‘No justification’ for raven cull licence, says RSPB Scotland Director

RSPB Scotland has published a further damning statement on the SNH raven cull licence.

Written by Director Anne McCall, here’s a short excerpt:

Considering all of the above, RSPB Scotland maintains that there is no justification for this extreme course of action, and will continue to pursue that SNH withdraw this licence. Alternatively, the option is always open for those who have sought the licence to voluntarily pause any culling in order to allow time and space for the SNH Scientific Advisory Committee to conduct a thorough and meaningful analysis. Choosing not to pause a cull in order to make sure the science is in order has to beg the question why on earth is this being done at all?

To read the full statement, please see here.

Meanwhile, Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham has been examining the licence for any shred of scientific credibility, without success.

26 Responses to “‘No justification’ for raven cull licence, says RSPB Scotland Director”

  1. 1 Dylanben
    April 27, 2018 at 2:30 pm

    A factor which I have not seen mentioned anywhere in this discussion is that Ravens, being early breeders, are currently likely to have young in their nests, or even very vulnerable fledglings. I do not recollect seeing any reference to the commencement date of the licence so, if it has not been suspended, there is a serious risk of young being either left to starve in their nests or readily falling victim because of their vulnerability.

    • 2 Marco McGinty
      April 27, 2018 at 3:22 pm

      Very good points, but the shooting industry, and its complicit partners in the guise of SNH, don’t care about such things.

    • 3 Oxford Bags
      April 27, 2018 at 10:58 pm

      According to the first RSPB blog, the licence relates to non-breeding Ravens therefore it would be expected that any commencement will be delayed until the breeding season is over.

      Interestingly this would put paid to the comments from the SGA suggesting that the licence offers a means to deal with Raven ‘attacks’ during the lambing season. If the licence does in deed only apply to non-breeding Ravens, any Raven control during the lambing season, which coincides the Raven breeding, would technically still have to be conducted under a specific individual licence issued by SNH.

      It will be interesting to see how SCCW interpret the use of the licence should it remain in place.

      • 4 Iain Gibson
        April 28, 2018 at 8:10 am

        Did SNH ask the consortium how they would distinguish between non-breeding and breeding Ravens? If so, it would be extremely interesting to hear the answer. For example, an experienced Raven watcher might be able to tell if a single Raven flying overhead is a foraging parent or not, but I don’t believe the average gamekeeper or hired gun would have the slightest clue. Alternatively, if they were concentrating on shooting foraging flocks of presumed non-breeding immature Ravens, how would they distinguish any breeding adults from nearby nests among them? I know for a fact, through close observation, that it is not unusual for a breeding Raven to travel up to three kilometres or more from the nest site to join non-breeding flocks which are foraging together. In my studies I was surprised to find a remarkable degree of what appeared to be cooperation and set routines between individual birds in these flocks. I doubt if the people shooting the Ravens would have the slightest clue. No-one seems to have remarked that the figure of 300 Ravens to be culled is an exceptionally high density within the proposed cull zone. Also, in order to gain sufficient data to measure any impact on breeding wader success or populations, the cull would have to be extended over a longer time period. I don’t recall reading for how long the licence is operational. Has anyone assessed what the long term impact would be on the Raven population, especially recruitment within the control zone and in the surrounding area? I still can’t get my head around why any conservation scientist would even begin to contemplate culling Ravens, which are already seriously under threat from illegal persecution, and is quite a rare bird in many parts of the country. To many people, not just birdwatchers, it is a highly enigmatic species, alone or in impressive flocks. We should be endeavouring to protect the bird, not indulging in any “experimental” killing spree advocated by an uninformed group who clearly have no clue about the ecology or feeding behaviour of the species.

  2. April 27, 2018 at 3:08 pm

    What if the problems with the waders are on the sea shore ??.

  3. 10 Richard Green
    April 27, 2018 at 5:26 pm

    People of that ilk are not happy unless they have something to target, kill and slaughter, they will make up any daft, lame excuse in order to do so whilst adorned in Tweed to appear somewhat intelligent and respectable. This is a complete folly of course and fools very few if any.😠

  4. April 27, 2018 at 7:32 pm

    The answer to this conundrum [ why the cull ? ] is plain……. unscientific Raven cull leads to unscientific survey of waders – miraculously increasing ……..extend cull to all grouse – farming uplands ….. simples !
    Ditto raptors.
    Sorry, glaringly obvious ommission – large raptors have always been culled in grouse shooting areas [ unless they eat exclusively fish ] since grouse shooting began.
    Grouse species in a biodiverse upland are scarce.
    Diverse uplands have trees, scrub, predators & massive ecotourism & other economic potential.
    Get a grip politicians, the public will judge you on the actions of your agencies and the handing out of subsidies …..

    Keep up the pressure !

  5. 12 Loki
    April 27, 2018 at 7:49 pm

    Amazing how easy it is for a few farmers and gamekeepers to get a licence to kill ravens whilst we have to battle to get a licence to regulate grouse moors.

  6. 15 Mark Lund
    April 28, 2018 at 8:07 am

    The other problem with culls of any sort, is that the licence to kill is put into the hands of people who like, enjoy, thrive on killing stuff. I believe the same happens with the badger cull; licences are given to a people who apply for them, so a legal killing spree happens. Is it policed? I dont know. As for the potential Raven cull, if it is farmers and gamekeepers who are given the authority, it will be, ‘well it looked big and black, yes the sun was behind it, so I didnt realise it was a Buzzard, Harrier, Eagle…ah well, honest mistake, and the boss will be pleased!.’

