Scottish Gamekeepers chairman attacks Raptor Study Group

hogg-shiteAlex Hogg, Chairman of the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association, has a long track record of talking out of his backside.

Previous missives directly attributable to the SGA’s esteemed leader have included lines such as, “Professional gamekeepers do not poison raptors” (here), “It is unfair to accuse gamekeepers of wildlife crime” (here), “In the last ten years we have stamped out poisoning” (here), “We kill animals because probably we’re the doctors and nurses of the countryside” (here) and, when asked whether gamekeepers are involved in the poisoning, shooting and trapping of raptors: “No they aren’t. We would dispute that” (here).

In the latest edition of the Shooting Times, he accuses the Scottish Raptor Study Group of ‘driving [gamekeepers’] wives, children and grandchildren from their homes‘. Here’s part of the article to provide the context to his claim:

One of the reasons the SGA was set up was to stop the police raiding our houses without proper evidence of wrongdoing. Wives and children were being subjected to dawn raids, houses were being pulled to pieces; in some cases children’s cough mixture was confiscated in case poison was being hidden in the bottle.

Hopefully these bad old days are gone. The SGA has worked extremely hard with our members to drive the poisoning incidents almost off the map. We have been very successful and last year it looks as if we had only two incidents of poisoning that involved a raptor. If the police had these results in any other form of crime it would be in all the news media for months.

Still, all we hear from the RSPB is that this can only be the tip of the iceberg. The Scottish Raptor Study Group, along with the RSPB, has launched a petition calling for the licensing of Scottish shooting estates. This group has been publicly funded since inception and has taken access on estates for years without even having to inform the keeper or landowner. In this regard it is unaccountable as it can log whatever it wishes, with little or no checks or balances on the process or the effects of its monitoring.

It seems strange that a group lacking in accountability is calling for shoots to be licensed. We will not stand by and allow double standards to drive wives, children and grandchildren from their homes. Everybody who works and lives in the countryside must now be wary that compliance with such organisations, sadly, is compliance with people who are attacking our jobs and way of life. It should never have got to this stage.

If the SGA had not been formed 20 years ago, what we live for would have been swallowed up by different government bodies. Some people hate the truth, but we will always tell it. It is that honesty which has gained us the respect that we have’.


It seems that Alex hasn’t read the Scottish Moorland Group’s recently proposed ‘four point plan‘ for eradicating illegal raptor persecution, as presented to the Scottish Parliament’s Environment Committee last December. Point four was, “We would very much like to see greater cooperation between ourselves, the Raptor Study Groups and the RSPB“. Oops.

A few other points for Alex to consider:

  1. The police are not allowed to raid houses on a whim. They first have to apply for a search warrant from a Sheriff (via the Crown Office) and this will only be granted if there are reasonable grounds to assume that evidence of criminal activity may be uncovered during a search.
  2. It’s no surprise if children’s cough mixture has been confiscated during a raid. It has not been uncommon to find illegal poison stored in everyday household containers (particularly coffee jars!) and on at least one search a banned, highly toxic poison was found in a container on a shelf within a child’s reach.
  3. Raptor persecution has not stopped. Poisoning reports may have dropped, but other methods (particularly shooting and trapping) have not. Stop pretending otherwise.
  4. Members of the Scottish Raptor Study Group, just like every other member of the public, are entitled to access land without having to inform the keeper or landowner. Get over it.
  5. Members of the Scottish Raptor Study Group are individually licensed to visit the nests of Schedule 1 birds. They are accountable for their actions as they have to submit data returns to the Government’s licensing authority on an annual basis as a condition of the licence. If you want to discuss unaccountability, contrast this licensing regime with that of gamekeepers, who are not individually licensed and do not have to submit annual returns detailing any of their activities, which mostly involves killing wildlife.
  6. It’s not clear to us how launching a petition calling for a licensing scheme for gamebird shooting is going to ‘drive wives, children and grandchildren from their homes’. What will drive them from their homes is if gamekeepers get caught illegally killing raptors and lose their jobs (and tied house) as a result of a conviction.
  7. The SGA is supposedly a partner organisation in the Partnership Against Wildlife Crime (PAW), and notably, the PAW Raptor Group. Quite how publicly slagging off and warning SGA members to be wary of cooperating with another PAW partner (the Scottish Raptor Study Group) is evidence of good partnership working is beyond us. Perhaps the SGA will be asked to explain this at the next PAW Raptor Group meeting.

Alex’s article also touched on some other issues, including how the SGA is this year going to push for the Scottish Government to issue licences to ‘control’ (kill) protected species such as badgers, buzzards and ravens. He mentions that Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham will be a guest speaker at the SGA’s annual conference in March and how staff members from SNH’s licensing team will also be in attendance to answer questions about this issue.

