There’s nothing ‘draconian’ about licensing game shooting estates

There were a couple of articles published in the Scottish Mail on Sunday yesterday about the possibility (probability) of the introduction of game shoot licensing in Scotland.

The first article didn’t bring anything new to the story; it was just a re-hashed version of who’s said what since Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham announced a package of new measures to address the on-going problem of raptor persecution and unsustainable grouse moor management. Lord David Johnstone of Scottish Land & Estates talked about maintaining the status quo (i.e. no licensing scheme required), James Reynolds of RSPB Scotland talked about the necessity of introducing a licensing scheme because self-regulation by the grouse-shooting industry has failed, and an unnamed spokesman from the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association talked about how licensing could have serious consequences for gamekeepers and their families. The two journalists who wrote the article described the Government’s proposed review as ‘the latest blow to landowners following draconian land reforms and the abolition of tax breaks’.

What ‘draconian land reforms’ are those, then? And why should multi-millionaire landowners, whose grouse moors are already subsidised by the public purse, be entitled to tax breaks?

Here’s a copy of the article, and for those who struggle to read it, here’s a PDF version so you can zoom in and increase the font size: MailonSunday1_July162017

The second article was a commentary column written by Carrieanne Conaghan, a gamekeeper’s wife who coordinates the ‘Speyside Moorland Group’ – one of several regional moorland groups closely affiliated with the Gift of Grouse propaganda campaign.

The headline begins: ‘As Draconian new land laws loom…’ These words probably weren’t Carrieanne’s but nevertheless, it’s clear from her commentary that estate licensing isn’t welcomed by gamekeepers because, she says, “For the vast majority of estates who have done nothing wrong and are resolute in their fight against wildlife crime, they would be penalised by strict new controls“.

Unfortunately she doesn’t explain why or how she things law-abiding estates would be “penalised by strict new controls“. The fact of the matter is, they wouldn’t be penalised at all, as the penalities would only be felt by those who continue to illegally kill protected raptors. And quite rightly so. Law-abiding gamekeepers, and their employers, have absolutely nothing to fear from the introduction of a licensing scheme, and you’d think they’d be welcoming it with open arms because if anything, it’ll protect them from being lumped in with the criminals.

Here’s the article and here it is as a PDF: MailOnSunday2_July162017

Carrieanne also claims that, “More worryingly, it [licensing] also brings the potential of gamekeepers losing their homes and livelihoods if a licence to operate was withdrawn“. This is just emotional scaremongering, probably encouraged by the same tosh spouted by SGA Chairman Alex Hogg earlier this year (see here). The only reason gamekeepers would potentially lose their homes and livelihoods would be if they’d broken the conditions of the licence and the subsequent withdrawal of that licence. That principle applies to everybody else in society whose activities are licensed. It’s the risk you run if, for example, you’re a professional driver and you commit road traffic offences leading to the loss of your driving licence. Why should gamekeepers be exempt from regulation when everyone else’s lives are governed by such rules?

Carrieanne claims that the licensing proposal has been brought about by “activists who object to the very existence of grouse moors, whether their opposition is based on a dislike of shooting or the ‘toffs’ who they believe are the only ones who participate“. Actually, the proposal was brought about by ordinary members of the public who are sick to the back teeth of criminal gamekeepers and their employers getting away with the illegal slaughter of protected wildlife, particularly on driven grouse moors.

Carrieanne claims that raptor persecution is “in decline” and that “tough new legislation has had a positive effect“. She also thinks, because her gamekeeper husband told her, that gamekeepers “desire to manage moorland for the interests of all species, whether it be grouse, ground-nesting birds, mountain hares or birds of prey“. Good grief.

She must have missed the Golden Eagle Satellite Tag Review, the findings of which were the final straw for Roseanna Cunningham and which led directly to the current proposition of a licensing scheme. She must also have missed the news that the hen harrier population continues to spiral downwards, thanks in large part to illegal persecution, and the news that peregrine populations continue to decline in areas dominated by driven grouse moors, and the news that the northern red kite population continues to suffer from the impact of illegal persecution on driven grouse moors, and the news that five prosecutions for alleged wildlife crime (all involving gamekeepers or their employers) have all been dropped in recent months, and the news that raptors continue to be illegally shot, even in recent weeks (see here, here) or illegally trapped (see here) on grouse moors up and down the country.

Did anyone see any gamekeepers or any moorland groups condemning these incidents? Where was their uproar? Where was their outrage? How many gamekeepers or members of moorland groups have provided information/intelligence to the police about any of these recent crimes? We’ll take an educated guess – none of them.

