Linklater on Langholm: fake facts from a ‘respected journalist’

LinklaterFollowing the recent news that the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project (‘Langholm 2’) was winding down prematurely (see here), as predicted it hasn’t taken long for those within the grouse-shooting industry to start claiming it a massive failure.

On Saturday (2nd April), ‘respected journalist’ Magnus Linklater had an article about Langholm 2 published in The Times (see here for paywall version and here for free copy). The inverted commas around ‘respected journalist’ are used deliberately because not everyone agrees with this credibility rating, based on Linklater’s previous musings on raptors and grouse moors (e.g. see here, here and here).

This latest article is littered with what we’ll politely call fake facts; a common theme from Linklater. Either this ‘respected journalist’ has just made stuff up (again), or he hasn’t done the research you might expect from such a feted correspondent (and editor!).

Here are just some of those fake facts.

Linklater says: “Grouse numbers have declined to an unsustainable level” and “There are no longer enough grouse to justify commercial shooting” and “Grouse numbers have never sufficiently recovered” and “Although grouse numbers did revive from their previous low level, there were never enough to justify letting the moor for driven grouse shoots“.

So, four times in this article Linklater mentions that there aren’t enough red grouse to shoot at Langholm. It’s clearly a point he wants to drive home to the reader, but it’s just not true. As we, and others, have previously commented, the red grouse population at Langholm has recovered sufficiently, to a density which previously supported driven grouse shooting activity on this moor (see here, here, here).

Linklater says: “There are currently 14 hen harrier nests on the moor“.

Really? On 2nd April? That would be extraordinary. Blimey, climate change has really kicked in. Or, Linklater is clumsily using last year’s hen harrier breeding status and applying it to this year. But wait! There weren’t 14 hen harrier nests at Langholm in 2015. There were eight, and six of those produced fledglings. How about in 2014? There were 12 hen harrier nests in that year (the highest recorded during the Langholm 2 project) and of those, 10 nests produced fledglings. So from where has Linklater conjured up the “current 14 hen harrier nests“? Has he just made it up?

Linklater says: “More than 100 [hen harrier] pairs were fledged“.

Er, if that were true it would mean that more than 200 birds had fledged during the Langholm 2 project. Again, untrue. More than 100 individuals have fledged – half the number Linklater is claiming. It could be a simple slip of the keyboard or it could be that Linklater wants to give the impression of a moor ‘plagued’ by hen harriers. Note his phrase “uncontrolled birds of prey” earlier in the article and pair it with his repeated referral to a (supposed) lack of red grouse and it becomes apparent what he’s trying to do here.

Linklater says (when describing the results of the earlier Langholm 1 project): “Harriers multiplied until there were more than 20 pairs, and grouse became virtually extinct“.

If there were “more than” 20 pairs, why not give the exact number? Could it be that there weren’t “more than” 20 pairs after Langholm 1? Could it be that there were actually 20, which, incidentally, just happened to coincide with a peak in the cyclical vole population? Why exaggerate? Surely not to try and create an impression that there were more hen harriers than there actually were?

And what’s this about red grouse becoming “virtually extinct“?! This is made up nonsense of the highest order. Red grouse didn’t become ‘virtually extinct’ after Langholm 1. What actually happened was that raptor predation reduced the autumn grouse abundance by 50%. In other words, the ‘surplus’ birds from an artificially-high red grouse population were no longer available to be shot. The red grouse population (and the hen harrier population) dropped back down to what some would call ‘normal’ (natural) densities. That’s a very, very, very different scenario from becoming ‘virtually extinct’.

Perhaps, if you were a grouse moor owner like Linklater (well, he, his wife and their lawyer are trustees of a Trust that owns a grouse moor), you might consider the red grouse population ‘virtually extinct’ because, for all intents and purposes, if there aren’t enough to shoot then they might as well, from the grouse moor owner’s perspective, be ‘virtually extinct’.

Linklater uses two quotes just to ram home the point to any reader who hasn’t yet caught on to his notion that hen harriers need sorting out (legally, of course). The first is from Teresa Dent of the GWCT (an organisation known to promote illegal activities as ‘best practice’ – see here). She says:

There is a lot of work to do…..to find solutions to the conflict between hen harriers and red grouse that can be applied elsewhere“.

Oh, so no mention of the successful use of diversionary feeding of hen harriers during the Langholm 2 project, which has shown that the proportion of red grouse in the diet of diversionary-fed hen harriers was a negligible 0-4% (see here)? How strange. And by the way, Teresa, the conflict isn’t ‘between hen harriers and red grouse’ – it’s between hen harriers and driven grouse shooting; hen harriers and red grouse have survived together for thousands of years, duh!

