BBC Radio Scotland features 30 minute discussion on raptor persecution

BBC Radio Scotland’s Out of Doors programme this morning featured a 30 minute discussion about raptor persecution. The interviewees included Duncan Orr-Ewing (RSPB Scotland), Logan Steele (Scottish Raptor Study Group), Tim (Kim) Baynes (Scottish Moorland Group) and Derek Calder (Head Gamekeeper, Edinglassie Estate).

The programme’s presenter, Euan McIlwraith, said he wanted to ‘get under the skin’ of those on both sides of this issue, but to be honest, he didn’t really achieve that. It was basically the same old arguments, with the conservationists putting forward the scientific evidence of widespread and recurrent persecution that is having population-level effects on some species, and the grouse-shooting lobby denying that raptor persecution is still a problem.

McIlwraith suggested to both sides that they should be talking to one another, failing to understand that ‘talking’ has been done for decades and has been an abject failure.

One thing that was clear was Tim (Kim) Baynes’ dislike of the publicity generated by illegal persecution, and especially on social media. He argued that rather than the RSPB putting out press releases about these crimes, they should instead ‘come and talk to the estate, say look, we’ve got this problem, something’s happened, you know, can you talk to us, help us sort it out’. Yeah Tim, ‘cos asking suspected criminals, who know they won’t be brought to justice, to ‘help sort out’ crimes is a winning strategy.

If the grouse shooting lobby want the negative press to end, there’s an easy solution: stop killing raptors.

The programme is available on iPlayer for the next 29 days (listen here).


30 Responses to “BBC Radio Scotland features 30 minute discussion on raptor persecution”

  1. November 12, 2016 at 6:12 pm

    Dear God, am I tired of the “if only they would talk line”..Ive been hearing it every time the shooting lobby get caught since the mid 1980s. A lot of people who had had little contact with each other [top level and management generally..not down at raptor monitoring level where aggressive contact had gone on for years] began “talking to each other” in the late 1980s and early 90s, its continued to this day. What good has it done? – zip, zilch, zero – it has in fact made things much worse, by encouraging the killers to think they can negotiate over the Law.

    What is actually needed is an education programme – TV series/articles radio shows? – which looks at the history of wildlife legislation from the late 19th century to the present time – clearly showing why we have and why we need these laws. Far too many conservationists couldnt answer those questions today, Im sure and it never gwets used in these so-called debates. It needs to be clearly spelled out to this generation of shooters and land managers, MSPs and MPs, modern conservationists and the general public…just how destructive we were to our wildlife in the recent past, and that these hard won laws were put there to stop the very extinctions we are seeing with hen harriers in England. Unless there is respect for these laws, we could see all the 19th century destruction return.

    • November 12, 2016 at 7:34 pm

      Yes displaying old pics of the keepers gibbet with buzzards, sparrowhawks, owls, stoats would put across what it’s all about and really help counter the romanticised crap about being conservationists – only ever by pure accident. These old pics don’t get shown much these days, but it was clear from the interview the same mentality persists. Both Baynes and the gamekeeper stated as fact that raptors need ‘managing’ it’s ok to have small numbers! So much for progressive views on ecology – stating BOPs will affect grouse shooting with the implication ‘controlling’ them is necessary and justifiable so people can shoot other birds for fun, birds which are produced in such unnatural quantities they are susceptible to disease. Where’s ‘keeping the balance’ exactly? Ecologically questionable and ethically repellent.

  2. 3 Iain Gibson
    November 12, 2016 at 8:28 pm

    It’s increasingly difficult to be confident of ever winning these days, because the bias in the media is all too real. Euan McIlwraith is I’m afraid a typical example of someone who thinks he gets brownie points for being “fair and impartial” when interviewing both sides. It gives the impression he’s being clever, rational and skilled in conflict resolution. In fact he’s being disingenuous – would the BBC get away with setting up the police against a bunch of hardened criminals, with Euan or some other presenter suggesting they “sort out their differences”? Of course not, criminality is quite rightly condemned, but not in the case of grouse shooting toffs, particularly Tory MPs who simply deny the truth that is there for all to see. I don’t have an instant easy answer to this problem, but feel it is time for us to take the debate to a new level. For a start we need to shy away from being afraid to criticise RSPB for not attempting to educate society that it is not morally acceptable to kill birds for pleasure, or in fact any form of wildlife. Only a radical shift in policy by Europe’s largest nature conservation organisation can ultimately make a real and positive difference.