Carrieanne is right to be concerned about her family’s livelihood, but it’s not at risk from a licensing scheme, which is neither draconian or unnecessary; it’s actually a long overdue and pretty measured response to decades of criminality and unsustainable practices. Carrieanne’s livelihood is only at risk from those criminal gamekeepers and their employers who refuse to reform and continue to stick up two fingers to the law.

UPDATE 25 July 2017: SRSG response letter here

31 Responses to “There’s nothing ‘draconian’ about licensing game shooting estates”

  1. 1 jason fisher
    July 17, 2017 at 12:45 pm

    to construe licensing as penalising the industry is simply to admit that the industry performs widespread and systematic illegal persecution. thus introducing licensing will penalise them for their actions. it’s atacit admission that the law abiding estates are a vanishingly small proportion of the whole.

  2. July 17, 2017 at 12:50 pm

    It sickens me to death that my taxes are subsidising these bastards’ grouse moors – I mean, wtf!!

  3. July 17, 2017 at 12:53 pm

    So in short, a clear admission of guilt.

  4. 4 Simon Tucker
    July 17, 2017 at 12:59 pm

    What can you say? It was printed in the Mail on Sunday: that bastion of forelock tugging. I wonder how many hectares of driven grouse shoot Lord Rothermere owns? Conflict of interest?

    The day the SGA, the Moorland Association, the Gift of Grouse, and all the other front-organisations for the right to slaughter wild birds, pre-emptively reacts with outrage to the destruction of a bird of prey I might listen to them. Until then they remain a major part of the problem.

  5. 6 Mark Lund
    July 17, 2017 at 12:59 pm

    If ownership of estates, land, is abused, then ways have to be sought to not only punish, but police, the owners and their employers. These acts are illegal, end of story.
    Acid, a fantastic product I am sure, is in the news for all the wrong reasons, and these sick few abusing the free sale of a dangerous substance have hopefully caused the call for ‘licensing’, laws, conditions of sale etc, because of the acts committed by a few.
    Either have the integrity to police you’re own estates, disalow raptor persecution, which is supposed to be illegal though it may seem a grey area wit the recent lax prosecutions cases, or expect the rest of the country to demand changes.
    Dont go down the ‘ you dont understand the countryside’ crap we have all been inundated with since the timely hunting laws came in.

  6. July 17, 2017 at 1:04 pm

    Has a rebuttal article been considered being sent to the Mail on Sunday?

    • 8 Logan Steele
      July 17, 2017 at 1:28 pm

      I have already written and asked for the opportunity to provide a comment piece from SRSG.

      • 9 Mike Hadem
        July 17, 2017 at 5:29 pm

        Ear good luck with that….

        • July 17, 2017 at 8:18 pm

          Can you post a comment letting us know how you get on? I’m happy to write to MonS and also make my MP & MSP know of their bias i they refuse too publish. I also write pieces for my local enewspaper and am happy to draft a piece on the subject.

  7. 11 Ron55
    July 17, 2017 at 1:06 pm

    Some of these people really are on a different planet, aren’t they?!

  8. 12 Doug Malpus
    July 17, 2017 at 1:33 pm

    Like so many law breakers, they don’t like the penalties for doing it. We have speeding vehicle drivers that call it a TAX but never admit they were doing wrong.

    “More worryingly, it [licensing] also brings the potential of gamekeepers losing their homes and livelihoods if a licence to operate was withdrawn“ As I have stated don’t do wrong and keep the licence, your job and home!!!!

    Thick lot, that have no comprehension of the wrong they do.


    • 13 Tony Warburton MBE
      July 17, 2017 at 2:10 pm

      Great reporting as usual RPUK. Thank you. Poor Carrieanne. If her husband tells her the world is flat she will probably fall off the edge! And am I missing something? Could she tell us awful ‘activists’ exactly which ‘tough new legislation’ has had a positive effect’ and how? But come on folks, just think how happy the Mountain Hares and Hen Harriers will be to learn that “gamekeepers desire to manage moorland for the interests of ALL species”. Hallelujah, we can all stop worrying! And correct me if I am wrong, but aren’t all pubs licensed? However, I can’t recall seeing or reading about a mass exodus of poor families of publicans sleeping rough because they have been kicked out because one of their staff has served an under aged drinker or served drinks after time. Perhaps I lead too sheltered a life not to see this though! Whoops, there goes another pig flying across the moon! They seem to be increasing!

      • 14 J .Coogan
        July 17, 2017 at 3:13 pm

        Good one Tony, surely we can get a counter article in one of the respectable papers . I take my hat off to you Logan trying to balance the argument, even they did accept your article it would be edited to buggery. One consolation the idiots who read this rag are a lost cause anyway.

