealed all. See here:
It turns out that this alleged problem isn’t widespread after all.
Let’s just ignore the fact that none of the data were independently verified, and assume that the gamekeepers who submitted the data were honest (because gamekeepers never lie, right?). In which case, there were 19 alleged trap interference/damage incidents throughout the year-long ‘study’. BASC has actually submitted 25 alleged incidents, but 6 of these can be immediately discounted because they allegedly took place before the study had begun and one of them didn’t even involve alleged disturbance or vandalism: “Snares being used with tag number belonging to another person”.
Of the 19 which apparently took place during the official study period, only 11 were reported to the police. Interesting then, that the article in Fife Today states ‘Police Scotland is reporting a rise in the number of traps being tampered with‘. On what evidence is Police Scotland making this claim?
If you look closely at the details of the 19 alleged incidents, you’ll notice that over one third of them took place on a single estate in Crieff. If those alleged incidents did actually take place, it suggests that there is a localised problem in that particular area; the claim of the problem being ‘widespread’ simply isn’t supported by these figures.
And what about Fife, home to Sir Robert Spencer-Nairn, who claimed in Fife Today that there had been ‘a spate of incidents’? According to the BASC data, there were only two reported incidents in Fife during this year-long study. Do two incidents (one of which didn’t even involve the release of ‘vicious’ crows from a trap) constitute ‘a spate of incidents’ or is this indicative of wildly exaggerated claims?
According to the FoI, BASC Scotland will be analysing the data and submitting a report to the Scottish Government. We look forward to reading it, especially to find out how the data were independently verified, how they assessed whether a trap/snare had been deliberately interfered with as opposed to accidentally damaged (e.g. see here) and how they justify the claim that trap interference is ‘widespread’.