  3. 4 hector
    November 12, 2016 at 9:20 pm

    The three posts above show part of the problem. If the thing is to be sorted both sides need to talk to each other. The whole thing has got too personal with high profile players on both sides hardly helpng a resolution. Showing old pictures of gamkeepers gibbets only shows what has gone before and not what is happening today so is of historical interest only. I have several old books showing what was killed in years gone by and they make gruesome reading but are not relevant. I would agree with Dave that education is required but it has to be balanced and not propapganda as we have seen from both sides in the recent Westminster debate. If the class warfare element can be put to one side it would also be helpful as I thought the whole point was to protect wildlife. If you all want to fight with the RSPB , Hawk and Owl trust etc fine but it does not do you any favours. Good evening Iain nice to see you come out.

    • 5 crypticmirror
      November 12, 2016 at 10:11 pm

      Hector, we’ve been through this before. The conservation side has been trying to talk in good faith with the keepering lobby for years. Its either ignored flat out, or if any agreement is reached then it is broken within weeks by the keepers. Education needs to happen, and part of that education is that the keepering lobby are lying liars who lie. The class warfare angle has come almost purely from the keepering lobby who oppose even phasing out leadshot despite the settled science because they see it as surrendering. You want to put the class warfare to one side, fine with me because only one side is havering on about it.

      • 6 hector
        November 12, 2016 at 10:47 pm

        You are also reinforcing my point and should take a few deep breaths. What the lead shot debate has to do with class warfare escapes me but the constant wittering on about toffs etc does not help your case. As to the ” keepering lobby ” whatever that is being ” lying liars who lie ” apart from an overkill on the lying front it alienates those keepers who may have been sympathetic to your cause so is counterproductive. If you want to talk ” in good faith ” I suggest you moderate your language as otherwise you will be ignored. I do not have a dog in the fight over banning driven grouse shooting other than the effect it may have on waders etc but do resent some of the comments in here on hill farming , firearms etc. I am lucky to live in an area with large numbers of red and amber listed birds and the reason they are there is because of what we have done and not done in the past and what we are doing now. I have just been issued 3 cage traps from a scheme funded by SNH to trap mink and feral ferrets to protect ground nesting birds and yes any I catch will be killed humanely so I guess I have just joined the keepering lobby. If the removal of predators upsets some people then I am sorry but my limited area reared at least 3 broods of curlew chicks this year and sadly no red throated divers for the frst time in a decade. Not bad for the 30 ares round the house. I also have a resident pair of buzzards and most of the starlings and house sparrows that the BTO seems to have misplaced.

        • November 13, 2016 at 9:49 am

          Hector I think you need to take a peek at many shooting/hunting fora and even occasionally the RSPB FB page to see who is getting stick from who – the conservation sector (real not incidental) from the huntin, fishin, shootin set so the image you put out yet again of a fraternity, and yes it is they stick together, coming under unfair attack is way, way off. Thankfully I’ve never experienced it (not near the estates that often) but stories of bird watchers and ramblers getting harassed by keepers are pretty much two a penny and there’s public denigration of anybody that isn’t in the countryside in respect of their profession i.e they don’t make money out of they get short thrift. One high up SGA official not so long ago made derogatory remarks about supposed Munro baggers probably not appreciating wildlife, very insulting. as he didn’t know the people concerned, but convenient stereotype. That same man privately told an acquaintance of mine that he thought walkers were a brilliant asset to his estate as they were the eyes and ears that reported broken fences and gates, ill livestock, suspicious events etc. Yes there are decent keepers, from the beginning RPUK has said so, but if they are not getting the public recognition they deserve why is that? Might it be they are keeping their heads down because of their ‘colleagues’? How many supportive comments made here that come from gamekeepers are posted anonymously or from retired keepers?

