SGA Chairman wonders why gamekeepers aren’t respected

We always look forward to the publication of Scottish Gamekeeper, the quarterly rag for members of the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association. As you can imagine, it’s often stuffed full of bright intellectual commentary and an appreciation of birds with hooked beaks and sharp talons.

The latest edition landed on our doormat last week and as ever, its content didn’t disappoint. Looking at the cover, we were particularly keen to read Chairman Alex Hogg’s thoughts on ‘working people’ (he means gamekeepers) being fed up about being wrongly ‘tarred’.

As an aside, we were also intrigued to see the Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime (PAW) logo displayed on the banner. As some of you will recall, the SGA recently spat the dummy and announced they’d no longer attend PAW Raptor Group meetings. So apparently you can be a member of PAW, and pick and choose your own terms of engagement. Marvellous.

Anyway, back to Chairman Hogg’s musings on life. Here’s his column:

Apart from having to point out to Chairman Hogg (not known for his grasp of factual accuracy) that, contrary to his claim, the hen harrier is red-listed precisely because of ‘poor management actions by gamekeepers’ in Scotland (and of course in England), what really intrigued us was his confusion about why gamekeepers are so maligned.

It’s a tricky one alright. Maybe, perhaps, we’re not entirely sure, but might it have something to do with the fact that of all those convicted for offences related to raptor persecution in Scotland between 1994-2014, 86% of them were gamekeepers? (Source: RSPB 2014 annual review)

Or that of all poison abuse incidents reported in Scotland between 2005-2014, 81% of them took place on land managed for grouse and pheasant shooting? (Source: RSPB 2014 annual review)

Chairman Hogg also uses his column to whip up a spot of scaremongering (as was regurgitated by a gamekeeper’s wife in the Mail on Sunday last weekend) about the introduction of game shoot licensing claiming that “law abiding people will be at the mercy of the extreme fringe that want nothing other than grouse shooting stopped. For them, the removal of a few licences (and a few gamekeepers and their families) is a means to an end; a stepping stone“.

Why is licensing such a difficult concept to understand? If you break the terms of the licence, you get penalised. If you abide by the terms of the licence, you won’t get penalised. It’s really pretty simple. Perhaps by using the term ‘extreme fringe‘ Chairman Hogg is suggesting that gamekeepers will be ‘set up’ or framed. Has there ever been a case of this happening, where a gamekeeper has been wrongly convicted by the action of somebody else? We can’t think of one. Members of the ‘extreme fringe’, whoever they might be, have no need to ‘set up’ gamekeepers because gamekeepers keep on breaking the law all by themselves, time and time and time again.

To be fair, Chairman Hogg does have a point about all gamekeepers being tarred by the same brush. The reason this happens is because it’s virtually impossible for observers to distinguish between the law-abiding gamekeepers and the criminal gamekeepers. Even industry leaders don’t differentiate, so why should we? The criminals within the ranks are repeatedly shielded and protected by the game-shooting industry, until the point of conviction. Once they’re convicted, the leading organisations within the industry are put under strong public pressure to react, (e.g. a membership expulsion), but this is a fairly recent phenomenon and it doesn’t always happen (e.g. see here) and actually we’re still waiting for the SGA (and Scottish Land & Estates and Wildlife Estates Scotland) to comment on the membership status of convicted gamekeeper William (Billy) Dick who committed offences on the Newlands Estate in Dumfriesshire. We’ll come back to this case soon.

However, as everybody knows, convictions for raptor persecution are as rare as hens teeth (especially when the Crown Office refuses to accept what appears to be clear cut evidence of alleged crimes) and so the SGA and others within the industry spend their time concocting the most fantastical explanations for what might have happened to the crime victims (e.g. see here, here, here, here) instead of focusing on the blindingly obvious suspects. That isn’t going to earn Chairman Hogg et al any respect, and will simply engender the commonly-held view that many (not all) gamekeepers are nothing more than irredeemably archaic luddites.