Interestingly, this subject was raised during Roseanna Cunningham’s address to the Scottish Raptor Study Group’s annual conference last Saturday. If she tells the SGA conference what she told the SRSG conference, there’ll be tears at bedtime for Alex and his wildlife-killing colleagues. (We’ll be blogging about the Cabinet Secretary’s speech to SRSG members in the next day or so, highlighting several points she made about raptor persecution and her full endorsement and gratitude for the “dedicated high quality fieldwork” of the SRSG).

Here is a copy of the Shooting Times article in full: alex-hogg-article_shooting-times_23feb2017


29 Responses to “Scottish Gamekeepers chairman attacks Raptor Study Group”

  1. February 27, 2017 at 8:20 am

    Raptor study groups were set up long before any funding was available. For years we worked away simply because of our interest in the birds. Is there any point in suggesting to the leader of the sga that he should get his facts right? But the admission that the sga was set up to help it’s criminal members when they were caught says it all. The minister was in good spirits at the conference, let’s hope she is not taken in by the criminal fraternity.

  2. 2 Jonathan Wallace
    February 27, 2017 at 8:55 am

    Hogg was completely correct in just one small detail: “Some people hate the truth”. High up amongst the list of such people ranks the SGA which appears to live in a fantasy world in which truth is a complete foreigner.

  3. February 27, 2017 at 9:12 am

    This shows how desperate Hogg is having to stoop so low as to politicise children to try and keep the masses sympathetic to his community’s dodgy activities.

  4. 4 Nigel
    February 27, 2017 at 10:10 am

    It seems to me that the only thing the Game Keepers have to fear is their own stupidity. If they stayed within the sadly unenforced laws they would have nothing to worry about.

    • 5 dave angel
      February 27, 2017 at 10:52 am

      The problem they have is that if they stayed within the law, and by doing so failed to provide sufficient birds to shoot, they might be facing redundancy. Loss of job, loss of house and loss of vehicle. That’s quite a lot to worry about.

      • 6 Simon Tucker
        February 27, 2017 at 12:20 pm

        A lot to worry about, true – but tell that to the miners, the steelworkers, farmworkers (the first major group to be casualties of mechanisation). Time moves on and the best way to ensure extinction is to fail to adapt. The SGA should be shouting loud about the problem of rogue gamekeepers and they should have very publicly taken action against, for example, the criminal filmed with his large cache of poisons and nailed the ir colours to the law and order mast – otehrwise they are, at best, apologists for criminals; at worst, a front for criminals

        • 7 crypticmirror
          February 27, 2017 at 1:18 pm

          Not to mention the disabled who are now in for another round of benefit cuts (announced on the same day as Labour’s by-election results) and will almost certainly lead to homelessness or confinement -and probably another wave of suicides- simply for existing. Gamekeepers are really let off lightly all around. I have little sympathy for them, but I do agree that the tied housing has to go. At least then unemployment does not mean instant homelessness. And if their Lairdships need to up wages a little to pay people to commute from further afield or build some more low cost housing on their estates, I can live with that too.

  5. 9 Peter Shearer
    February 27, 2017 at 11:03 am

    That is just so ridiculous, it appears as if it is a spoof to show how comical their stance is. The fact it is real suggests that the more we can get these things out to the public, we will expose them for what they are. We really ought to thank him for exposing their argument to scrutiny, but they surely cant all be that crazy! He has picked up the in phrase of “checks and balances” so at least he watches telly!

  6. February 27, 2017 at 11:30 am

    But you’d have to feel sorry for those little kiddies if they could no longer stand at their kitchen window and watch all those hen harriers flying past – like the ones Amanda Anderson apparently sees every day from hers.

  7. 11 Greer Hart, senior
    February 27, 2017 at 12:45 pm

    Once again, manifold thanks for another clear and apposite article on the struggle to save Birds of Prey and other wildlife, from victimisation by a detestable and powerful clique/claque of practitioners of blood sports. Surely, there is no one gullible and naive enough to belief such melodramatic tales of “wives, children and grandchildren” being evicted from their tied cottages, as if from a scene from John Prebble’s opus “The Highland Clearances. When such scenes were taking place, the landowners were ready to install shepherds and flocks of alien-type sheep, AND, to set up shooting estates for the mass murder of any form of predatory animal, as can be seen from photos taken of shooting parties with their “culls” exposed in front of them.

