Today, new Cabinet Secretary for Land Reform & the Environment, Roseanna Cunningham, will deliver a keynote address at the spring conference of Scottish land owners’ lobby group Scottish Land & Estates (SLE).
According to an amusing article in this morning’s Telegraph, clearly orchestrated by SLE to coincide with this conference, ‘Ministers have been warned they need to re-build trust with Scottish landowners’ who are miffed about the way the Land Reform agenda has been pushed through and are still whining about the reintroduction of sporting rates on their huge multi-million pound shooting estates (see here). The arrogance and sense of entitlement is there for all to see.
Obviously, we have no idea what Roseanna Cunningham will be saying at this conference but we hope that as well as land reform, the issue of raptor persecution will also feature. It’s been five years since she was having to deal with raptor persecution in her former role as Environment Minister and the issue hasn’t gone away. Although, according to SLE, it has.
We’ve been sent a copy of SLE’s Policy Update, an internal document written for SLE members, dated April 2016. Here are some excerpts:
Although there is no issue over population reduction, it continues to be highly emotive and even a long distance photograph of a cull is enough for the Herald and social media. Meeting arranged with GWCT, SNH, and CNPA [Cairngorms National Park Authority] on 27 April to tighten up joint statement.
So yet again SLE claims ‘there is no issue over population reduction’, even though there isn’t a shred of supportive scientific data to back up this claim. And this is the group that SNH is relying upon to exercise voluntary restraint! In March 2016 we asked SLE to provide evidence that the current mountain hare slaughter was sustainable (see here). No reply.
Raptor persecution maps 2015
A small increase from 18 to 20 recorded incidents, many unrelated to land / sporting management. This issue is dying away statistically and in media interest, but pro-raptor groups in overdrive trying to make new publicity out of it.
So, raptor persecution is acknowledged as a National Wildlife Crime Priority, SLE serves on the PAW Raptor Group, and yet here they are, telling their members that it’s no big deal and it’s just us lot making a big fuss about nothing. They do have a long track record of denial, of course, because it’s in their interest to pretend that everything’s just fine and no further sanctions or legislation is required.
Rather than focus on one year of data (even though those data showed an increase in recorded incidents, not a decline!), SLE would do well to take note of the long-term data trends, all recently published by RSPB Scotland (see here):
A total of 779 birds of prey were confirmed to have been illegally killed during the period 1994-2014, either by poisoning, shooting or trapping. The known victims included 104 red kites, 37 golden eagles, 30 hen harriers, 16 goshawks, 10 white-tailed eagles and 458 buzzards.
In addition to these confirmed victims, a further 171 incidents were documented where poisoned baits and/or non-birds of prey victims were found, including 14 pet cats and 14 pet dogs, and then a further 134 incidents where no victim had been found but clear attempts to target raptors had been uncovered (e.g. illegally-set traps).
Drilling down in to the detail, there’s a useful analysis of land-use type of confirmed poisoning incidents between 2005-2014 (219 incidents). A shocking (or not) 81% of confirmed poisoning incidents during this nine-year period were on land used for game-shooting: 57% on grouse moors and 24% on land managed for lowland pheasant shoots. This tells us a great deal about who is responsible for the vast majority of illegal raptor poisoning. Despite their continued denials and protestations, and their increasingly-desperate attempts to minimise the scale of these crimes (“it’s just a few rogues”, “it’s just a small minority”, “this issue is dying away”), this graphic exposes the criminality at the heart of the game-shooting industry:
And of course, there has also been a recent scientific paper documenting the long-term decline of peregrines on grouse moors in NE Scotland (here), reflecting a problem that is widespread across the Scottish & English uplands (here) and another scientific paper documenting the catastrophic decline of hen harriers on grouse moors in NE Scotland (see here).
A big fuss about nothing, eh? Let’s see if Roseanna Cunningham shares their view. It’s so obvious that with this level of denial, calling for the game shooting industry to self-regulate is utterly futile. If change is going to happen, it will have to be forced upon them.
Petition calling for a ban on driven grouse shooting can be signed HERE