Raven cull: Parliamentary questions & answers

Earlier this month Claudia Beamish MSP (South Scotland, Labour) lodged a series of Parliamentary questions about the raven cull licence issued by SNH to a consortium of grouse shooting representatives, permitting the mass culling of ravens ‘just to see what happens’.

Claudia’s questions have now been answered by Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham (or to be more accurate, SNH has provided these answers to Ms Cunningham):

Eh? How’s that ‘monitoring’ going to work, then? How many ‘inspections on the ground’ will SNH be able to resource? And what will those ‘inspections’ entail? Asking the gamekeepers for a list of the ravens they’ve killed and expecting them to be truthful accounts? Come on, this is an area where in recent years an illegal clam trap was found, a buzzard was found caught in an illegally-set spring trap, a red kite was found illegally poisoned, a raven was found illegally poisoned, there have been suspicious failures of breeding attempts by hen harriers, red kites and buzzards, and there has been a suspiciously high turnover of red kites and a suspicious loss of breeding red kites at nearby sites. Oh, and a young satellite-tagged white-tailed eagle also disappeared in suspicious circumstances two months ago.

We know from the raven cull licence application there are 31 individuals (mostly gamekeepers) undertaking predator control in the Strathbraan area: how the hell does SNH expect to ‘monitor’ their activities?

That’s an awful lot of licences issued by SNH to kill an awful lot of ravens (there’ll be more on this in the papers tomorrow). It says the Strathbraan licence ‘was granted for science, research and education purposes’. Really? Killing a load of ravens ‘just to see what happens’, without any parallel control study, isn’t good science, isn’t good research and certainly isn’t educational.

Eh? That’s about as vague a response as you can get. What aspects of habitat quality and management did SNH consider? Why did SNH decide habitat improvement was a less favourable option than killing a load of ravens ‘just to see what happens’? And what ‘other predator control’ did SNH consider extending and why did SNH decide killing a load of ravens ‘just to see what happens’ was a better alternative?

Did SNH consider undertaking raven dietary studies as a non-lethal alternative to killing ravens ‘just to see what happens’? If so, why wasn’t this considered a favourable option? And if SNH didn’t consider it as an alternative research option, why not?

The licence SNH has issued for killing ravens in Strathbraan is unprecented. Previous raven cull licences have been issued to individuals, mostly sheep farmers, to undertake small-scale, local culls for the supposed protection of livestock (lambs) but not for spurious ‘science, research and educational purposes’. We don’t believe SNH has ever issued a licence permitting the mass killing of ravens over such a large area and for such a tenuous purpose as ‘to see what happens’. For this reason, SNH cannot compare the Strathbraan licence with any other raven cull licences and as such, other stakeholders should have been consulted, especially those who have been involved with the monitoring of the local raven population in this area for decades (i.e. Scottish Raptor Study Group). Excluding other stakeholders also flies in the face of SNH’s purported interest in ‘partnership working’. Many suspect that SNH did not communicate with other stakeholders because SNH knew full well that those stakeholders would have strongly objected to the licence application.

We discussed this answer in today’s earlier blog – see here.

Crow cage traps? To capture and kill ravens? Seriously? Aside from the obvious welfare issues of using live ravens as decoys inside these traps for weeks on end, how will the gamekeepers determine whether the raven(s) caught inside the trap are not breeding adults? (Remember, this licence only permits the killing of young, non-breeding ravens).

Sorry SNH, but none of these Parliamentary answers inspire any confidence in your ability to effectively monitor the implentation of this raven cull licence, nor the credibility of your reasons for issuing it in the first place.


14 Responses to “Raven cull: Parliamentary questions & answers”

  1. 1 Secret Squirrel
    May 23, 2018 at 4:15 pm

    The number of licences issued and numbers killed in other licences ia bit of a surprise and much higher than I expected it to be (I’d have suspected in the low tens). I wonder how hard they have to justify it, beyond ticking the box that says ‘For preventing serious damage to livestock, feed for livestock…’ etc

  2. 3 Chris Dobson
    May 23, 2018 at 4:15 pm

    I translate this series of answers as
    ”Don’t meddle in your betters business, you horrible little plebs”

  3. 4 Rita
    May 23, 2018 at 4:30 pm

    I’d like to know how much she been paid ??

  4. 8 lizzybusy
    May 23, 2018 at 8:01 pm

    There’s been a massive increase in the issuing of licenses this year! 141 licenses to kill 1082 Ravens to April 2018 yet 127 licenses to kill 1133 Ravens for the whole of 2017 with supposedly only 637 Ravens actually killed in 2017.

    Doesn’t the number of birds requested to be killed in 2016 and 2017 and the actual numbers supposedly killed raise red flags about the accuracy of the information SNH is receiving?

    It’s also strange that two types of licenses appear to have been issued to kill Ravens – one for farms with lambs and calves supposedly being injured or killed and a license for fish eating birds damaging fisheries. It doesn’t make sense unless SNH is being sloppy in the language used to describe the nature of the problems described.

    How many people have been allowed under these licenses to kill Ravens and how are each of these licenses being monitored? It’s simply a sick, disgraceful situation!

    It’s so depressing and seems to show what a stranglehold these scoundrels have over SNH. Let’s hope Roseanne Cunningham shows some honour and stands up to SNH.

    • 9 lizzybusy
      May 23, 2018 at 8:23 pm

      With all those license applications over the years, SNH must have thousands of photos of lambs with no tongues or eyes! And the opportunities for SNH to commission autopsies on how all these lambs are dying must be numerous!

  5. May 23, 2018 at 9:44 pm

    Understanding Predation is given as an excuse for this cull. That report was a collaborative effort (although i hope that the BTO didn’t have a say in the final draft) and yet this cull has no input from other organizations.
    Very dodgy.
    Cunningham is defending the indefensible.

  6. 11 George M
    May 23, 2018 at 10:14 pm

    I’ve been ranting on for a few years about the hegemony of “old money” in organisations like SNH . I can’t say I am happy at being proved correct. The same old families have been running the show both here for a very long time through social networks that are now largely developed in places like Public Schools, Oxbridge and Sandhurst, while the sinews that hold it altogether remain largely out of sight. Taking it to the public by endeavouring to get as much incriminating evidence against them and their hired hands as possible and placing it on social media while bye passing any Institutions which have let our birds down, now seems the rationale way forward.

  7. 12 Steve
    May 24, 2018 at 3:49 pm

    Well, I was going to visit Scotland this summer to enjoy the wildlife. Thanks to SNH, I’ll now head south instead. Is that the kind of response they’re looking for?

  8. May 24, 2018 at 11:24 pm

    Back in what we thought at the time were “the bad old days” of the 1980s, a licence was issued to a shooting estate on the Western Isles to kill 6 ravens. An under keeper on that estate later told me that 120 were killed – they knew no one was checking and just killed every raven they saw. No scientific basis, no before and after checks, no requirement for monitoring or even providing corpses. That was 30 years ago – we are going backwards in conservation in Scotland.

  9. 14 Colin McP
    May 30, 2018 at 9:56 am

    Would be interesting to know who in the community is actually involved apart from the shooting organisations and vested interests such as the grouse estates. If it was a real grass roots organisation – with folks genuinely interested in protection of waders, its would be full of local birders too. I know RPS tried to find this out – why not an FOI to SNH to ask for the membership list? (names not required, just numbers of individuals, etc.). Wonder if SNH require to have this information? – as calling themselves a community organisation without any decent representation from the local community should raise red flags.

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