    Conservationists and animal welfare groups have a very serious and dedicated opposition to their humane concern. In the USA, President Trump has caused much concern over his appointees to environmental and wildlife, “supposedly”, conservation bodies e.g. the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). Such people want the National Parks, Native American Reservation lands and other protected areas, to be open to trophy shooting on a grander scale than hitherto, and to throw them open to mining, fracking and oil extraction. In Alaska, they want to allow fierce steel leg traps to reduce the numbers of Grizzly Bears and other predatory species, that Deer numbers may increase for “sporting” purposes. Trump once owned a shooting estate in the Cairngorms and was bought out by a Chris Brasher (Rambler) inspired funding campaign, He took two young Scottish gamekeepers back with him to the USA, where they xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx David Cameron desisted from pheasant shooting during his term of office, but was reported in the Press as having returned to it. With characters like that, how can we expect to resolve the dreadful illegal persecution of wildlife? The present regime running Scotland seems to have become enamoured with game bird shooting, as being one of the saviours of the Scottish rural economy. When one emails any MSP from that regime, one gets a standard reply proclaiming faith in the policy of their party, which thinks for them. It would be worth checking up on the interests of our MSPs and MPs, to see if many or any, have shown an interest or support for anything relating to the real conservation of our wildlife, and also acting outside the official line corset of their party. The only political party in the UK, apart from the Greens, that had a meaningful number of animal welfare/conservation politicians, was the Labour Party (English ones) with Dennis Skinner still there to protest on behalf of beleaguered birds and animals.

    Finally, thank God for Scottish Raptor Persecution’s valiant stand against the cruelty having almost free reign in our countryside. Only a dedicated effort involving the humane people in our society, will break the stranglehold of those who offend against the law that seeks to protect wildlife. We must expose the rubbish adduced by the
    blood sports lobby, and bring the public to a clear and accurate appreciation of what has been going on for far too long. The spurious rubbish of gamekeepers and their supporters in politics, law enforcement and wherever obstructive groups and individuals can be found to be holding back progress, can be exposed and reality put in its place.

  8. February 27, 2017 at 12:49 pm

    Is the importance of waders the most important part of Mr Hogg’s work?
    For, reading that Shooting Times article, that is what it seems to me.
    Perhaps Mr Hogg would be better employed by the RSPB?
    Of course, Mr Hogg is using waders as an excuse for his continuing employment.
    But why would he need to use waders rather than gamebirds as his reason for being left alone to do his job without ‘interference’ from the raptor studiers?
    Are not the grouse and pheasants the most important subject in his life?
    The ‘wader screen’ is often used as a justification for driven grouse shooting, but let’s be honest, how many shooters of grouse and pheasants take delight in the number of waders on their shooting grounds?
    I imagine few, if any, for, by the time of year that gamebirds are shot, the waders are long gone, returned to their wintering quarters on the coast.
    It is purely the surplus of gamebirds that is the most important subject to Mr Hogg, not “the capercaillie, the grey partridge and the waders” as he mentions in the article.
    And that surplus requires much destruction of other species of wildlife in order to maintain it.
    Yes, the call of the Curlew in the spring is a magical sound, but far better for Mr Hogg to tell the truth about why he carries out his work than to beat around the heather bush, pretending that waders are such an important part of his life.

  9. 13 crypticmirror
    February 27, 2017 at 1:13 pm

    I really do think tied housing ought to be made illegal. That would benefit gamekeepers hugely as it would lift an enormous threat to their own wellbeing from their shoulders. They, and many other tied labourers, would never have to fear that losing their jobs meant (immediately, at least) losing their home.

    As for more regulation, well just about everyone else has to deal with regulation in their lives and being accountable for their work. Why should gamekeepers get a special pass?

    Of course it goes without saying that if they genuinely are these models of good practice which is claimed, then a couple of years of stronger regulation and oversight would do nothing but leave egg all over our faces and a massive “I told you so” and smugness from the keeping fraternity. You’d think they’d be champing at the bit to have that happen. Why would they not be eager to prove us all so wrong?

    I also want to flag up:
    “had only two incidents of poisoning that involved a raptor” This. That seems like a suspiciously specific sentence there. Two incidents that involved a raptor. That implies the existence of other poisoning incidents. What were they? Beaver? Pine Marten? Pet dog? Pet cat xxxxx? Wildcat xxxxx? Lynx? Nessie (well, she hasn’t shown up for ages so it is either the keepers or the farmed salmon industry)? Corvids? Not to mention that two incidents is three too many.

    So many more questions and issues are raised by this statement than are closed down by them.

    [Ed: Thanks for your comment. It has been slightly edited, as you’ll understand]

    • 14 crypticmirror
      February 27, 2017 at 1:52 pm

      I xxxxx agree.


    • 15 Iain Gibson
      February 28, 2017 at 3:24 am

      Excuse me if I desist from a desire to benefit gamekeepers in any way. In fact I look forward to the day when this particular “profession” becomes extinct. There must be far more useful alternative services they could provide to society, and leave our wildlife to flourish naturally.

