Legal challenge against raven cull licence: your help needed!

Regular blog readers will be well aware that in April 2018, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) issued a licence permitting the killing of ravens in Strathbraan, a large area of Highland Perthshire ( and a recognised raptor persecution hotspot) on the basis of ‘seeing what happens’ to wader populations as part of a five-year ‘experiment’.

Many of us believe this raven cull has absolutely nothing to do with ‘protecting waders’ and nor is it based on sound scientific evidence. When you look at how much grouse moor lies within the cull area (here) and look at who is behind the licence application (here), it becomes quite apparent that this raven cull is more likely to be about protecting stocks of red grouse than it is about waders.

Unsurprisingly, this controversial licensing decision resulted in public uproar and hundreds of complaints were lodged with SNH, questions have been asked in Parliament and over 168,000 people have signed a petition calling for the immediate withdrawal of the licence.

However, since the news broke six weeks ago SNH has consistently failed to answer some pretty simple questions about this licence. Instead, the details have remained shrouded in secrecy and responses to numerous FoI requests have been delayed.

If we were cynics we might think that SNH was deliberately stalling for time to frustrate any chance of an application for judicial review (SNH will know very well that an application for a judicial review needs to be lodged at court within a limited timeframe). Why else would SNH behave as it has, when according to its own website SNH is supposedly ‘committed to high standards of openness and transparency’. They’re having a laugh, aren’t they?

Open, responsive, collaborative and inclusive? It appears the Scottish Raptor Study Group (SRSG) doesn’t think so and today it’s launching a crowdfunder to help fund an application for judicial review.

A judicial review is a legal challenge to the decision-making process used by SNH (as opposed to the actual decision to issue the licence) and there are two main stages to this:

Stage one is an application to the court seeking permission for a judicial review. If the judge considers there are sufficient grounds to proceed, the application moves to stage two, which is the substantive hearing where legal arguments are made by both sides.

Applying for a judicial review is a bold move and the SRSG will not have entered this process without plenty of consideration to the risks involved, but in this case SNH has left them with little option, especially as it has indicated that similar licences may be authorised to kill protected birds of prey, again on the basis of ‘just seeing what happens’.

SNH’s refusal to discuss its justification for this licence, and with many MSPs refusing to support a Parliamentary motion calling for the withdrawal of the licence, leads to two choices: either sit and complain from the sidelines or get stuck in and seek a legal remedy through the courts.

We applaud the SRSG’s stance but it’s not applause they need – it’s funding support. Judicial reviews don’t come cheap and neither do top barristers (although in this case a formidable QC has generously offered his services at a reduced rate).

This is where your help is needed. The SRSG needs to raise £10k ASAP to get the ball rolling and get the judicial review application to stage one. They are working against the clock because that application needs to be lodged very soon if they’re to meet the deadline. If the application is successful, more funds will need to be raised to proceed to stage two (the hearing).

If you’re as angry as the rest of us about this raven cull licence and the way SNH has behaved, please consider making a donation to the SRSG’s crowdfunder which will go live at 7am today:


Please also help spread the word, especially on social media using the hashtag #Justice4Ravens

Thank you


36 Responses to “Legal challenge against raven cull licence: your help needed!”

  1. June 5, 2018 at 8:00 am

    Well done SRSG for a brave decision. £100 pledged and shared on Facebook. This MUST be stopped. Right now.

  2. 2 Loki
    June 5, 2018 at 8:26 am

    Pledged. Well done, Dr Tingay and SRSG! About time!

  3. 3 Mairi L
    June 5, 2018 at 9:15 am

    Added a little bit, hope you get the target quickly.

  4. 4 Roberta Mouse
    June 5, 2018 at 9:22 am

    Chipped in a bit, wish it could be more…good luck guys !

  5. 5 Peter Shearer
    June 5, 2018 at 9:32 am

    Here is a chance for all of us to support the fightback and to show how much this means to us.

  6. 6 Paul Fisher
    June 5, 2018 at 10:05 am

    Excellent decision. Even if the courts decide against a judicial review, it will be money well spent to show those in power that we are watching them. The adverse publicity will also be very welcome.

  7. June 5, 2018 at 10:25 am

    SNH’s position is totally questionable – if the issue of the cull license had been a straightforward “in-house” decision we would have heard the details from SNH before now.
    If the decision had been been made as they are expected to be made – they’d have reacted to the FoI routinely.

    When this type of resistance occurs, you’re entitled to think it’s because the decision making process was very flawed. There will be individuals in the SNH who want this publicised – It looks like this could have political interference written all over it. That doesn’t let the SNH off the hook – You can only conclude they’ve totally misread how this would publicly play out.

    This is the one sure way to move towards consultation based, total transparency in future applications – I’m in.