          The RSPB and others aren’t coming out with constant, regular condemnation of keepers, in this case it has only, unavoidably said at worst there are parts of the country where birds of prey persecution is at a very high level, given that BOPs are effectively missing from much of the uplands – and number of satellite tag transmission that mysteriously stop over grouse moors – hardly unjust. It’s the RSPB in particular that’s been the target of almost incessant smear, slander and derision from many of those poor, little misunderstood keepers and associates. They have actually been incredibly restrained and accommodating, to the frustration of many of us. If comments made here tend to be on the strong side that’s to help compensate for the conservation orgs that can’t or won’t fight back as strongly as they should re the abuse and lies thrown at them. When the RSPB carried out their black rat eradication on the Shiants last year (successfully and storm petrels have already moved back) they actually got criticised by Andy Richardson etc for removing part of our ‘natural heritage’, yes the black rat a non native species, common over its native range that was depressing globally important population of some seabirds was being stood up for because the RSPB was getting rid of it. Anybody hear of a gamekeeper give the RSPB a thumbs up for doing a good job on the Shiants? Fat chance.

          Re genuine conservation in the countryside, a lot of people do it, including some keepers (but not as standard element of their job?), but whenever does anyone who isn’t a keeper get credit for it? Very, very rarely, because of course it’s only keepers who are real conservationists! Researchers, the field staff of conservation organisations are constantly rubbished and derided by wee ‘rural know it all’s’. If it hadn’t been for unfortunately being unaware of a training course I would have been helping out on a local mink live trapping/humane cull myself. That would not have made me a keeper, but would have meant as a practical conservationist I would have been a more rounded and proficient one. I already kill invasives, but it tends to be cherry laurel with a bow saw. Yes I do feel sorry for good keepers, because I’ve got a very good idea what the bad ones are like.

          • 8 hector
            November 13, 2016 at 12:21 pm

            The mink trapping here I avoided at the start as the paperwork was a bit heavy and I didn’t fancy filling my freezer with dead mink so I carried on using my own traps. There are over 50 dong it on the island and even if only a couple of traps per trapper it has to do some good. Things got compicated with the licensing of air weapons as the early trappers were issued with an air pistol but as I already have the means to do the job it is not a problem. My own traps were getting a bit long in the tooth , one was stolen and a couple vandalised so I am now taking part. They also supply you with a bottle of mink aftershave to attract the brutes but so far have not tried it. The point is for a modest amount of money from SNH accessed by Mull and Iona community trust the sea birds and waders are getting a helpng hand. You can buy a lot of traps for the cost of one satellite tag. The hen harrier day I attended on the island was trying to raise money to sat tag a Mull HH which at the current rate would take about a decade and I think these funds could be put to better use for example a few owl boxes or a couple of nesting platforms for osprey. This is not a dig at the young ladies manning the stall as they persevered on a day of hellish weather and the tours to see live HHs were a big hit with the tourists. They also had very good home baking and I won Eagle Days by Stuart Rae in the raffle so a good day. Practical conservation for a modest outlay so well done to all concerned and I hope it is used in other areas.

            • November 13, 2016 at 12:58 pm

              Yes there are a lot of good people doing conservation, thanks for heads up re Mull and Iona Community Trust, I had dealings with one of their committee members years ago re waste reduction issues and I’m very pleased it’s still going strong. Interesting what you say about expense of satellite tagging, and I know that you’d get a lot more of other things, but satellite tags are making a point and inevitably the cost will come down. I believe they’ve retrieved still working tags from dead birds and then reused them. I think licensing for air guns was worthwhile although a pain for legitimate users, if it gives the police a lever with which to deal with the camouflaged wannabe Rambos who sadly are still there firing off at anything that moves. Not as prevalent as when I was a kid, and when I was younger on two separate occasions had someone who thought it was a laugh to fire a pellet in my general direction, but one of these idiots is one too many. Yet again something the SGA was against even inspite of the fact there have been fatalit(ies) through misuse of air weapons.

            • November 13, 2016 at 3:22 pm

              Hector, did you catch any Polecats?
              Have some polecat-ferrets around us in north-west Mull but the only images and sightings have been poor but i presumed they were Polecats I haven’t seen either here myself.