        • 15 Logan Steele
          July 19, 2017 at 10:59 pm

          The right to reply has been refused but they have offered a 150 word letter instead, a pretty second rate alternative.

  9. 16 Louise
    July 17, 2017 at 2:29 pm

    They must be properly rattled to be resorting to sob-stories in which Concerned Wives invite compassion for Innocent Families, while vilifying other concerned members of the public, ignoring evidence of bad practice, and providing no evidence of anything remotely resembling a genuine industry desire to comply with the law.

    (I do feel sympathy for Carrieanne — if her family is entirely dependent on an industry that requires its employees to commit and conceal illegal acts on a regular basis, indeed to such an extent that she feels obliged to defend said industry in manipulative opinion pieces, well, that is a truly shitty position for someone to be in).

    • 17 Gerard
      July 17, 2017 at 5:48 pm

      But there is loads of anecdotal evidence of good practice on moorlands. I have heard of many moors where the sky is golden with plovers and the music of singing lapwings is so enchanting, even the most callous man is brought to tears. Incidentally I have seen with my own eyes, when the flocks of golden plover land, that the rosy hues of “ecotopia” fill the heavens. If we follow the example of these well managed moors then they can surely lead us to rich and diverse habitats where there is food for the raptor, the stoat and all of mankind.

  10. 18 Michael Watts
    July 17, 2017 at 2:43 pm

    If we ever get to the point where raptor persecution is a thing of the past, I believe it will be down to RPUK and their continuing campaign who will deserve the most accolades; I sincerely thank you for what you have achieved in bringing this cursed matter to the public eye.

    • July 17, 2017 at 3:33 pm

      Thanks Michael (and Steve, below) that’s kind, but not quite accurate. There are a LOT of people who have been working hard on this issue for a long time, some prominently but many others behind the scenes. We do our bit, but we’re part of a much wider community. Thanks for your support though, it’s much appreciated.

    • July 17, 2017 at 7:06 pm

      Well said, Michael. I don’t know how RPUK keep their cool reporting this issue so diligently and accurately… I’m just wondering if there’ll be any predators left in this country by the time the govt gets its finger out of its xxxx.

  11. 21 steve
    July 17, 2017 at 3:16 pm

    I entirely endorse Michael Watt’s comment. There is not a better informed or effective website for animal protection imo, and I read lots of them.
    I believe that RPUK will have almost single handedly brought this rotten abusive industry to heel when the day arrives, as surely it will.
    As for gamekeepers losing their jobs, couldn’t happen quick enough for me as these utterly useless people wreak havoc in the interests of commercial shoots..Alongside so called terrier men, they cast the the darkest shadow on our countryside.

  12. 22 chris lock
    July 17, 2017 at 3:48 pm

    This should have been done years ago, then as soon as an eagle is downed on the estate, permit revoked.

  13. 23 AnMac
    July 17, 2017 at 6:02 pm

    The gamekeeping fraternity have to make you laugh.
    They are crying wolf because they have been found out and it is to your perseverance over the past few years that have brought about the present predicament they find themselves in.

    The landown and all the people they employ think that the natural world belongs to them and they can do whatever they like to follow their chosen lifestyle.

    The noose is forever tightning around their necks and lifestyle and they only have themselves to blame. As has already been mentioned if they pursued a life free of criminality then they would have nothing to worry about.

  14. 24 Phil
    July 17, 2017 at 6:04 pm

    I have to agree with both Steve and Michael, this is one blog I can recommend to anyone, and BTL is pretty amazing too, so a big thank you to all!

  15. July 17, 2017 at 7:41 pm

    It is Ground Hog Day again.
    This is from the Telegraph in 2007
    and this is Mike Rusell’s response which would get smashed to bits if written today
    Any thoughts on Mike Russell when he was the Minister for Environment? It was before RPS so not much on him published on this blog. He is my SMP and is getting involved in the issue of Neo-nicitinoides use in community forests on Mull.

  16. 28 lizzybusy
    July 17, 2017 at 7:47 pm

    “Tough new legislation has had a positive effect“. Err – which legislation is that? Better tell the RSPB, RSPCA, Badger Protection Groups, Hedgehog Preservation Society, League Against Cruel Sports, One Kind, National Anti Snares Campaign, Animal Aid and other groups which seem to think the wildlife legislation is inadequate!

  17. July 18, 2017 at 9:03 pm

    None of us believe these estates as they have gotten away with raptor persecution for years. If the government can bring new laws to curb all this then well and good, but I will be amazed if this ever happens.

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