    • 8 Mike Whitehouse
      June 5, 2018 at 1:00 pm

      I fully agree with your analysis. Have chipped in a few quid as a result – thanks.

    • June 6, 2018 at 8:11 am

      Every time I ask the local office, they tell me they know nothing more than the vacuous press statements. It really looks like a secret decision made at a high level…..aka political decision. As such, the use of a scientific license is fundamentally flawed. So happy to throw in a lump of my pension!

  8. 10 Loki
    June 5, 2018 at 10:36 am

    Do we know what is happening in Strathbraan? What is happening at the moment? How many ravens have we lost? Are the gamekeepers being monitored to ensure that non-breeding adults only are being taken? Are there chicks starving in their nests? Are there illegal culls happening in other parts of the country motivated by this scandalous approval by SNH.
    Ps I’m posting the crowdfunder into Norse mythology groups as they should lend support for Huginn and Muninn!

    • 11 Roberta Mouse
      June 5, 2018 at 10:54 am

      I’ve wondered about this…I’m in SW Scotland and my local Ravens are safe and very vocal and busy at the moment…I have indicated to those who might wish them harm that I am watching and listening closely. Where I used to live in England they were routinely persecuted however…so sad.

      • 12 crypticmirror
        June 5, 2018 at 3:10 pm

        SW Scotland it is the cormorants and river ducks, and heron, which are under threat. Angling groups are ramping up the pressure there for a widescale cull of pretty much anything that might have feathers and eat fish. This is a dark time for our wildlife.

        • 13 Roberta Mouse
          June 5, 2018 at 3:35 pm

          I agree….I read the other day that even mallard numbers are seriously down….the idiocy of humanity knows no bounds it seems.

        • 14 Les Walllace
          June 6, 2018 at 1:15 pm

          I think there more attention has to start being focussed upon the angling fraternity, at least the ecologically illiterate part of it which is the loudest and thereby probably the biggest part of it – look at comments in their magazines and FB pages, it’s actually scary how generally (and incredibly) ignorant they are, sane ones are the exception. References to otters needing to be ‘controlled’ are cropping up ever more frequently and there have been deliberate and illegal killings of them near angling waters. If it can be considered to interfere with fishing then It’s a pest that needs to be killed from mergansers up to and including bottlenose dolphins. Sadly there are those with a rod that are as barmy as those who shoot driven grouse and many of them seem to be at the helm of representative organisations. Of course as with birds of prey and ravens they are trying to pull a fast one in that these predators are threatening the existence of other native wildlife so of course this will be a ‘conservation’ measure of course. The evidence that returning otters reduce mink numbers is as unwelcome as the increasingly undeniable fact that pine martens help red squirrels by killing of the grey ones. The real conservation orgs are going to have to come together and counter this attitude which is becoming the stated position of an increasing range of fieldsports as some persecuted species make a bit of a comeback – too many shooters and anglers want to take us back to square one.

          • 15 Roberta Mouse
            June 6, 2018 at 1:39 pm

            I question how some groups have the nerve to even describe themselves as ‘conservationists’ atall when they pick and choose which animals they want to preserve and which must go !….. so much so they are prepared to offer £200 a head for dead grey squirrels it seems. Why not just choose a name more suitable such as We Hate Greys. I find this whole notion of some humans thinking they should decide which animals should live or die utterly despicable….and hypocritical in the extreme since not all that long ago Reds were seen as vermin and all but eradicated in Scotland. !

            • 16 Les Walllace
              June 6, 2018 at 2:15 pm

              It’s becoming clearer as time goes on that the closer you get to the original species line up you would have had naturally then already weak arguments for culling get weaker and weaker. All those years trying to kill off grey squirrels when all that was needed was the pine marten to return – how much time, effort and money was wasted on pointless never ending grey squirrel culls, as Chris Packham pointed out, when all we needed was the pine marten to come back? Imagine that gamekeepers had never killed it off from the majority of the UK in the first place or at least the persecution hadn’t continued after it became illegal to kill pine martens? We’d have a lot more martens and red squirrels right now. I’ve seen a ludicrous mink hunt that would have chased away any otters on a river where their presence would have been a much better way to depress mink numbers than a pack of dogs periodically tearing up and down the banks terrifying the wildlife including nesting birds. Strange that the same people decrying corvid numbers never seem to want more goshawks. I wish conservation organisations did far more to point this out, they’re being hit with a tide of anti predator propaganda right now.

              • 17 Roberta Mouse
                June 6, 2018 at 2:41 pm

                Yes, tunnel vision. I just found a pile of Spotted Woodpecker feathers on our walk out here, presumably a young inexperienced one. There are a fair few Kites and Goshawk up here…sad though I feel I wont be going out on a killing spree in retribution.