The final quote is from someone associated with the Langholm 2 project but who prefers to remain anonymous:

If you want ground-nesting birds, including hen harriers, then you need moors to be managed [by game keepers]. The success of the harriers at Langholm has come about because of intensive and expensive management. Unfortunately, the losers are the grouse“.

Actually, the success of the hen harriers at Langholm has come about because the keepers haven’t been allowed to illegally kill them.

Here’s one worthwhile way of responding to ‘respected journalist’ Linklater’s article: Please sign the petition to ban driven grouse shooting HERE

22 Responses to “Linklater on Langholm: fake facts from a ‘respected journalist’”

  1. 1 crypticmirror
    April 6, 2016 at 2:32 pm

    Would it be fair an appropriate to break out the “lying liar who lies caught lying” quote for this individual?

  2. April 6, 2016 at 2:35 pm

    This riposte deserves to be published by The Times. Linklater as a good Tory will no doubt regard the public subsidies that underpin his tenants and the rents that he receives from his estate and his grouse moor as a matter of right; it is a matter of common fact that half the subsidies that British landowners receive would keep British steel afloat. Land value would restructure if the subsidies were removed, but if we lose Port Talbot, we lose British steel manufacturing without support or tariffs. One rule for the rich and one for the working people that underpin UK manufacturing. If British agriculture lost its subsidies, a recession would stimulate new entrants and wildlife thrives in “waste” and a recession here would be wholly beneficial to small scale farming and the uplands, if only in wildlife if not necessarily in human terms; although it would enable entry to farming that is fundamentally impossible at this time. I will be voting REMAIN but there will be some distinct silver linings if the country Votes Exit. The hypocrite Linklater should look to his subsidies and with other moor owners manage in the fashion that the wildlife loving taxpayer requests ……… I, Remember the Miners that received less subsidy than these Tory hypocrites! If the country votes Brexit I will watch the scramble to replace these state subsidies for estates like Linklater’s with relish.

    • 4 against feudalism
      April 7, 2016 at 8:08 am

      I agree, the CAP subsidies, and ‘rural development grants’, in the billions, going to wealthy estate owners, is deeply corrupt. This government has lobbied against both transparency, and a cap on payments, to it’s pals, whilst grinding the most venerable of our society into the dust. They have replaced skilled and semi skilled jobs in manufacture, and given us shelf stacking and zero hours contracts, the better to control?

      The continuing slaughter of our wildlife is just another facet of their ‘fiddling while Rome burns’ self-interest.

  3. 5 steve macsweeney
    April 6, 2016 at 2:59 pm

    Have you penned a precis to the Times letter page?

  4. 6 Doug Malpus
    April 6, 2016 at 3:19 pm

    My first experience with Langholm and 4 pairs of Hen Harriers and 16 almost fledged birds. They were due to be ringed (after some delays from the estate) but (surprise surprise!) all chicks disappeared overnight. One corpse found, was handed over to Game Conservancy Mob, conclusion fox predation???
    Very busy foxes on Langholm!!!!

    How far can the shooting crowd, estates, gamekeepers and Game Conservancy be trusted?

    NOT AT ALL!!!!!

  5. April 6, 2016 at 4:14 pm

    It would seem to me that this article is clearly in breach of IPSO’s (Independent Press Standards Organisation) code of conduct section one of which covers the need for accuracy (see http://www.ipso.co.uk/IPSO/cop.html ). This code requires the press to “take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information …..” and that where they fail to do so any significant inaccuracies, misleading statements and distortions “must be corrected, promptly …” and there must be a clear distinction between “comment, conjecture and fact”. Since press releases from Botham’s anti-RSPB organisation dressed up as articles have been caught out by these rules it must be worth a try.

  6. 10 Colin Main
    April 6, 2016 at 5:50 pm

    And as a grouse moor owner I wonder if he employs a gamekeeper and if he does I wonder what he tell s them to do to manage hen harriers and other protected predators.

    It’s morons like him that are part of this problem. Shame on the Times for allowing him to use their newspaper as a vehicle to promote his ‘ fake facts’ and personal agenda

  7. 11 Kiteman
    April 6, 2016 at 6:02 pm

    Many people can’t leave a comment on the Times article, because of the paywall.

