Archive for January, 2018

31
Jan
18

Scottish parliamentary reception to celebrate toxic, diseased & unsustainably harvested red grouse

The Scottish grouse shooting industry’s propaganda arm, the Gift of Grouse, will be holding a Parliamentary reception at Holyrood tomorrow, hosted by Kate Forbes MSP (SNP, Skye, Lochaber & Badenoch), to celebrate red grouse as a ‘healthy & sustainable’ food:

Oh dear. ‘Healthy and sustainable’? Haven’t we been here before? Ah yes, so we have, back in 2015 when SNH joined forces with BASC to promote red grouse as ‘healthy, natural and sustainable’ as part of its Natural Larder campaign. Remember that? Here’s a quick recap for those that missed it (see here and here).

Nothing has changed since 2015. Red grouse, if sourced from intensively-managed driven grouse moors, are still potentially unhealthy, unnatural and unsustainable. They’re still potentially toxic, still potentially diseased, and still unsustainably harvested. They’re definitely NOT “organic”, as a Gift of Grouse Michelin-starred chef tried to claim last year (see here), and nor are they “100% organic” as the Angus Glens Moorland Group coordinator tried to claim last year (see here).

For any MSPs thinking of attending tomorrow’s celebration, here’s a quick summary of what those ‘healthy’ (potentially contaminated) grouse canapes might contain:

  • Excessive amounts of toxic poisonous lead (over 100 times the lead levels that would be legal for other meat – see here)
  • Unknown quantities of the veterinary drug Levamisole hydrochloride (also used in chemotherapy treatment for humans with colon cancer – see here)
  • Unknown quantities of the anti-parasitic worming drug Flubendazole – see here
  • Unknown quantities of the pesticide Permethrin (used topically to treat scabies and pubic lice; probably not that great to ingest – see here)
  • There’s also a high risk the grouse will be diseased with Cryptosporidiosis (see here).

Andy Wightman MSP (Scottish Greens) posted a tweet yesterday evening to provide some reading material for any MSPs thinking of attending this reception:

The report to which he’s referring is the 2015 publication, The Intensification of Grouse Moor Management in Scotland, published by the League Against Cruel Sports (Scotland). This report provides a succinct summary of all the relevant issues, including the long-running association between illegal raptor persecution and intensively-managed driven grouse moors, although it was dismissed by Doug McAdam, the then CEO of Scottish Land & Estates, as being “poorly researched”. You can read Andy’s response to that accusation here (and it’s well worth a read!).

It’s not the first time the Gift of Grouse has held a Parliamentary reception under what looks very much like false pretences (see here). Will it be the last?

Grouse canape, anybody?

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31
Jan
18

Moorland Association ‘should no longer be treated as equals’ in raptor protection schemes

The fall-out from the failed Peak District Bird of Prey Initiative continues.

Following last week’s news about how the Moorland Association had blocked an official press statement about the extent of raptor persecution in the Dark Peak region of the Peak District National Park (here), how the RSPB had terminated its involvement with the failed Initiative (here), how the local gamekeepers had tried to frustrate any progress on the ground (here) and how a former Moorland Association representative had allegedly tried to get the Peak District National Park Authority to ‘dis-allow’ police raids on the homes of suspected gamekeepers (here), now the Northern England Raptor Forum (NERF) has issued a statement.

NERF is the umbrella organisation representing a number of regional raptor study groups across northern England, including the Peak District Raptor Monitoring Group which has been closely involved with the Peak District Bird of Prey Initiative.

In a statement published last night on its website, NERF reiterates its frustration with the failed Initiative and identifies the Moorland Association as being central to the on-going problem, not just in the Peak District but also the role it plays in other bird of prey protection partnership schemes:

What will it take for those in authority, including the Government, to wake up to the fact that the Moorland Association is a lobbying organisation committed only to benefitting their members’ interests?  Of course it is not just within this group where they seek to spread their influence, they are members of PAW and use the same tactics in that forum. It is NERF´s opinion that unless they demonstrate a change in attitude towards species’ protection they should no longer be treated as equals in Bird of Prey protection fora“.

NERF’s full statement can be read here

Well said, NERF. It’s what we’ve all been thinking for years and the more people who are prepared to say it out loud, and often, the better.

