Wise words from Glen Tanar Estate

There are a number of estates whose names crop up with depressing regularity on this blog, usually for all the wrong reasons.

Glen Tanar Estate isn’t one of them.

We have written about this estate over the years (e.g. here, here, here), as have others (e.g. here, here, here) but we’ve only ever had good things to say about its welcome approach to raptor conservation. Today’s blog follows that trend.

Glen Tanar sits on the eastern side of the Cairngorms National Park, an area that includes many intensively managed grouse moors and consequently is an area that continues to be plagued by illegal raptor persecution. This regional notoriety makes Glen Tanar’s positive attitude towards birds of prey even more remarkable.

[Estate boundary sourced from Andy Wightman’s Who Owns Scotland website]

Now, have a read of this blog recently written by Glen Tanar’s Wildlife Manager, Colin McClean, where he describes the grouse moor management at Glen Tanar. Colin’s approach should be a benchmark, not only for the other grouse-shooting estates within the Cairngorms National Park but for the entire UK grouse shooting industry.

We were particularly taken with his final paragraph:

Big bags are not essential and most of our guests are happy to spend a day chatting to friends in beautiful surroundings while watching the dogs tirelessly work. Perhaps only 10-20 birds will be shot. But amidst the chat and the income, the debate surrounding grouse shooting rages on. Jobs and economy on one side, raptor persecution on the other. Political scrutiny is now intense. For me there is little political threat to grouse shooting provided the sector obeys the law of the land. There are far too many jobs involved for politicians to take action lightly. However obeying the law is a must and this remains a challenge for some. The recent review of satellite tagging of golden eagles shows an unambiguous pattern of regular disappearances above grouse moors when they rarely disappear over anywhere else. For me its not the RSPB or campaigners like Chris Packham or Mark Avery who threaten grouse shooting. They are just campaigning for the law to be obeyed. The threat to grouse shooting comes from those who refuse to abide by the law and continue to persecute raptors. If a ban ever does come about, then the responsibility for losing all the traditions, all the economy and all the jobs will lie entirely at their door“.

45 Responses to “Wise words from Glen Tanar Estate”

  1. 1 Nigel
    October 20, 2017 at 7:47 am

    It’s good to know we have at least one enlightened Grouse Moor management team out there.

  2. 2 Tony Dickinson
    October 20, 2017 at 7:48 am

    A very sensible and welcome view that hopefully will be recognised and followed more widely.

  3. October 20, 2017 at 8:05 am

    It is welcome, of course but shooting wild creatures for fun, for “sport” is still something that should be consigned to history as something we did in less enlightened times.

    • 4 J .Coogan
      October 20, 2017 at 10:30 am

      Exactly Andy , lets not get too carried away . We have them on the run and we are in this for the long term , one estate manager stating the patently bloody obvious changes very little. Their mindset here is still kill ,burn ,drain ,bulldoze ,set disgusting traps,cover the land in medicated grit , keep the landscape as a blasted wasteland and their attitude to wild creatures is still deplorable.Personally I wont be happy until I see the back of them and their out dated practices totally and for ever.

    • 5 Winston Roberts
      October 20, 2017 at 3:07 pm

      What if the birds are also eaten after being shot?

  4. October 20, 2017 at 8:16 am

    I would agree that we should not be condemning grouse shooting if owners and managers behave legally, but it is very difficult to turn the evidence of illegal persecution, such as the loss of signals from radio-tagged birds and poisoned carcasses, into prosecutions. If there is still evidence of persecution, regardless whether there is enough proof to take legal action, then the danger is that those like me will continue to call for a ban on driven grouse shooting. I hope Colin McClean will continue to campaign for his fellow grouse moor managers and owners to behave legally.

  5. 9 Mairi L
    October 20, 2017 at 8:19 am

    Cheered me up to read about this estate! Also relieved that, as an embroiderer, I use the Coats brand regularly, and don’t now have to change!!

  6. 10 Steve Harris
    October 20, 2017 at 9:04 am

    How refreshing to read such sensible and reasonable views. I hope Colin’s blog will be promoted far and wide in the (vain?) hope that others may see the light.

    • 11 crypticmirror
      October 20, 2017 at 12:27 pm

      Tag in the @guardian if discussing it on twitter and hashtag it for #Autumnwatch, #Countryfile, and even #gardenersworld. That is the best way to get it out there.