      • 16 crypticmirror
        February 28, 2017 at 3:38 pm

        Well the golden thing about outlawing tied housing is that it doesn’t just benefit gamekeepers. The tie exists in a lot of industries and it is always in places where the employer puts pressure on employees to ignore their rights or the rights of others or face unemployment. Who knows, some of these keepers or their defenders who claim they are only reluctantly following orders because “or else” might find a bit of backbone if they knew that they would not be homeless immediately after disobeying orders. And big land owners (farmers, and other folks that put their employees on tie) might very well be less likely to give such orders if they knew that they’d have to pay larger wages to get people in from further afield if they fired an employee and could not immediately replace them in their cottage. Not to mention they’d have to spend more in maintaining those properties if they were ordinary rentals (even as insecure as they are) rather than the most insecure form of tenancy on the planet short of a cardboard box in a thunderstorm.

        Don’t get me wrong, I have no love for the keepers here, just that it would be a great way of both loosening the grip of the lairds on the land, and that it would spread the benefit far more widely than just the poison, shoot, and trap brigade. It would one more step along the road.

  10. 17 Secret Squirrel
    February 27, 2017 at 3:01 pm

    “Threat to our way of life” – I’m sure the same excuse was used by the slave owners, or those who sent children down the mines. Times change, and those who don’t go extinct.

    “Everybody who works and lives in the countryside” – again this mantra that THEIR way of ‘managing’ the countryside is the correct model No, it’s not, it just happens to be the one you use to maximise your employer’s profits. Toy manufacturers could increase their profits by not screening for toxic paint or testing for sharp points, but they do because society has decided those hazards are unacceptable.

    And I’ve lived in the countryside for most of my adult life, my family were shooters, but I think it’s time to move on.

  11. 18 Bob
    February 27, 2017 at 4:17 pm

    Posted to my 5000 fb friends!

  12. 19 Flash
    February 27, 2017 at 4:24 pm

    Speaking of SNH’s licensing team, I’ve heard that they are being increasingly criticised by other SNH staff who believe that they are issuing licences (to kill goosanders, cormorants etc) far too readily, with totally un-policed “bag” numbers being licensed, based on unsound bird “surveys” submitted by the applicants themselves. The whole licensing system needs an urgent review.

  13. 21 Peregrine Pete
    February 27, 2017 at 4:59 pm

    I have no sympathy for keepers whatsoever they know the deal when they go for the job, and believe you me a lot enjoy doing it. Sick and tired how badly treated or hard done by they are. [Keepers] There is no other job you get paid for continually breaking the law.

  14. February 27, 2017 at 5:38 pm

    can anyone refer me to studies on levels of lead poisoning in scottish gamekeepers?

  15. 23 Logan Steele
    February 27, 2017 at 6:51 pm

    What we are seeing is the keeping fraternity being very concerned with the review of European Hunting legislation, SRSG’s petition to licence game bird shooting and the impending sat tag results. They are lashing out at the SRSG in frustration and can see the writing on the wall.

  16. 24 Jimmy
    February 27, 2017 at 10:47 pm

    Hogg is always good for a laugh

  17. 25 SOG
    February 27, 2017 at 11:42 pm

    Reading the mention of ‘only two’ raptors poisoned, I wondered if the Scots Police might know of others that haven’t been made public, and may not for a further year or two.

  18. 27 Dave Dick
    February 28, 2017 at 8:10 pm

    So many points out of that load of tripe – which by the way is aimed squarely at wavering politicians and government agency staff on the subject of licensing killing of buzzards and ravens and shooting estates – but I’ll just concentrate on one. Despite all the hurdles that the shooting industry has put in the way of the investigation of wildlife crime [ from attempts to block access to land, to using defence agents with a personal interest in shooting to obfuscate clear cut crimes and bully others in the justice system] there have actually been a fair number of convictions of gamekeepers and other shooting estate staff in Scotland. Can someone please tell me who all the gamekeepers are who have supposedly lost their jobs and homes?. In the last 30 years I can only think of one – and he promptly told an industrial tribunal that his boss had encouraged him to use the poison he had been supplied with!…No one gets sacked because then they would spill the beans about “estate policy” on raptor persecution….[and ed. I can back all that up..I have done so before!]

  19. 28 Marco McGinty
    March 2, 2017 at 4:10 pm

    I know we are spoiled fir choice when it comes to Alex Hogg’s noteworthy nonsense, but we mustn’t forget the incredible claim that “The goshawk will kill over and over again. The largest number of pheasant poults I lost on a stubble in one strike was 35.”, as well as “I strongly believe the goshawk never was indigenous to the United Kingdom and there is absolutely no hard evidence to suggest otherwise.”.

    The man is a professional liar.

    • 29 Iain Gibson
      March 2, 2017 at 7:30 pm

      He also appears to be a bit of an idiot, not seeing the irony in that a field full of 35+ pheasants is not exactly a natural phenomenon. Has he forgotten that pheasants are non-indigenous?

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