              • 11 hector
                November 13, 2016 at 5:25 pm

                Not recently but for many years at Pennyghael caught a lot but they were all ferrets some polecat coloured others albino. I don’t think there are any true polecats on the island but I see we now have pinemartens up the island. Two years ago I had shot some hinds at dusk and in the morning when I went to collect the bits 3 of the heads had been dragged nose first into rabbit holes. Never found out if it was cats or ferrets. I was photographing buzzards on a roadkill rabbit which I had placed outside the house when a large feral cat walked in and buggered off with the rabbit. Now if i want pictures of the sparrowhawk after it kills a rock dove or the buzzard I spike the bait to the ground as the hawk kept dragging the dove behind the compost bin. Some of the pctures are on twitter if you want a look.

                • November 13, 2016 at 5:54 pm

                  Thanks. I will stop or we will be getting seriously off topic.

                  • 13 Iain Gibson
                    November 15, 2016 at 8:21 pm

                    That’s already the case! I’ve been warned before for far less than this. Can we stick to raptor issues, especially relating to persecution. I for one don’t want to read about hunters’ gory business on this blog, except for the purpose of condemning it. It’s very off-putting when certain people like to taunt those of us who aren’t impressed by tales of how many deer they’ve shot, etc, etc.

    • November 12, 2016 at 10:57 pm

      Hector, you wrote ‘I have several old books showing what was killed in years gone by and they make gruesome reading but are not relevant.’
      According to someone who probably knows more about this, right now, than anyone else, it is still going on so it is certainly relevant.
      What i have learnt from the debate is that it is getting harder and harder to detect crime because of the high tech night-time equipment. being provided. The more canny criminal gamekeepers will obviously no longer be advertising their crimes.

      Or read ex-policeman wildlife officer

      or an un-named wildlife crime officer who is well known to this blog

      • 15 hector
        November 12, 2016 at 11:32 pm

        The point about the old books was that one keeper in the old days would have accounted for more than all the birds missing over the entire country. Are raptors still being killed ? Obviously yes. Are all keepers doing it ? Obviously no or you would not have expanding raptor populations on part of the country. If all keepers were behaving as they did 100 or even 50 years ago there would be very few or no eagles or sea eagles left. My point was that the slaughter that happened in the past is not relevant to what is happening now just as quoting a record grouse bag from the turn of the century in propaganda at a hen harrier day is misleading. What was killed last century is of only historical interest. I have already read most of the above and god knows why watched the evidence session and the debate at Westminster and that is several hours of my life I will never get back. I thought some of the points on both sides were pathetic from the bull elephants falling on grouse moors to some of the claims that grouse moors cause flooding. As to wildlife crime being more difficult to detect night vision equipment and infra red scopes are available off the shelf at a reasonable cost and with modern camera traps it should if anything be getting easier.

        • November 13, 2016 at 3:32 pm

          I don’t think anyone is saying all gamekeepers are doing it. We are talking about on intensively managed grouse moors.
          Personally i think all driven grouse moor gamekeepers are killing Hen Harriers but obviously lowland gamekeepers are much more ‘enlightened’ hence the spread of the Buzzard and Red Kite away from grouse moors. I don’t think anyone disputes that.

          You wrote
          ‘As to wildlife crime being more difficult to detect night vision equipment and infra red scopes are available off the shelf at a reasonable cost and with modern camera traps it should if anything be getting easier.’
          Where is the man power to watch every nest. It just isn’t possible even more so if the gamekeeper shoots the birds as soon as they enter the area.
          We can hire the whole British Army to patrol the hills, good idea.

          • 17 Iain Gibson
            November 15, 2016 at 8:14 pm

            I would dispute that, anandprasad. It is not my experience at all that lowland gamekeepers are “much more enlightened” than grouse moor managers. The term enlightened I would have difficulty applying to any gamekeeper. Some might be less severe than others in terms of predator control, but I know that very few gamekeepers go through each year without breaking the law at least once. To be completely honest, I’d be surprised if there is such a thing as a completely crime-free gamekeeper, although I know that some hunting people and the occasional sycophantic conservationist (usually from SNH or at directorate level in RSPB) will contest that. The increase in Buzzards in my opinion has either nothing or very little to do with any new found enlightenment among gamekeepers. The rise in numbers can be entirely explained by the widespread field vole plague which persisted in most of Scotland and northern England over two decades around the turn of the century. There has undoubtedly been an increase in persecution since what the gamekeepers usually refer to as this “population explosion,” and combined with a widespread depression of vole populations since 2007, this has led to a significant drop in Buzzard population density since then. The spread in the species’ range may have consolidated thanks to the effect of the long term vole plague, but that was not necessarily related to any change in gamekeeper culture.Your hypothesis regarding Red Kites may carry more weight, but complicated by that species being widely introduced and thriving in areas which are not so heavily ‘keepered as grouse moors.