    • October 21, 2017 at 2:18 pm

      I suppose we have to consider, as well, that with this totally sensible and very welcome approach from Glen Tanar’s Colin McClean, the resulting good, and birds attracted as a result are clearly at risk from others who don’t operate in the same way. It may well be an oasis in the desert, but successful breeding outcomes here, have, in their first year, to run the gauntlet of estates in different ownership.

  7. 13 Alex. Milne
    October 20, 2017 at 9:04 am

    I just hope that some more of the grouse moor owners who read this realise that following this example is the way forward and make the necessary changes by themselves.

  8. 14 Gerard
    October 20, 2017 at 9:18 am

    This is a nice illustration of an idea worth writing about, within a normal distribution of ideas worth writing about. If only this were the mean and/or there wasn’t some abhorrent skew on the data. It would be a shame for self destructive, slash and burn DGS if it were seen that one apple were tainting the rotten barrel.

  9. 15 Robert Grant
    October 20, 2017 at 10:06 am

    An enlightened approach from a very visitor-focused estate. Hopefully some may take heed. Maybe…

  10. October 20, 2017 at 10:25 am

    This is what it looks like to those of us who aren’t wearing blinkers, all it should take is a few estates to stand up and be counted and we might see some real progress. It’s a real shame that we aren’t seeing more estates doing this, we might then start to see the recovery of raptor breeding populations as you would expect as a result of such attitudes were they to become more widespread.

  11. 17 Doug Malpus
    October 20, 2017 at 10:33 am

    Encouraging words from Glen Tanar’s Wildlife Manager, Colin McClean. If only the criminals would obey the laws?

    An amazing attitude that is a good demonstration of common sense.


  12. 18 Tony Warburton MBE
    October 20, 2017 at 10:46 am

    Fantastic. What a breath of fresh air at last. I propose Colin McClean as our next king! What a pity his compatriots can’t read!

  13. 19 SOG
    October 20, 2017 at 11:07 am

    I shall put them on my Places-to-go list. I hope others will do so too.

  14. 20 Les Wallace
    October 20, 2017 at 11:30 am

    Very refreshing and what a relief that not all in the sector are rabid raptor haters with the mentality of spoilt and selfish 12 year olds. However, the one point that I would take issue with is ‘There are far too many jobs involved for politicians to take action lightly’. Are there really? The one thing that’s keeping DGS afloat is the argument that its loss would mean the further and catastrophic decline in the rural economy – families would lose their homes etc. I know quite a few people who detest what’s happening on our moors, but that very point prevents them from taking ANY action against DGS, even signing petitions. It’s a perfectly understandable and worthy emotional reaction, but is it backed by facts? The pro DGS reports I’ve seen have all been commissioned by the DGS sector were on the thin side and have been thoroughly dissected and disproved by the League Against Cruel Sports in particular. Given that there are many other countries outside of the UK where they could have DGS, but not one does and their rural economies often seem to be in a healthier state than ours then this is really a counter productive and dangerous argument – it’s probably not true.

    The reality is that DGS is almost certainly driving away more jobs than it brings in, trees and even scrub are an anathema to many grouse moor managers so any form of forestry is out – everything from bog standard commercial forestry (which just gets inflicted somewhere else – so we end up with species poor forestry AND grouse moors – not a plus point), to eco restoration and tree planting to reduce flooding and improve water quality (good for fishing) and woodlots for rural fuel where mains gas doesn’t exist and the alternatives are bloody expensive. Then there’s fully fledged eco tourism. Anybody impressed by that feature on Countryfile last year where they did a wildlife safari on a grouse moor? Me neither. Pretty bleak wasn’t it and from the descriptions I’ve read of safaris on some estates I suspect that a lot of them actually use the corners of the estate that aren’t grouse moor to get the species count up – the same stunt they pulled with the ’81 and Counting’ report. The intensive ‘management’ grouse moors undergo by their owners’ admission and their very extensive nature mean that everything else is compromised – even walking, I’ve never enjoyed walking over grouse moors and friends report they’re getting worse.

    In that recent debate with Adam Smith of the GWCT Duncan Orr-Ewing of the RSPB made the point that their reserve at Abernethy has actually increased employment, and that diversification was what was already happening on some estates and was the answer to taking the rural economy forward. Neither Smith nor the Pace brothers had anything to say about that, they could hardly contradict it, but there is the death knell for DGS. I keep banging on about this, because I think it’s really worth banging on about – as Duncan showed they have no answer.