    Twitter, though, is free: @MagnusLinklater / https://twitter.com/MagnusLinklater


  8. April 6, 2016 at 7:32 pm

    Disgraceful but not at all surprising..he was editor of the Scotsman and of the scottish edition of the Times in the recent past..so the Times at least would publish anything he wrote as gospel. What you are seeing close up is the real “scottish establishment” who are in actuality running our countryside – no wonder there are so many biassed, in favour of shooting, press and media articles – when the shooting lobby have connections like this.

  9. April 6, 2016 at 9:55 pm

    It really is a shoddy article. But there is no doubt that these chaps are shit scared- by the pressure that facts spread by this site and Mark Avery etc are having on public opinion. The atmosphere is changing and their ability to do what they like is seriously under threat.
    They are ramping up their charm offensive…and we must do the same.

  10. 14 Les Wallace
    April 6, 2016 at 10:28 pm

    So Langholm 2 was just another contrived propaganda piece to quieten criticism, tie up conservation organisations in a time wasting exercise and try to make the idea of Raptor ‘control’ publicly acceptable as being necessary for the welfare of other wildlife? The RSPB needs to go public with why this has been a stitch up and fully, openly declare that attempting to work with this shower is a complete, and utter waste of time and they henceforth deserve all the shit they get from the Packhams and Averys of this world. What other options do the RSPB have now?

  11. 15 Merlin
    April 6, 2016 at 11:09 pm

    If this article does not get redressed by the RSPB it will be taken as true facts by many people who shoot or hunt without question, you can bet it will be repeated in all the shooting publications, the RSPB need to put out a statement on this!
    These people as we have known for a long time aren’t interested in the truth they are only interested in their opinion and forcing that on anyone who will listen to them, they call their hobby a “sport” yet it must be the only sport were there are no rules, no governing body, many of the birds shot would fail a drugs test and many of the participants shooting are only their because they can be driven up to the butts because they don’t have the stamina to walk to them. the simple fact that they can shoot over a thousand birds in a day and not realise that being so easy means that it isn’t sporting has not occurred to them, to counter all the negatives they tell us about other wildlife that benefits from the “work” they do and that we should be grateful to them even though we could never fully understand because we never spend as much time in the countryside as they do! Never forget they had the chance to shoot Grouse on langholm 2 as they had a harvestable surplus which was what the original manifesto stated, instead they chose to leave a harvestable surplus hanging on the branches to rot and to attract predatory species like a magnet, A lot of public money has been spent on Langholm, money that could have been used much more wisely. It could have paid for a new hospital wing somewhere, Instead we see little lord f*****g Fauntleroy picking his football up and walking off with it because its not going his way, please make this known every chance you get and brilliant work RPS on countering this article in the first instance yet again, I beginning to think Martin Harper and Dr Dolittle could be related!

  12. 16 heclasu
    April 7, 2016 at 12:43 am

    Merlin: “If this article does not get redressed by the RSPB it will be taken as true facts by many people who shoot or hunt without question, you can bet it will be repeated in all the shooting publications, the RSPB need to put out a statement on this!” end quote. More worryingly, it might be taken as ‘fact’ by the ordinary reader! The RSPB HAS to get off the fence. They HAVE to say something! If they don’t, well, …I will let you all draw your own conclusion as to why they haven’t.

    • 17 Marian
      April 7, 2016 at 6:32 am

      Exactly, Heclasu – nobody will ever persuade the hunters and shooters to do differently.

      But they are in the minority and will die out in time – but the majority tend to believe what they read.

      They are the ones we need on our side.

  13. 18 Doug Malpus
    April 7, 2016 at 10:58 am

    I’ve contacted the RSPB with this email:

    Linklater on Langholm: fake facts from a ‘respected journalist’

    The shooting industry will do anything to discredit the conservation interests. Linklater in the Times is implying that Langholm was a failure by his twisted wording.

    Please, for the sake of those of us that know how despicable the shooting industry is, challenge their propaganda!!!!

    Doug……., member of the RSPB, working towards the stopping of raptor persecution.

    Let us see if I get a reply?

  14. 20 Jim Clarke
    April 7, 2016 at 2:50 pm

    If you want any action from the RSPB then start serious moves to split RSPB Scotland off from the national organisation. Give Martin Harper et al a clear choice; start doing your job or Scotland, with all those flagship reserves, will go its separate way. As things stand I think that a Scottish Society for the Protection of Birds has the potential to be far more effective, and cooperation at an international level can be maintained through partnership with Birdlife.

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