30
Jan
18

Parliamentary questions on Scottish Government’s grouse moor management review

Following the announcement on 24 November 2017 that the Scottish Government’s Grouse Moor Management Review Group had been formed (see here), a couple of Parliamentary questions have recently been lodged about how this group will function:

S5W-14019: Colin Smyth (Scottish Labour, South Scotland) Date lodged: 23/1/2018

To ask the Scottish Government, further to its announcement on 24 November 2017, what progress has been made by the independent group for ensuring grouse moor management practices are sustainable and legally compliant; what the remit of the group is, and what timetable it is working to.

Expected answer date: 6/2/2018

S5W-14020: Colin Smyth (Scottish Labour, South Scotland) Date lodged: 23/1/2018

To ask the Scottish Government, further to its announcement on 24 November 2017, what plans are in place to engage (a) stakeholders and (b) the public in the work of the independent group for ensuring grouse moor management practices are sustainable and legally compliant.

Expected answer date: 6/2/2018

Colin Smyth has also lodged another Parliamentary question, related to those above, which is pertinent to this week’s media attention on mountain hare culls on driven grouse moors:

S5W-14021: Colin Smyth (Scottish Labour, South Scotland) Date lodged: 23/1/2018

To ask the Scottish Government what efforts it has made to prevent large-scale culls of mountain hares this winter.

Expected answer date: 6/2/2018

For those who missed it, mountain hare culling featured on Countryfile on Sunday evening (28th Jan), where they filmed a cull on a grouse moor in Strathdon, Aberdeenshire. The programme is available on BBC iPlayer here for 27 days. The name of the estate wasn’t given but there were gamekeepers from Edinglassie Estate and Candacraig Estate. Whoever advised the Grampian Moorland Group that it would be a good idea (presumably to get the public onside) to showcase gamekeepers shooting mountain hares in the face made a big PR blunder. There was a huge backlash on social media and also in the national press (e.g. Daily Mail article here).

The programme also peddled the usual propaganda from the grouse shooting industry, claiming that all the shot hares would be sold for meat, which one of the gamekeepers claimed ‘showed the respect gamekeepers have for hares both in life and death’.

That’s not quite true though, is it? Here’s a pile of shot mountain hares, left to putrefy in a rotting heap on an Angus Glens grouse moor:

Harry Huyton (Director, OneKind) also featured in the programme to give an opposing view on mountain hare culling. He did a good job, and he’s also written an interesting blog about it (here).

The Countryfile episode was designed to coincide with the publication of a new SNH study which examined different methods of counting mountain hares. One of the fundamental arguments against the mass slaughter of mountain hares on grouse moors (apart from the questionable ethics) has been the issue of nobody knowing the status of the mountain hare population and thus the unknown impact these culls are having on the species’ conservation status (although we understand a forthcoming scientific paper, not yet published, will demolish the grouse shooting industry’s claims that the culls have no negative impact). The results of the new SNH study on mountain hare counting methods  can be read here.

UPDATE 13 February 2018: News on Scot Gov’s grouse moor management review & mountain hare culling (here)

29
Jan
18

Concern for the safety of one of our satellite-tagged golden eagles

Last summer, in a joint project with Chris Packham, we satellite-tagged a shedload of golden eagles in Scotland (for background project information please see here).

We haven’t blogged much about these eagles yet because they are still hanging out in their natal territories and we need to keep these locations confidential. As soon as the eagles begin to disperse, we’ll be able to share much more information.

However, one of our eagles has recently left its parents’ territory and we are deeply concerned about its safety. We are working closely with Police Scotland and will report in more detail in the very near future.

We are immensely grateful to the Police Wildlife Crime Officer leading this investigation who has been proactive, communicative and very quick to respond.

29
Jan
18

Last chance saloon for Peak District Bird of Prey Initiative

Following last week’s news that the RSPB has terminated its involvement with the failed Peak District Bird of Prey Initiative (here), one of the local raptor study groups has now issued a statement on where it stands.

The Peak District Raptor Monitoring Group, which has played a central role in raptor monitoring and providing breeding data for the Initiative, has decided to give the Initiative one last chance to succeed, despite strong reservations about the intent of the local grouse shooting industry, particularly the gamekeepers and the Moorland Association.

The full statement can be read on the Peak District Raptor Monitoring Group’s website, here.

The Peak District Bird of Prey Initiative is in the last chance saloon. We learned last week that the Peak District National Park Authority will be “looking for an increase in birds in the breeding season before committing to working with the other organisations in the Initiative beyond 2018” (see here).

All eyes on the Dark Peak this spring.