    • 21 Leiston Labour
      October 20, 2017 at 12:37 pm

      There are approximately 2,000 or less grouse shooters in the UK, but well over 1 million bird watchers, many of whom would love the chance of having a gillie to help them find the sightings they crave.

      Much of Africa has changed from hunting to wildlife tourism and created more jobs as a result.

    • 22 jason fisher
      October 21, 2017 at 12:23 am

      in terms of total GDP it’s a blip in the ocean, the total of agriculture fisheries and forestry is around 2.5% of GDP, the whole of the grouse shooting contribution is a tiny proportion of that 2.5%, it also benefits from public subsidy, which would be factored into that contribution which is always a novelty in any claim of public benefit

  15. 23 Greer Hart, senior
    October 20, 2017 at 11:36 am

    What we who abhor the illegal killing of Birds of Prey, and collaterally, the killing of Mountain Hares and other creatures, is that shooting estates where such practices occur, do not realise that there is a strong public opinion, and growing, against such abuses of wild creatures. Our politicians will have to appreciate, that an industry such as this, cannot be condoned through its contribution to the national economy, without some modification of its centuries old hold, on what lives and dies on the Scottish landscape. We are now being made very much aware, regarding the death statistics of those who have died from pollution, that our means of energy supply to industry and our domestic needs, will have to be moved faster into removing coal, oil, wood etc., and into wind and solar, and whatever else does not involve the release of carbon. Are we going to do a Trump, and deny climate change and ignore premature death by backing coal to be used in industry and elsewhere, just to sustain USA’s destruction to the environment and lungs, coal industry? China and India are in the same position, but China is moving fast to distance itself from coal. Russia has become the world’s biggest supplier of timber from its Siberian forests, and in doing so, threatens the environment there and many species of wildlife. Laboratory testing using animals, has given rise to outcries from the Anti-vivisection movement, and even from prominent members of the medical profession. Where were the estate owners and their clients, when the miners and shipyard workers were facing extinction? I could on and on, but the point being made is, that everyone has to adapt to circumstances, and the circumstances are that now, we have a less touch-the-forelock population, and one that detests anything smacking of privilege, and non-conformist with a more humane and ethical way of treating other forms of life. Are we to stand by and see the Earth’s forests cleared; the oceans polluted with plastic waste and chemicals; the atmosphere made lethal; wildlife species made extinct through habitat destruction, poaching and trophy shooting; our food contaminated with pesticides and herbicides; population growth threatening future wars for land, food and water; atomic radiation from power stations affecting human and animal genetics; and many more threats to humanity and the rest of Life on this planet? If those shooting estates, defying the law to not toe the line, then they will be only asking for severe restrictions being put on them. All activities involving abuse to other forms of life, is no longer acceptable in a modern Scotland and the rest of the UK. Any political party biased towards such activities must surely be held in contempt.

  16. 25 Andy
    October 20, 2017 at 11:48 am

    Well said. Applause breaks out.

  17. 26 Tim Knapp
    October 20, 2017 at 4:14 pm

    Very wise words. It’s so refreshing to read someone on the other side of the fence to the anti-shooting lobbyists putting a pragmatic view. Thank you.

  18. 27 June Atkinson
    October 20, 2017 at 6:14 pm

    As a former Publicity Officer of the UK North East Friends of Red Kites, I joined in the Rally in Inverness, in order to campaign against the killing of Birds of Prey. Scotland has now “vicarious liability”, the UK as yet, has not, so Scotland must show the way and use the law to protect the birds. Education attempts to contradict ignorance but in my ten years here in the north-east UK, we saw frequent red kite deaths from shooting or poisoning. A Black Isle Kite spent several weeks with our Kites on Muggleswick Moor, only to be found dead. One of our Kites flew the 700 miles to the Black Isle, only to be found dead! When will people learn? When will those who purport to be men of the earth and countryside take on the responsibility of managing grouse estates without slaughtering birds of prey, which are carrion eaters and scavengers?

  19. 28 Chris Dobson
    October 20, 2017 at 8:41 pm

    In a sense, I’m the point,& others like me. While I’m wouldn’t hunt myself, I’d be much less motivated if it wasn’t a carnage factory. Shooting a couple (for the pot?) isn’t the same as intensive rearing for mass slaughter.

  20. 29 Emma Philips
    October 20, 2017 at 9:32 pm

    I wonder what Botham and all the other wildlife crime deniers feel about this.