  7. April 28, 2018 at 10:10 am

    Is there any truth in the rumour that SNH have received an application to Cull 300 Dogs in Perthshire …. ‘to see what happens’?
    Knowing that the odd rogue Dog has been known to kill a lamb or destroy a waders nest, I understand that they believe this Killing Spree will help improve our understanding of factors affecting key wader species, populations of which are declining at an alarming rate. They are satisfied this licence, which is over a five year period, will not affect the population of Dogs, overall.
    I believe the application comes from a group involved in local land management (farmers & gamekeepers), calling itself the ~ Collective & United Nature Trust of Scotland. ;-)

  8. 17 Sue Cluley
    April 28, 2018 at 11:07 am

    Breeding or non-breeding …… no justification for this AT ALL. SNH needs to change its name if it insists in pursuing such extreme actions since this in no way preserves Heritage. How about Scottish National Destruction?

  9. April 28, 2018 at 12:27 pm

    Same old science

    Bad science but there didn’t seem to be an ulterior motive in Idaho (or maybe i am missing something about hunters wanting to save Greater Sage-grouse for shooting)
    To be fair at least SNH aren’t planning on using poison (apart from the lead in the lead-shot).

  10. 19 Anon
    April 28, 2018 at 8:11 pm

    Have I missed the Minister of the Environment’s statement?

  11. 20 sam old sam old
    April 29, 2018 at 11:14 am

    Roseanna Cunningham has shown to be completely ineffectual.
    As each scandal breaks she makes the right noises but fails to do anything of substance.

    It’s very clear that the system does not work and proposed improvements are ignored or actively resisted.

    Land searches of grouse moors are at an all time low.

    Prosecutions are almost non existent.

    All the while very serious wildlife crimes continue and the protection of wildlife is slowly eroded

  12. 21 lazerock
    April 29, 2018 at 8:19 pm

    It’s clear that this Raven cull is unjustified and inappropriate. However, we’re all aware – or I hope so, at least – that many waders are in steep decline, particularly the Eurasian Curlew. I live in an area where I’m lucky enough to have Curlew more or less on my doorstep and the idea of losing them (and the incredibly elegant Lapwing) is unbearable.

    While we can all agree that allowing gamekeepers to bump off a load of Ravens on the off-chance is *not* the way to help, what we do need to do, very urgently, is work out how best to promote Curlew recovery.

    • 22 Macrude.
      April 29, 2018 at 10:20 pm

      Maybe if shooting estates/gamekeepers etc stopped burning moorland, stopped putting in more tracks, allowed heather and grasses to grow, we would have more waders. The moorland we have just now can hardly be called natural.

    • 23 Iain Gibson
      April 30, 2018 at 9:36 am

      I’m sure we must all share concerns over the serious decline in breeding waders, such as Lapwing and Curlew, but what we shouldn’t be doing is impulsively seeking out scapegoats in other species. Unfortunately the gamekeeper mentality has over time crept into the minds of too many ‘conservationists’ and biologists who have been influenced by the insidious propaganda machines operated by groups like the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust. Their simplistic approach is to jump to the conclusion that predators kill waders, and grouse, therefore the simple solution to ‘save’ the waders is to kill the predators. When people’s recreational demands require more of the quarry species, and money-making is also involved, the shooting movement as a whole (with a minority of exceptions) is prepared to defy the law and regard persecution of predators as not only acceptable, but essential to protect their own selfish interests, so-called field sports. We can point out to them that this simplistic approach is flawed, that predators and prey have evolved strategies for survival by maintaining a natural balance. Hen Harriers, for example, if unmolested by man, will only achieve population levels that are sustainable according to the availability of their preferred prey species, which are Meadow Pipits and Field Voles, not grouse other than in exceptional, usually brief circumstances. The conflict with the shooting industry lies in the greed of the humans who in their lust to kill are not satisfied until they have achieved record bags, rather than settling for “one for the pot.” Their behaviour is simply unsustainable and ends up with the environmental and ecological damage with which we are all too familiar.

      Tinkering with the natural balance between predators and their prey is the wrong approach to conserving and restoring breeding wader populations. It is important that scientific research establishes the fundamental reasons for the declines. Inevitably it comes down to human activity in the way that man is constantly manipulating the environment to satisfy his own needs. It is unrealistic to hope to change this, and the human desire for energy, food and other resources will continue to make demands on environmental resources. The answer is to promote sustainability and encourage a respect for nature which achieves a way forward which is kind and considerate. Killing Ravens in some vain attempt to ‘save’ other species is naive, and using a blunt instrument to solve an imaginary problem. The irony of it all is the fact that research using the scientific approach has taught us that Ravens are NOT a significant factor which is contributing to the general decline in waders. So why does our national conservation agency, Scottish Natural Heritage, find it appropriate to permit the culling of these valuable and magnificent birds? It is at the very least unlikely that if we drastically reduce the Raven population, it will make the slightest difference to wader species survival. All that will be achieved is yet more of a reduction in biological diversity, in an already impoverished ecosystem that is the UK. Only through habitat conservation and manipulation, based upon sound ecological research, can we hope to enhance or restore the wader species we are losing at an alarming rate. The game industry’s proposed solution, and SNH’s willingness to accept their unscientific and selfish demands, will get us nowhere.

      • 24 Keith
        April 30, 2018 at 11:27 am

        Iain. Of many the very many pertinent well-informed posts you have submitted to this site I think this is one of the best and most significant. Very many thanks.

  13. 25 Ron Bury
    April 30, 2018 at 10:02 am

    Well said Iain. The way SNH is behaving completely destroys ones respect for and trust in the current government to do anything other than play to the money.

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