GWCT twisting the truth about hen harrier persecution, again

A few days ago we blogged about a series of letters published in The Times (Scotland) relating to the disappearance of a young satellite-tagged hen harrier Calluna, who recently vanished after visiting a Deeside grouse moor.

Scottish Land & Estates used the incident as an opportunity to falsely accuse the RSPB of not following agreed protocols, presumably in a pathetic attempt to detract attention from the ongoing criminality associated with the driven grouse shooting industry. We’ve come to expect no better from this organisation.

As a follow on from those letters, another industry figure, Andrew Gilruth from the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), decided to join in and spew out some more fakery, this time in The Times (London edition). Here’s what he wrote, published 7 Sept 2017:



The RSPB are right to say an organisation must not “ignore facts to suit its narrow agenda” (letter, Sep 5). The most productive location for hen harrier nests, 47 fledged young from 12 nests, was achieved by gamekeepers on Langholm Moor just three years ago. However, their improvement of the moorland habitat and protection of these ground nesting birds from foxes has now ended, because conservationists could not agree on how to also recover grouse numbers. Should hen harrier numbers drop to the two pairs there were before these gamekeepers arrived in 2008, the birds might ask who has the narrowest agenda.

Andrew Gilruth
Director of Communications
Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust

You’ll notice how Andrew’s distraction technique has cleverly moved the story away from the news of Calluna’s suspicious disappearance from a grouse moor and has instead tried to re-focus the story on to how great grouse moors are for hen harriers. Unfortunately for Andrew, choosing the Langholm Moor study as an example to support this theory was not the brightest idea.

Here’s why, succinctly explained in a letter published in The Times (London) today:



Andrew Gilruth’s letter (September 7) brings to mind Kipling’s poem ‘If’ for the manner in which it twists the truth to make a trap for fools.

The single and only reason Langholm Moor supported 12 harrier nests that fledged 47 young was that the gamekeepers working on this collaborative demonstration project were under strict instructions not to kill them and operate within the law. It is very telling that no other driven grouse moors in Scotland (or the rest of the UK) can equal this hen harrier population or productivity. What this statistic actually suggests, therefore, is the rampant scale of illegal killing of this majestic bird, given its landscape-wide absence and the lack of breeding success on all other driven grouse moors and which our members, (who are licenced by Scottish Natural Heritage), monitor across Scotland every year.

Logan Steele

Scottish Raptor Study Group (SRSG)

Logan hits the nail on the head. If driven grouse moors are so great for breeding hen harriers, why are we seeing an almost total absence of breeding hen harriers on these moors, year after year after year? Of course, the disgusting truth is already well known.

Andrew Gilruth’s letter has been widely shared on social media by the criminal apologists and has been followed up with other examples of supposedly typical driven grouse moors that have good hen harrier breeding figures this year. Unfortunately, these people are as scientifically illiterate as Andrew Gilruth and have used wholly inappropriate examples to illustrate their (fake) claims, e.g. Leadhills Estate, which had nine hen harrier nests this year, but this estate hasn’t seen any driven grouse shooting for a number of years (see here). There are other claims of “an estate in Perthshire” with 12-15 hen harrier nests this year – the estate hasn’t been named (natch) but they might be referring to Atholl Estate, which these days is a pretty good estate with a sympathetic management approach to breeding raptors, but only offers walked-up grouse shooting, not driven grouse shooting, so any successfull hen harrier nests there this year cannot be attributed to driven grouse moor management. Sorry, trolls, you must try harder.

Anyway, getting back to the actual news, that hen harrier Calluna is the latest in a long, long, long, long line of satellite-tagged raptors that ‘disappear’ after visiting certain driven grouse moors, it’s been a week since the RSPB appealed for information.

We’ve been looking at the social media accounts of various shooting industry organisations to see how much effort these ‘leaders’ have put in to encouraging their members to pass on information to the police. You can probably guess what we found (or didn’t find). That tells its own story about the sincerity and commitment of the industry to rid itself of its dirty criminals. Mark Avery has a pretty good explanation about the industry’s refusal to reform (see here) and Andrew Gilruth’s chronic propaganda patter gives Mark’s theory much credence.


17 Responses to “GWCT twisting the truth about hen harrier persecution, again”

  1. 1 Willie S.
    September 8, 2017 at 1:18 pm

    This is the first time I’ve had the opportunity of seeing the Andrew Gilruth letter in the times. His argument surely defies logic. I don’t know how the HH numbers have fared in the following two years. Are we to understand that the HH numbers increased due to the control of foxes and other predators alone? Is the numbers information available for the subsequent two years for HHs. Are we to understand that foxes and other predators weren’t controlled at all in these years and how did that affect grouse numbers in comparison to the HH’s successful year. Was grouse management, apart from the predator control, suspended at any time in the few years. Is there any accessible information on this Langholm Moor “study”

  2. 2 Gerard
    September 8, 2017 at 1:59 pm

    I read the letter yesterday and thought that the point it was making, contained either flawed logic, or Gilruth wanted to highlight the absence of hen harriers on all other driven grouse moors (which I presume have ample fox control).

    Most peculiar.

    • 3 Willie S.
      September 8, 2017 at 2:48 pm

      Yes, the point can clearly be argued that when comparison is made with other grouse moors where managers report high numbers of grouse and where predator control is a constant – there are few or no Hen Harriers. High numbers of grouse seem only to be achievable with predator control. But where there are high numbers of grouse you have very few or no Hen Harriers. What other factor could be influencing HH numbers – it’s not as if they are being taken by foxes.