  4. 18 Iain Gibson
    November 12, 2016 at 9:43 pm

    hector, sorry to have to challenge you again but I’m afraid you seem to be just a wee bit out of touch. You are correct in saying that the gamekeepers’ gibbets are a thing of the past, but that’s only because they don’t hang their victims out for all to see any more. If you read RPUK regularly you will see plenty of statistics relating to raptor persecution, and the situation is quite dreadful. The gamekeepers I know boast not about how many individual foxes they’ve killed in a given year, they boast about how many hundreds of them are slaughtered. The moorland representative on the Out of Doors radio programme was exhibiting the usual ignorance on the natural history of birds of prey, especially in relation to Buzzards, which he implied are significant predators of grouse. They are not. Interestingly, the scenario he described as to how Buzzards allegedly “disrupted a drive” is exactly the same argument that ‘keepers used to present to justify killing Hen Harriers. Of course they don’t justify it any more, they keep the persecution of harriers as low key as possible to avoid being detected. You love to preach compromise, but in some cases it’s just not possible when the two sides hold extreme opposite views. That doesn’t mean, as often interpreted, that both sides are equally wrong. I did take note yet again that neither side seems aware of the dramatic reduction in Buzzard numbers over the past eight years, amounting to a decline of over 50% throughout much of Scotland. Finally, I’d be interested to hear details of any propaganda coming from the Westminster debate that wasn’t from the grouse shooting side. All I could hear were scientific facts coming from our side, and ridiculous anecdotes about “little grey hill partridges” (wozat?) and “wild chickens” from the shooting people, along with downright lies about how the Hen Harrier is doing “terrifically well” on English grouse moors. Really, three failed pairs is doing well?

  5. 19 hector
    November 12, 2016 at 10:03 pm

    I am not sure if this will get past moderation but I rest my case . You have just made my point Iain/Jack whatever. Good night and all the best.

    • 20 heclasu
      November 13, 2016 at 2:51 am

      Why should you doubt that your post will not get through moderation Hector? You have every right to have and to voice your opinion – as does every one else. Even when you’re wrong.

  6. November 12, 2016 at 11:14 pm

    The arguments were had and won over 50 years ago. Thats when the “talking” took place. It became the settled will of the people that these birds should be protected by law.

    Over 50 years later and several new laws and directives which confirm the protection later, the criminals continue to flout the law.
    The keepers and their bosses are still trying to stall off their acceptance of the law and their main strategy is to make us look unreasonable.
    Its quite incredible that they are given the air time.
    Its quite incredible that bodies like RSPB and Scottsh Government are still prepared to talk to these people.

    Its astonishing that we allow it to happen.

  7. 23 Paul V Irving
    November 13, 2016 at 8:44 am

    The media seem obsessed with balance hence both sides being present . Yet one would not have this “balance” if we were talking about child abuse or burglary so why have it with wildlife crime? Probably because of who is committing and commissioning such crime. We have talked until we are blue in the face and got nowhere all it does is legitimise the position of the persecutors and despoilers of land, they do not change position. Anything agreed cannot in any case be delivered SGA/ NGO members do what their employers tell them and individual estates are not bound by any agreement SMG/ MA make. It is all a sham. Keeping the pressure on by publicity is the best option the only people they should be talking to are the police and answering hard questions from politicians. The cat is out of the bag!

  8. November 13, 2016 at 5:50 pm

    Glad that my comment got “us” talking anyway!…as was intended…one good result of discussions like those here is that we can all start to understand the many facets of that word “conservationist”…its become as widely interpreted and used by all sorts of folk with all sorts of agendas. Beware of the word “balance” too – in the 1980s that was what was used by the raptor killers to justify almost anything…just as “common sense” gets used by very dodgy politicians to excuse horrific policies…..

