More shameless Hen Harrier propaganda from Scottish Land & Estates

It’s no coincidence that on the opening day of the grouse shooting season, and the day after Hen Harrier Day, Scottish Land & Estates (SLE, the landowners’ lobby group) has come out with more fake news about how shooting estates are “committed” to hen harrier conservation.

You might have seen a couple of articles about this in the press today, including in The Times (here, but behind a paywall) and in The Express (here, not behind a paywall and virtually identical to the article in The Times so you might as well read this one).

Fortunately, the journalists writing these articles didn’t rely solely on the press release from SLE (see below) but instead did their own research and included information about the illegal persecution of hen harriers on grouse moors, the long-term population decline in hen harriers, and also added a bit about the Scottish Government’s commissioned review on grouse moor management following the damning findings of the Golden Eagle Satellite Tag Review, which demonstrated 31 of 141 sat-tagged golden eagles had ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances on driven grouse moors.

It is indeed fortunate that the journalists did their own homework instead of simply cutting & pasting SLE’s press release, because if they hadn’t, this tosh is what would have appeared in today’s papers. Thanks to the journalist who sent us a copy:

Either SLE hasn’t read/understood the scientific papers and reports on this issue, or it has read/understood them but has chosen to ignore the findings and instead publish a load of made-up nonsense in a desperate attempt to mislead the public about how great grouse moors are for raptor conservation. Actually, we know that SLE has read/understood the papers because Tim (Kim) Baynes of SLE is quoted in this BBC article last year as saying the most recent population decline in hen harriers was ‘disappointing’.

Hen harrier numbers in Scotland HAVE NOTremained static“, as SLE claims. The last national survey (2016) revealed the Scottish hen harrier population has suffered a decline of 27% since the 2004 national survey. That’s over a quarter of the population gone in twelve years. In what way can that possibly be described as “remaining static“?

There is also no evidence whatsoever that “raptor crime of all types has been dropping steadily” and that “real progress has been made“, as SLE claims. What we do have is evidence of the continued suppression of various raptor species on land managed for driven grouse shooting as revealed by national and regional surveys (e.g. red kitehen harrier, golden eagle, peregrine), and evidence that the raptor killers have changed their tactics, no longer relying so much on the use of illegal poisoned baits (which are easy to detect) but instead preferring to shoot these raptors and then quickly remove the evidence, although if the shot raptor is carrying a satellite tag, the associated data evidence is impossible for the criminals to hide. Does this recent tally of ‘missing’ sat tagged raptors, just in the space of the last year, look like “real progress has been made“?

And as for SLE’s claim that golden eagles “thrive” on grouse moors – it’s a well-rehearsed claim that was rightly condemned by the RSPB as “risible, make-believe tosh” the last time it was made in 2016 (see here). And of course since then the Golden Eagle Satellite Tag Review has shown that golden eagles are 25 times more likely to suddenly and inexplicably ‘disappear’ in highly suspicious circumstances on some driven grouse moors than anywhere else in the world.

How on earth does SLE (and it’s associated bodies such as the Scottish Moorland Group and the Gift of Grouse) keep getting away with publishing such drivel?

The Heads up for Hen Harriers project is supposedly a partnership – do the rest of the partners (PAW Scotland Raptor Group and all its members, and SNH) support these false claims? If not, why aren’t those partner organisations saying something about this? Why hasn’t SLE been booted off this ‘partnership’?

And speaking of the Heads up for Hen Harriers project, you may remember we’ve blogged extensively about this partnership sham, and it was slammed in Parliament by Andy Wightman MSP as “a greenwashing exercise” (see here).

We blogged last December about some of our concerns about the claims being made about this project (see here) but we needed to do a bit more research to confirm our suspicions. We haven’t forgotten about this; we’ve been trying, unsuccessfully, to get some information out of SNH via a series of FoIs but SNH has consistently refused to provide the requested information. So we’ve had to do some fact checking via various different routes, which has been time-consuming, but we’re just about there. We intend to blog about our findings shortly, and it doesn’t look good for either SLE or SNH.

7 Responses to “More shameless Hen Harrier propaganda from Scottish Land & Estates”

  1. August 13, 2018 at 6:36 pm

    An article on the BBC website https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-45160897 today about the start of the grouse season does strangely mention the RSPB.
    Here is a good quote from Alex Hogg. “But the management still goes on every day, without diverting public cash the government needs away from other priorities like schools, roads and hospitals.”
    Perhaps he thinks grouse shooting does not attract public money.
    Now there’s a good idea.

  2. August 13, 2018 at 7:51 pm

    Ultimately, I think the chronic disconnect between what the shooting lobby claims and what science tells us will prove not merely self-defeating but will convince an increasing number of people that their claim to be caring conservationists is not just disingenuous but a smokescreen to hide criminality. That journalists are no longer prepared to swallow their tosh whole is telling. They may still have the support of an influential and wealthy lobby but with every outrage, the writing on the wall is getting larger and harder to ignore.

  3. 4 Iain Gibson
    August 14, 2018 at 3:21 am

    The sheer sophistry of Scottish Land & Estates is staggeringly inept in so many ways. To claim that a decrease of 27% in breeding hen harriers in Scotland can be defined as ‘stable’ or ‘healthy’ is simply not plausible, and even a junior school student would recognise such blatant and deliberate misapplication of statistics. The wholly outrageous spin-doctoring in England, where a mere handful of breeding pairs can be welcomed by the grouse shooting fraternity as an ‘encouraging’ increase, is contemptuous of reality. Only three successful nests were recorded within a grand total of seven breeding attempts (in 2017), in a country which has the carrying capacity to support at least three hundred breeding pairs. Of course these people are being perfectly honest in saying that barely 1% of the true potential being achieved pleases them. It suits them fine and dandy. Do they really think that government or anyone with half a brain can’t see right through this hogwash? The problem is that too many people do fall for their underhand PR tactics, and the media in general skips over the subject, usually giving scant equal weight to opinions on both sides, even though one is blatantly lying.

  4. August 14, 2018 at 5:51 am

    You have to admit they are number one for ballshit.

  5. August 14, 2018 at 12:22 pm

    Unfortunately, whilst we have governments both north and south of the border that ignore any inconvenient science and, certainly south of the border, have more affinity with the criminals than the victims, I don’t hold out much hope for improvement. Post-Brexit it can only get worse.

  6. 7 Hinchy
    August 14, 2018 at 5:45 pm

    Just read about Mountain hares -time the RSPB took a much more active roll with all these criminals. Came back from HHDay feeling I had wasted my time turning up. All the same stuff rehashed from last year by the RSPB about co operating with grouse shooting estates.We were gleefully informed that 7 nests had been successful this year-no mention about the large numbers of raptors and other wildlife that had been shot ,poisoned or tagged birds missing. What a shambles! TheRSPB for the second year running didn’t even bother with a presence at Grantown show a couple of days earlier thus leaving the way open for Speyside Moorland Group to spout their rubbish to the general public.On Sunday the only people talking much sense and how these shooting estates should be made to obey the law were the Green MP, Andy Wightman, who was brilliant and Harry Huyton from One Kind. As for the RSPB with one and a half million members they could at least take the time to mailshot every member with the full details and horrific pictures of what is going on in the name of conservation on the birdless deserts that the Scottish uplands have become and urge every member to write to their MP demanding action to stop this barbarism.

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