Conservationists issue joint statement on game shoot licensing proposals

Following the Scottish Parliament’s Environment Committee’s recent decision to recommend a Government-led inquiry in to the feasibility of a licensing system for game bird shooting (see here), a consortium of conservation organisations has now issued a response statement:


Wildlife conservation organisations are calling for a progressive partnership with the shooting community, to develop a licensing scheme for gamebird hunting in Scotland.

The Scottish Raptor Study Group (SRSG), the Scottish Wildlife Trust and RSPB Scotland want to see a regulatory system introduced that helps tackle wildlife crime while delivering a range of public benefits, and would like to see the shooting industry play a full role in this approach.

The call follows the Scottish Parliament’s Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform (ECCLR) Committee’s consideration this week, of a petition calling for gamebird shooting in Scotland to be licensed – which was lodged by the SRSG.

The committee recognised that the illegal persecution of birds of prey remains a widespread concern and has voted to write to the Cabinet Secretary, Roseanna Cunningham MSP, recommending that the Scottish Government commission an inquiry to explore how such a licensing system could work.

All three wildlife groups welcome the ECCLR Committee’s decision and its view that a fresh approach to address the issue of persecution and the associated unsustainable land management practices is required.

SRSG and RSPB Scotland had previously provided detailed evidence to the committee, reinforced by a “Review of Sustainable Moorland Management” conducted by the Scottish Natural Heritage Scientific Advisory Committee in October 2015, and hope the Cabinet Secretary will respond positively to the ECCLR Committee’s advice.

Logan Steele of the Scottish Raptor Study Group and lead petitioner said: “The ECCLR Committee has made a thorough assessment of the evidence put before it, and clearly concluded that raptor persecution has not been dealt with by the gamebird shooting industry. I warmly welcome the committee’s decision to write to the Cabinet Secretary, recommending that the Scottish Government gives consideration to implementing a licensing system for shooting businesses. The Scottish Raptor Study Group accepts that many within the shooting industry are law abiding and are as keen as we are to bear down on the criminal element within their ranks. A Government-sponsored inquiry, into how a licensing regime might work, presents an opportunity to work in partnership with forward-looking representatives from the industry, and other stakeholders, towards creating a sustainable upland environment where our birds of prey can thrive alongside legitimate shoot management.”

Jonny Hughes, Chief Executive of the Scottish Wildlife Trust, said: “We fully support this call for a constructive and broad partnership to provide expertise to a much needed inquiry into licensing of gamebird hunting in Scotland. Now is the time for all interested parties to come together to address what is clearly still a significant problem in our countryside. Shooting organisations should not see this as a threat, but more as a real opportunity to put differences aside and ensure that the best long term interests of nature and enhanced rural employment are at the heart of such discussions.”

As he prepares to retire from his position as Director of RSPB Scotland, Stuart Housden said: “We commend the committee’s thorough scrutiny of the evidence put before it over the last few months, and welcome their vote to recommend an inquiry into a potential licensing regime for gamebird shooting in Scotland.

“Throughout my 23 years in this role, the illegal killing of our birds of prey has been a constant stain on the reputation of our country, with no evidence to support claims that these crimes are diminishing in large parts of our uplands in particular. The body of evidence – including many peer-reviewed scientific studies have demonstrated very clearly that our populations of golden eagles, hen harriers, red kites and peregrines are still being significantly impacted by poisoning; the illegal use of traps; shooting; and destruction of nests, particularly in areas intensively managed for driven grouse shooting. This simply must stop if the grouse shooting community is to enjoy public confidence in the future.

“There has also been an increasing recognition that self-regulation by a significant part of the gamebird shooting industry has failed, and that new regulatory measures are required to ensure that our uplands are managed in line with the public interest. We consider that a bespoke licensing arrangement, including sanctions for removal of a licence where there is clear evidence that wildlife crimes are occurring, would provide a meaningful deterrent to illegal behaviour, as well as protecting the interests of those sporting managers who already operate to legal and sustainable standards. We commend those that do, and ask that this must now be the norm.

“We expect the Cabinet Secretary to respond positively to ECCLR Committee advice. But in particular, we also invite progressive elements of the gamebird shooting industry to fully endorse and play a full part in this approach, to help heal the unnecessary divisions between conservation and gamebird shooting, and to recognise the many opportunities that sustainable management of our uplands will bring for wildlife, important landscapes and rural employment.”