  3. September 8, 2017 at 3:04 pm

    ‘the gamekeepers working on this collaborative demonstration project were under strict instructions not to kill them and operate within the law’
    Brilliant, Logan Steele!

  4. 5 Richard
    September 8, 2017 at 3:04 pm

    I too submitted a letter to the Times, but am not sure it got published. For what it is worth, here it is:


    Andrew Gilruth (letter Sep 7) suggests it is difficult to recover grouse numbers and hen harrier numbers together. His own organisation’s study (published in BioOne, 2016, Fig 3) shows that grouse densities and hen harrier densities were both at their highest in 2014. Furthermore, based on the Langholm study’s website it seems appropriate to point out that during the relevant period, grouse numbers between 2009 and 2016 met or exceeded the threshold of 60 birds/ km2 necessary to maintain Driven Grouse Shooting as a commercially viable industry (source: British Association for Shooting and Conservation). It would seem that Mr Gilruth’s point about ignoring facts was unfortunately based on ignoring facts.

    Yours faithfully,


  5. 8 Andy Paton
    September 8, 2017 at 3:12 pm

    more Game than wildlife @gameandwildlife -reality across the country is there is ongoing persecution and loss of native wildlife linked to game shooting, in particular Driven Grouse Shoots

  6. September 8, 2017 at 4:12 pm

    Unfortunately, this sort of utter tosh is meat and drink to ill informed, but sadly influential, commentators like Toby Young whose recent article in the Spectator has such a distant and tenuous link with reality that it’s hard not to assume it’s a spoof. It’s so bad and full of errors that it’s unintentionally hilarious. See https://www.spectator.co.uk/2017/09/my-12-year-old-is-hooked-on-shooting-and-i-want-all-four-kids-to-learn/

  7. 10 chris lock
    September 8, 2017 at 4:24 pm

    Watch these ‘Jock’s’

  8. 11 Flash
    September 8, 2017 at 4:53 pm

    Ah, the good old Game Conservancy. They added the word “trust” to try to make people think they are trustworthy. Years later they added the word “wildlife” to pretend they’re interested in wildlife. All they’re really interested in is supporting themselves by supporting the shooting industry through dubious “research” aimed at persuading the rest of us that the killers aren’t as damaging as we all know they are. It’s the subscriptions from the shooting estates that pay their wages, after all.

  9. 12 Dave Dick
    September 8, 2017 at 6:29 pm

    Superb letter Logan….an open goal, straight in the back of the net!

  10. 13 Frankie
    September 8, 2017 at 9:31 pm

    Well done Logan and Richard.

    I’ve been following this site for some time now and have noticed just how desperate the statements from the pro crime side have become.

    Well done RPUK and thank you.

  11. 14 Iain Gibson
    September 8, 2017 at 11:13 pm

    Having entered the lions’ den recently, I’ve become aware that gamekeepers and grouse shooters hold an entirely bizarre angle on the missing hen harriers. They tell each other frequently, and the groupthink phenomenon reinforces their belief, that the only reason harriers are “allegedly” absent from working grouse moors is because the “birdy types” (that’s us) are totally incompetent surveyors and unable to locate them. Apparently the ‘keepers “know where they are,” but keep the information confidential to prevent us birdy types from causing breeding failure by disturbing the harriers at their nests. And some of us even like to pick up the chicks and cuddle them. Anyone who’s handled harrier chicks for ringing/tagging knows that they don’t make the most affectionate of pets. So there’s no truth in the scurrilous rumors that gamekeepers persecute hen harriers; they’re actually protecting them from pesky birdspotters! There appear to be rather many MPs (mainly Tories, it has to be said) who fall for this dishonest propaganda, and the rest.

  12. 15 carol
    September 9, 2017 at 6:43 am

    Thanks again to all at RP for tremendous job you do so diligently and courageously
    The above replies to Gilruth and Johnstone are excellent.
    Am puzzling though about reference to results being related to the gamekeepers on Langholm Moor being told not to kill the HH and operate within the law. I was travelling over Langholm Moor in the summer of 2016 and stopped to talk to the only other person I saw in the 8 or 9 mile journey, a local on his bike. I remarked I had not seen a single bird on my journey over the moor( of any kind) and he expressed his anger at the absolute desolation, yet the EU money that had been put into wire fencing. he definitely told me there was no grouse shooting that year and number of gamekeepers employed had just been dramatically reduced

    Very much is made of by GWCT etc re the claimed economic benefits of grouse shooting. Interesting to note that a local writer (adjoining LangholmMoor)in the early 1900’s , lamenting the refusal given to local villagers to their being able obtain extra croft or garden land to try to escape poverty at the time wrote ‘ We are here on the border of the grouse domain, which extends for miles and miles in all directions . The slaughter of birds that now takes place in the season as the result of the battue method is something prodigious’ His long listings of the birds he used to enjoy locally indicate he does not use the word with the meaning of being impressed.
    Balance this with no specific mention in his listings of local occupations at the time to employment on the grouse moors, but he repeatedly mentions that nobody in the village could recall any benefit coming to the village adjoining LangholmMoor from the moors owner for as long as anyone in the village could remember

    • September 9, 2017 at 4:55 pm

      ”Am puzzling though about reference to results being related to the gamekeepers on Langholm Moor being told not to kill the HH and operate within the law’
      What is puzzling you? This was the basis of the Langholm experiment.

  13. 17 carol
    September 9, 2017 at 6:50 am

    Realise that was last century, but point being made anger at activities on Langholm Moor go back a long way

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