  21. October 21, 2017 at 8:23 am

    Wise words indeed… so wise that they have moved the SGA’s chief unofficial spokesman Bert…to post the following on facebook….

    “Incidents of these crimes have greatly diminished and long may that downward trend continue but every new case simply brings out a rash of reporting on old cases, painting a grim picture of the past which is related instantly to today.
    Wildlife crime must stop, sensible, workable licensing is the only way forward.”

    Looks like a dose of common sense , added to the wealth of actual evidence has final provoked some movement.

    This could be progress!

  22. 36 Emma Philips
    October 21, 2017 at 5:02 pm

    Unfortunately Bert and the other tweed clad hill apes live in a world of folk law, stories past down by word of mouth where science doesn’t exist or matter.

    The only figures that matter or grouse and pheasant bags, vermin killed including ‘various avain’!

    A world where if a bee stings a wasp it becomes a dragon fly……….he knows this because his granny told him so.


  23. October 21, 2017 at 10:42 pm

    I’m assuming that the Glen Tanar experience is walked up shooting ?
    Your average driven grouse shooting punter has neither the wish nor [very often ] the physical fitness level to do this.
    The ever – growing expectation of huge bags is the general interest of the DGS clients.
    The views at Glen Tanar are indeed laudable but the client pool is very limited & will not alter the demand for the unsustainable criminal – based variety of driven grouse shooting.
    The fight will therefore go on & on & on and on…….

    Keep up the pressure !

    • 39 Trooper
      October 22, 2017 at 2:35 pm

      Without going to the trouble of checking your first point, every point you made after that falls flat on its face. GT do offer driven grouse, and point, and walked-up. They’re a model for ethical (and more importantly) raptor persecution-free grouse shooting and demonstrate that, providing lower yields are accepted then grouse shooting and raptor protection don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Well done Colin McClean for demonstrating how this is both attainable, and sustainable. I hope other grouse moor owners are taking note.

  24. 40 Iain Gibson
    October 22, 2017 at 5:59 am

    It is perfectly understandable why we are somewhat divided on this issue. On the one hand, Colin McClean’s words are admirable, but, he is still putting forward a case for the continuation of grouse shooting. It would be all too easy for someone to say such things as a propaganda exercise. This might be a cynical interpretation, but is that surprising when we are so used to lies and obfuscation coming from the shooting industry? As it is an industry, there is a lot at stake which leads to a variety of PR tactics being deployed. It is good in a way to read his words, but it does not exactly fill me with hope for the future. The only real way out of this holy mess is for society to agree to ban hunting and shooting of wildlife, which is long overdue. I’ve seen what happens on two grouse moors where driven grouse shooting was abandoned and they resorted to walked-up shooting – the Hen Harriers and other predators continued to be ruthlessly persecuted by the ‘keepers.

    • 41 J .Coogan
      October 22, 2017 at 11:39 am

      Yes, lets just ca canny, and play the long game.

    • 42 Lizzybusy
      October 22, 2017 at 12:59 pm

      As ever, Iain, beautifully put.

      What a disgrace that some of the National Trust trustees felt it was acceptable to use proxy votes. Many of their members will, I am sure, feel that the trustees have used this out-dated system to thwart the memberships’ vote to have trail hunting banned in its land.

      • 43 Northern Diver
        October 22, 2017 at 7:43 pm

        Even more disappointing was that out of 5 million members with a vote just a handful bothered at all – whichever side they were on. Do we in this country deserve “democracy”? What an apathetic bunch we are!

  25. 44 R.T.
    October 28, 2017 at 6:39 pm

    I have known Glen Tanar estate and Colin Mclean for over a decade. I agree that the law should be abided by in respect of raptor persecution. But just pause for the few thousand jobs at stake, only a very small minority I know in the scheme of things, but all the other minorities seem to have rights don’t they ? The hunters are paying £90 per grouse shot . Try replacing that by guided bird watching when with good vermin control and habitat management, including muirburn and antelmintics , as all our domestic livestock enjoy the benefit from, (except organic) the economics are enormous from traditional management within the law.
    Socialism or is it communism is evident from Hollyrood. Toffs in tweeds (long may they last including the Royals)are what keep some of us up here and some have an inherited love of the Highlands but kill the golden egg ……etc.
    Probably preaching to the converted like Colin but an alternative view on this blog.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Blog Stats

  • 6,112,600 hits


Our recent blog visitors