Well, that’s quite an olive branch from the conservationists. The question is, will the game shooting industry accept it? Given that the industry as a whole is still in complete denial about the scale of raptor persecution, and has argued that licensing would be an unnecessary and unwelcome ‘threat’, it’s hard to see from where the “forward looking representatives” and “progressive elements” of the industry will emerge.

There’s certainly been no sign of them so far, with the main organisations wanting to maintain the status quo (see here) and another one wanting to bring in ‘licensed raptor management methods’ (see here), whatever that is, although we can take an educated guess, and another one refusing to even attend PAW raptor crime meetings because they ‘don’t trust’ the conservationists (see here).

But emerge they must if they want their industry to survive in any sort of format. The Environment Committee was clear that doing nothing and carrying on as before is no longer an option. Time’s up, gents.

6 Responses to “Conservationists issue joint statement on game shoot licensing proposals”

  1. 1 Greer Hart, senior
    May 26, 2017 at 2:07 am

    Ar last some form of a rational approach has been made, and it should call the bluff of the shooting organisations and their minions. It has been a long-running battle to get this far, and it has been a frustrating time for those commendable people operating to save our Birds of Prey, the Mountain Hare along with other birds and mammals, which are being killed to remove any supposed threats to maintaining a high number of game birds. It has been like fighting a guerrilla war against a shameful, mendacious and dominating force that has mesmerised successive governments into believing that its actions are essential to supporting rural life, and to the economy in general. The growth of conservation of species and habitats, along with animal welfare organisations world wide, has thrown down a challenge to those who hunt for recreation, as their “sport” is making many species face extinction. The prime example of this is the Lion, which is now extinct in may African countries, and the various sub-species of Giraffe are teetering on survival. Trump and Sons, trophy shooters are fond of killing Elephants, and Zimbabwe is happy to provide the targets. Meanwhile, back in the USA all conservation groups are in uproar over Trump’s demands that all the National Parks and protected terrestrial and marine areas be opened up exploration for minerals and for hunting. Wolves, Bears, Cougars are being relentlessly hunted down from aircraft and inhumane traps and poisons destroy many. That is all in aid of increasing Deer numbers for shooters to kill. I would like to know how many of those who shoot hundreds of grouse on our moorlands, go and hunt in countries where there are no obstacles to animal slaughter for “sport”.

    How can Scotland and its politicians claim that we are advanced country, when we have such a cruel pastime as driven grouse shooting, and to support that, the killing of Birds of Prey etc., to maintain numbers of game birds? We rank alongside the maniacal killers of migrating birds in Malta, Italy, Spain and France, in suppressing diversity of bird life struggling hard to survive in a world of shrinking habitats.

    There are six major wildlife and plant protection societies operating in Scotland, and if given the resources that shooting estates get along with big landowners, they could considerably assist Scotland recover its natural environment, and install an education programme to deliver us a new generation that will be clear of any belief that blood sports are a healthy and ethical way of finding recreation.

  2. 2 Bimbling
    May 26, 2017 at 9:10 am

    Slightly off subject but relevant in terms of revocation of licenses should there be evidence of crimes – I wonder if the Chief Constable is considering revoking the shotgun certificate or any other firearms licenses held by the identified individual engaged in the commissioning of the crime of shooting a hen harrier or any licenses held by the person identified setting an illegal ‘pole’ trap.

    Normally, I believe, if a case goes to court and on conviction a sheriff doesn’t revoke a licence, then the Chief Constable doesn’t feel able because that would be trespassing into the role of the sheriff. As neither of these cases went to court, yet individuals have been identified, then it seems at least possible for the Chief Constable to consider revocation of licenses.

  3. 3 Simon Tucker
    May 26, 2017 at 10:18 am

    A briliant response from the conservation bodies: it certainly calls the bluff of the shootint industry. We will see how churlish their responses are. Tee hee.

  4. May 26, 2017 at 8:23 pm

    Forget the partnership.
    The licensing system will simply show driven grouse shooting for what it really is – unsustainable.
    If it works, the endless catalogue of raptor crime will be finally there for all to see rather than just obvious to those of us who work with raptors.
    The whole barrel is rotten, not just the odd apple.

    Keep up the pressure !

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