27
Jan
18

Failed Peak District Bird of Prey Initiative featured on BBC regional news

The Moorland Association’s plan to block publicity about the failed Peak District Bird of Prey Initiative has spectacularly backfired.

Journalists have picked up on the news that the RSPB has terminated its involvement with the project and yesterday evening the failed Initiative, and more importantly, the reasons behind its failure, featured prominently on several BBC regional news programmes including East Midlands Today and Look North.

The videos for both programmes are available on BBC iPlayer but only until 7pm this evening.

BBC East Midlands Today (here) – starts at 4.35

BBC Look North (here) – starts 10.00

Both programmes are worth watching if you get the chance as there are similarities but also differences. For example, David Hunt from the RSPB features in both programmes (and delivers a very strong message, calling out the Moorland Association by name. Well done!) whereas Steve Bloomfield from BASC only appears in the East Midlands programme and Amanda Anderson from the Moorland Association only appears in the Look North version.

For those who missed the archived footage, here are the relevant quotes:

David Hunt (RSPB):Instead of seeing numbers rise of peregrine and goshawk we’ve actually seen the numbers drop over the lifespan of the Initiative, and against all of that there’s been a refusal from one of the partners in the Initiative, the Moorland Association, to acknowledge that one of the leading contributing factors in this drop in numbers is illegal killing of birds of prey“.

Steve Bloomfield (BASC):We share their [the RSPB’s] frustrations and I think this needs to be a wake up call for the shooting community that these issues are going on and causing problems. There are huge amounts of benefits to the shooting interests on these estates to other wildlife. We musn’t lose that“.

Amanda Anderson (Moorland Association):We’re all really disappointed that they’ve [the RSPB] left this really important collaborative Initiative. We all want the same thing, and that’s a sustainable, healthy assemblage of birds of prey across the Peak District National Park. We just differ in our view of how to achieve that“.

In the Look North programme, the BBC reporter Mark Ansell closed with this:

“The Peak District National Park Authority declined to be interviewed but they have said in a recent report that the Bird of Prey Initiative has failed to meet its targets. They go on to say that there is confirmed evidence of raptor persecution, and in a statement they say they’ll be looking for an increase in birds in the breeding season before committing to working with the other organisations in the Initiative beyond 2018”.

26
Jan
18

Shocking abuse of power & privilege to shield raptor killers in Peak District National Park

We’ve blogged quite a bit this week about illegal raptor persecution in the Peak District National Park, and specifically about how the Moorland Association blocked the publication of an official press statement about illegal persecution (here), how gamekeepers and the Moorland Assocation have seemingly tried to derail a partnership aimed at restoring raptor populations in the Dark Peak (here), and how the RSPB has finally terminated its involvement with the project after enduring six years of this pantomime (here).

If any of you are still in any doubt about why illegal raptor persecution continues in the Peak District National Park and why so-called partnerships to tackle it have failed, then what you’re about to read should provide some clarity.

We’ve been sent a copy of an email from 2010. It is purported to have been written by Richard May, who at the time was the Peak District Chairman of the Moorland Association. The email, if genuine, was addressed to John Lomas (who at the time was the Director of Strategy & Development at the Peak District National Park Authority) and cc’d to Jim Dixon (Chief Exec of the Peak District National Park Authority at the time) and Jon Stewart (working for Natural England at the time but now working for the National Trust in the Peak District National Park).

To provide context, the discussion is referring to the police investigation in to the alleged crimes of gamekeeper Glenn Brown, which later resulted in his conviction (7 offences) and then a failed appeal.

Peter Robertson, named in the email, was at the time the RSPB’s Regional Director for Northern England.

Nick Herbert, also named in the email, was at the time the Minister of State for Police & Criminal Justice and according to his Wikipedia entry, had strong links with the movement that later became the Countryside Alliance.

We’ve submitted an FoI to the Peak District National Park Authority to ask about this alleged correspondence, and particularly any response that was made. We’ll report in due course.

Richard May is no longer listed as a Moorland Association representative on the MA’s website although apparently he’s still involved with grouse shooting in the Peak District, currently running a grouse shoot at Peak Naze as a tenant of United Utilities.

What’s fascinating though, is that one year on from this alleged correspondence Richard May served as the Moorland Association’s representative on the newly-formed Peak District Bird of Prey Initiative.

We’ll leave you to pick up your jaw from the floor.

UPDATE 7 February 2018: Peaky blindness (here)




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