Here are some top tips for earning back some respect:

  1. Stop killing raptors
  2. Er
  3. That’s it

27 Responses to “SGA Chairman wonders why gamekeepers aren’t respected”

  1. 1 kevind
    July 18, 2017 at 2:35 pm

    It doesnt exactly start well with the comment about helping come up with methods of counting mountain hares.
    In fairness I suspect most scientists wouldnt have come up with the solution of shooting them and then guessing how many bodies you can sling into the back of a pickup.
    The no lottery cash is a good one given the contributions the taxpayers make in terms of “farm” subsidies.
    I am also curious about the claims about “countless acts of damage and vandalism”.

  2. 4 chris lock
    July 18, 2017 at 2:39 pm

    Looks pretty straightforward stuff, and not hard to keep a liscence once issued, however if things go wrong then it can be revoked. That way eagles and harriers will be left alone.

  3. 5 Dave Dunford
    July 18, 2017 at 3:07 pm

    I also liked the implication that conservation workers are monied elites that spend all their time patting each other on the back at black-tie events. Unlike the shooting industry of course.

    “Tickets are priced at £85 per head for a three-course black-tie event with wine and champagne.
    Read more at http://www.shootinguk.co.uk/shooting/woodcock-club/annual-woodcock-club-dinner-announced-2017-86059#FA0QkJ5CIfxw2WQY.99

  4. 6 Stephen Brown
    July 18, 2017 at 3:10 pm

    How on earth can you at RPUK read this drivel and respond sensibly? Hats off to you. I couldn’t.

  5. 7 J .Coogan
    July 18, 2017 at 3:17 pm

    And here’s me thinking gamekeepers were a bunch of uneducated, unemployable nonentities , but who would have thought ,all those badges with big words to describe different ways of killing things and getting away with it. The only thing he missed out was his cycling proficiency badge and the one for diving for a brick . But then again he might not have them , they are slightly useful.

    • 8 js
      July 18, 2017 at 4:16 pm

      I’m sorry J.Coogan but swiping at someone’s perceived level of education is not helpful to this debate and offensive. I can’t think of a single positive outcome through going down this path.

      • 9 J .Coogan
        July 18, 2017 at 4:37 pm

        I feel suitably chastised js , and I can assure you it will never happen again (I lie ) Out of interest when did you get the sense of humour by pass?

        • 10 Iain Gibson
          July 20, 2017 at 6:59 pm

          It struck me that the most significant vocational education missing from the senior gamekeeper’s CV was training in wildlife and environmental law. They might claim that was included in WaNE training, but we can all imagine where the emphasis lay regarding that particular shooter’s charter.

  6. July 18, 2017 at 3:35 pm

    Be fair, he did get one thing right and that was that “People have had enough”. It’s just a tad unfortunate that he doesn’t seem to realise which people and why. What many of us can’t get our head around is why is it, if as constantly claimed, gamekeepers are the true conservationists who know so much about the wildlife that they so deeply care about so much so that they are out on the hill all the time whilst others sit in armchairs, they’re never the ones to find and report evidence of wildlife crime. If ignorant townie “extremists”, yomping hikers and those clueless RSPB types can do it, then why can’t the self-appointed “experts”? He might not have twigged the answer yet but the rest of us managed to do so years back.

    • 12 Marco McGinty
      July 18, 2017 at 4:19 pm

      Good points, John.

      We occasionally hear, or read, about gamekeepers “rescuing” raptors, and the shooting industry will ensure that the world knows about these “good deeds” or “kind acts”, but as you have mentioned, we never hear or read about gamekeepers finding poisoned raptors, illegal traps, poisoned baits, or poison stashes, and alerting the authorities.

      We also never hear, or read, about gamekeepers approaching the authorities because of the crimes carried out by other gamekeepers, or of any gamekeeper being witness against other gamekeepers.

  7. 19 lizzybusy
    July 18, 2017 at 5:53 pm

    Readers may remember this delightful character – Shaun Wilson – a former (and possibly, current member of the NGO.


    In 2014 Mr Wilson posted a vile neknomination stunt on the Facebook Neknomination forum. Wearing a T shirt with the slogan “If it flies, it dies!”, he repeatedly slashed a strung up deer’s neck before forcing his hand into the carcass to release more blood. He scooped up handfuls of the deer’s remains from the floor, dropped them in a glass and drank the bloody contents. He then urged other people to take up the challenge “before I turn into a vampire” and dared viewers to “Don’t be a b**ch, man the f*** up”. During a conversation with another individual he laughed “Alive and kicking, just waiting for the Louping-ill to set in!”. (Looping Ill is a neurological condition which causes uncoordinated movements and paralysis rather like a live strung up animal when it’s neck has been slashed during the slaughter process!). Looping ill leads to death and is caused by ticks feeding off warm blooded animals and birds and can effect grouse so is well known to gamekeepers. This is some of the media coverage his stunt generated.