            • June 6, 2018 at 3:24 pm

              I thinbk the situation regarding Grey Squirrels is a little different because they are an introduced alein invasive. At times there are good conservation reasons, based on sound science, certian species should be eradicated from an area. That is most certainly not the case here. Ravens are an integral part of our native avifauna and there is no science behind the decision to cull.

              • 19 Roberta Mouse
                June 6, 2018 at 5:05 pm

                Yes of course it is different…the discussion strayed somewhat, however there are so many myths and so much misinformation about the poor grey. You may have looked at this website but if not I recommend it for the truth about greys (and reds). http://www.grey-squirrel.org.uk/reds.php Read about reduced immunity and how this built up when reds and greys were living alongside each other. (before they were almost wiped out in Scotland by hunters) Just needs humans to keep out of things and stop playing God…..

      • 20 Loki
        June 5, 2018 at 11:52 pm

        Good for you Roberta, letting them know how you feel. I wonder if the mountain walking and climbing groups could help to monitor the situation? Rock climbers could check raven nests.

  9. 21 Alan Cranston
    June 5, 2018 at 10:54 am

    Many thanks to SRSG. It’s a disgrace that we first pay our taxes to enable SNH to look after our natural heritage and then find that we have to pay again to bring them back to the rule of law. But all the more reason to support this action; as others have said it will remind them that they are a creature of stature and not above the law as some of their ‘friends’ apparently consider themselves to be. I’m in.

  10. 23 AnMac
    June 5, 2018 at 12:58 pm

    A pleasure to financially assist this action

  11. 24 Alex Milne
    June 5, 2018 at 12:59 pm

    It looks like it will take a whole day to reach £10,000. i think this illustrates well what the people of Scotland think of the present performance of the high heid yins at SNH. It unfortunately looks as if the majority of the Scottish politicians are not prepared to be vocal.

  12. 25 Lance moore
    June 5, 2018 at 1:27 pm

    I’ve chipped in some of my pension. I am so pleased to help.
    Can I ask you to change the word “CULL” to KILL.!
    The cull word doesn’t seem to mean Kill. Seems like the killers avoid the Kill word. Another sneaky trick.

  13. 26 michael@michaelgill.co.uk
    June 5, 2018 at 3:01 pm

    Hi at Raptor Persecution

    I’m a long-time reader of your blog. In my day job as designer and production manager of Holyrood magazine I am at the moment putting together a supplement on Scotland’s rural economy. We are running a small news story about the possible legal challenge to the raven cull and though it would be easy to get a stock picture of a raven, I’d very much like to use the picture of the dead raven you’ve been using in your blog. I have no budget for it unfortunately, but I will of course give full credit.

    Thanks Michael Gill

    [Ed: Hi Michael. Great to hear you’re covering the legal challenge. The image of the dead raven is not ours, we found it doing an online picture search and we couldn’t find a photo credit for it. If that causes difficulties you might want to ask around the grouse shooting estates in Strathbraan – pretty sure they’ll have some images].

  14. 27 George M
    June 5, 2018 at 4:27 pm

    I’m in too. This has to be stopped.

  15. 28 Brian Leecy
    June 5, 2018 at 5:25 pm

    This cull with no scientific basis is so transparent ,and all to do with more and more Red Grouse numbers.and nothing to do with Waders.The legality of it must be challenged,I have pledged,Thank You.

  16. 29 SOG
    June 5, 2018 at 8:02 pm

    Currently £9,120: I’m happy to help in a small way.

  17. 30 Dylanben
    June 5, 2018 at 9:01 pm

    To be within a short reach of the target in just over 12 hours (£9725 just now) is a wonderful indication of the strength of feeling on this issue. There’s little of a practical nature that we, as individuals, can do against the might of officially funded organisations such as SNH. However, funding something like this means that we can, collectively, send out a very strong message which will be seen, heard and hopefully borne in mind in the event of them thinking about licensing any other nonsensical and unjustifiable actions. No doubt other parties will also take heed of the fact that we’re not going to be a push-over in standing up for justice for our supposedly protected wildlife.

  18. June 5, 2018 at 9:06 pm

    My £100 didn’t quite put them over the top – £90 left to go.

  19. 32 Anon
    June 5, 2018 at 9:21 pm

    £10,150! Well done and thank you for doing this.

  20. 33 Ron Bury
    June 5, 2018 at 10:51 pm

    Pledge made.

  21. 34 heclasu
    June 6, 2018 at 12:34 am

    More than happy to pledge

  22. 35 andrew popplewell
    June 6, 2018 at 7:28 pm

    It amazes, and, infuriates me how people who breed birds, to then shoot them, complain when natural predators kill a few of them. Good luck with the campaign.

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