    The BBC have been cowed by both a Tory government stuffed with landowners or their relatives but also by threats of legal action from the raptor killer’s QCs – dont expect too much help here from the mainstream media…so what’s left?….social media, the biggest modern weapon, this site is read by a lot of people…but also, vote for those politicians who really care about wildlife and the environment – the lines are getting clearer by the day…and make your displeasure at the others very clear and very public.

  9. 25 Scott Ratteray
    November 13, 2016 at 8:21 pm

    ‘if only we could talk’ solution seems to assume that this is a case of two equal and opposing views.

    Lets not forget persons who are killing protected species are breaking the law……..just like any other criminals are. Why would they be invited round the table.

    I do not hear suggestions that the police sit down and talk to thieves, drug dealers, or housebreakers.

    ‘Its not the same’ some will crying. ok then why is there no call for dialogue with hare coursers, egg thieves, salmon poachers or deer poachers.

    All of the above are examples of common criminals and should be dealt with by the law in the same manner.

    Some forget this , in particular the police , SNH, who have the ‘we must remain impartial’ view. This view is ludicrous the police and SNH ,have to remember they have to be firmly on the side of the law.

  10. November 13, 2016 at 11:53 pm

    One watches in awe the new series of Planet Earth, and then one thinks about the way some people treat our wildlife in the name of shooting birds for fun, it’s a national disgrace.
    Despite all the detailed talk about the subject of raptors and gamekeepers there really is a very simple answer;

    there is absolutely no NEED for gamebird shooting;

    there is absolutely a NEED to allow our raptors to live without the threat that gamebird shooting imposes on them.

    All it needs is for those people who destroy wildlife, for no other reason than to satisfy their employers, to change their minds and decide not to destroy wildlife any longer.
    But it could never be that simple.
    I obviously live in cloud cuckoo land.

    • November 14, 2016 at 10:23 am

      Isn’t the fundamental point that it is morally and ecologically unacceptable to kill birds of prey and in fact other wildlife to maintain unnaturally high populations of birds just to shoot for fun? That people like Tim Baynes feels it is perfectly reasonable to publicly state raptors need ‘managing’ because they believe recreational shooting will be impaired otherwise is just shocking in 2016. Nobody will die, no one will go hungry if a few less grouse, pheasant or partridge are blasted. And as far as jobs being threatened for the ‘sake of a few birds’ yes that’s ridiculous but the remark should refer to either estate owners or their clients who feel people’s livelihoods as well as what might be their idea of inconvenient species are disposable so that they can get ‘bigger bags’ – we’ll get rid of you if you won’t do what’s necessary.

      The morality of this has been shifted on to anyone wanting to protect our wildlife – we will be responsible for job losses if we won’t let the selfish, spoilt brats have their way. We should resist that vigorously and loudly and put that moral responsibility back where it belongs the shitty shooters and estate owners who care nothing for our wildlife or rural communities. If we allow wildlife to be persecuted because it gets in the way of a hobby, and a hobby is a hobby no matter how much is spent on it, then there is no genuine conservation ethos in this country. We could still have some wildfowling, walked up grouse shooting and wood pigeon shooting and if that’s not enough a switch to real stalking of deer (and eventually boar) intended to keep their populations at a reasonable level and put meat on the table. Basically a more genuine and justifiable hunting culture found in many other countries. Isn’t what we have at the moment much more like canned hunting – bloated numbers of red deer, red grouse and pheasant for easy and frequent killing (slaughter?).

      Flooding, higher water treatment charges, miles upon miles of desolate pseudo moor with as much charm and wildlife as a supermarket car park, traps and snares, all the illegal shite, missing out on significant and fascinating ecological restoration, dead pheasants lining the road and dents they put in cars and very worst of all the increased risk of serious injury or death from vehicle/ red deer collisions. All of this because of our glorious shooting ‘heritage’. Time to ditch a lot of it and reform the rest.

    • 30 Iain Gibson
      November 15, 2016 at 8:28 pm

      Well said Andy Holden and Les Wallace, that’s the sort of moral compass we need.

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