    I attempted first of all to get the RSPCA to act but they said they couldn’t be sure the deer was alive as Mr Wilson collected blood from its throat and belly so it was a police matter. I then repeatedly, over a three month period, tried to get Durham Police to investigate Shaun Wilson under the Communications Act 2003 for a grossly offensive communication. The offence does not require a victim but simply the distribution of a grossly offensive communication to a public forum. I thought that fitted the bill especially since a petition was set up calling for his prosecution. Durham Police however needed lots and lots and lots of persuation. Unfortunately, the police eventually reported to me, amongst a whole load of excuses, that they never questioned Mr Wilson as he was believed to have moved to a different legislative jurisdiction (Scotland) by the time they contacted the Muggleswick Estate about the event. No one, not even the estate, knew where he was.

    Mr Wilson was later investigated by the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation, which condemned his “insensitive” actions but decided that “no crime took place nor were there any animal welfare implications” so he was not disciplined or thrown out of the organisation!

    Fortunately for Mr Wilson, it appears that he must have got a helpful reference from someone because in May last year he was convicted of a firearms offence whilst working as a gamekeeper on a Scottish shooting estate.


  8. July 18, 2017 at 6:31 pm

    I prefer this option:

    Here are some top tips for earning back some respect:

    Stop killing everything.
    That’s it

  9. 21 Mark Lund
    July 18, 2017 at 8:32 pm

    I cant see an end to grouse shooting in my lifetime; ‘they’ are already hoping to repeal the hunting laws…just wondered what the difference was. In my opinion, killing for food is one thing, but it is morally wrong, and my morals, to be fair, are loosish! to kill for fun.
    But, ending shooting may not happen, but the time may come to stop purely verbal and monetary recriminations when the evidence is there to prosecute raptor persecution, but cant get past the legal loophols and technicalities.
    Is there ‘military wing of the RPUK?!…only joking..ish.

    • 22 AlanTwo
      July 19, 2017 at 10:22 am

      I’m getting on a bit, so I suspect you’re right and I won’t see an end to grouse shooting in my lifetime. But, just occasionally, I have a moment of madness and think things might work out differently. There are a few things that give me just the faintest whiff of hope:
      1. All the evidence suggests that the great majority of people are opposed to foxhunting, and that number seems to be increasing rather than falling. I think I read that the government has now said it has no plans to try to repeal the hunting laws in this parliament.
      2. In this age of social media, things can change very quickly. If there is an underlying groundswell of public opinion, it might just need the right trigger or spark for it to explode into something that really can influence the course of events, especially if politicians are feeling insecure.
      3. I regularly come into contact with local pheasant shoots, and I’m struck by the age of most of the shooters – many are even older than me! It’s a bit different with foxhunting – there’s always a gaggle of young girls attracted by the riding and the ‘poshness’ of it all, but most are still pretty ancient. That’s why the blood sport organisations work so hard to get their propaganda into the colleges.
      I think the tide is running against those who kill for fun. As for me, I’m just trying to cut down on the booze and fags…

      • 23 Iain Gibson
        July 20, 2017 at 7:06 pm

        Maybe we could make more progress if Theresa May were to take up grouse shooting! She will be retiring soon so needs to take up a hobby.

  10. 24 Mick
    July 18, 2017 at 8:57 pm

    The bloke is a joke, would he respect a burglar who broke into his house? [Ed: Some] Gamekeepers are common criminals and should be treat the same way

  11. 25 Secret Squirrel
    July 19, 2017 at 12:14 am

    I read that list of qualifications. Traps, snares, poisons, burning. “Management” seems to mean killing everything that doesn’t fit into your view of what the countryside should be.

    • 26 AlanTwo
      July 19, 2017 at 11:34 am

      SS – exactly! Regarding J. Coogan’s comment above, I would never criticize anyone for their level of educational attainment – but I might have a go at them over their choice of subjects to study!

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