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More wildlife destruction on the Angus Glens grouse moors

Thanks to the blog reader who sent us these gruesome images of wildlife destruction (aka 21st Century grouse moor management), photographed on a grouse moor in the Angus Glens.

Fox, rabbits and a cat:

Cat slung over a tree above a stink pit:

A song thrush:

A stoat:

Amusingly, the Angus Glens Moorland Group (part of the Gift of Grouse propaganda campaign) is launching what it calls a ‘wildlife campaign’ this weekend, presumably in an effort to get favourable press coverage as the opening of the grouse shooting season draws ever closer. They’re asking the public to post images of wildlife on to social media platforms using the hashtag #WeHaveWildlife.

Wouldn’t it be awful if these images of what really goes on (#We Have Wildlife But We’ll Kill It If It Threatens Our Grouse Shooting Profits) were to be seen instead?


Accuracy & transparency proving difficult for game shooting industry’s British Game Alliance

Oh dear.

The game shooting industry’s desperate attempts to self-regulate and demonstrate ‘best practice’, before regulation is finally forced upon them, is failing spectacularly.

The industry’s new self-regulatory body is the British Game Alliance (BGA), ‘the official marketing board for the UK game industry’, which, according to the Countryside Alliance, “aims to run a ‘British Game’ assurance scheme to ensure our game meets the highest standards“.

We blogged about the launch of the BGA a few weeks ago (here) and noted with surprise the name of two estates that had been listed as ‘assured’ members despite them both having recently been subject to police investigations in relation to reported wildlife crime incidents and one of them currently serving a three-year General Licence restriction, imposed by Scottish Natural Heritage on the basis of evidence provided by Police Scotland of illegal raptor persecution.

When we wrote that last blog the BGA hadn’t yet published the list of its ‘assured’ members on its website, but it has now, and what an interesting read it is (see here).

According to the BGA’s twitter account, this membership list includes “assured shoots and agents”:

And apparently includes “over 100 shoots” that are “adhering to high standards”:

Unfortunately for the BGA, these claims aren’t accurate. If you look at the list of ‘assured’ members on the BGA website (as of 12 July 2018 at 2pm) you’ll find only 87 shoots. The other listed members include 6 ‘dealers’ and 7 ‘agents’. This amounts to 100 members but they’re not all ‘shoots’ as the BGA has claimed. We’re not even sure whether any of these 87 ‘assured member shoots’ have even been independently assessed to ensure they’re meeting the BGA’s standards required for accreditation. According to the BGA website, assessments will ‘commence in summer 2018’. So how many of those so-called ‘assured member shoots’ listed on the BGA website have been assessed to date? Surely, if an estate hasn’t been independently assessed it can’t yet be given ‘assured member’ status?

In addition, according to the BGA, there is no accreditation scheme (yet) for agents (no clue about dealers):

Have another look at the list of 87 ‘assured’ member shoots, all supposedly ‘meeting rigorous and ethical standards’. There are some other interesting names on there, in addition to the two we highlighted in our previous blog.

We were surprised to see Newlands [Estate] listed – this is surely a different Newlands to the estate where a gamekeeper was convicted in 2015 of killing a buzzard by throwing rocks at it and repeatedly stamping on it. There then followed a protracted prosecution against the landowner for alleged vicarious liability, until the Crown Office decided to drop the case last year “because it was not in the public interest to continue” (see here).

We then wondered whether SNH would impose a General Licence restriction on the estate for the proven illegal persecution of the buzzard. We’ve asked SNH about it several times but it has refused to discuss this case (and at least eight other cases) because, apparently, “it is in the public interest NOT to release the information” (see here). To date, the Newlands Estate has not been listed on SNH’s list of estates with General Licence restrictions, so we can safely assume a restriction isn’t being imposed. Marvellous.

This complete lack of transparency (some would call it a disgraceful cover up) by the statutory authorities seems to be an approach shared by the British Game Alliance – according to its membership list, 24 of its ‘assured’ member shoots are listed as ‘private members’ (14 in England, 9 in Scotland and one in Wales) and includes grouse shoots and pheasant shoots.

How can the public have any confidence in an ‘assurance’ scheme when it can’t scrutinise a substantial number of the ‘assured’ members because their names remain top secret?!

Sorry (not sorry) but this purported accreditation scheme looks nothing more than yet another greenwashing scam.


High risk of eating contaminated red grouse as inadequate safety checks continue

We’ve been writing about the grouse shooting industry’s dodgy use of veterinary drugs for some time.

In 2015 we exposed the scandal about how Government regulators had failed to test shot red grouse for residues of Flubendazole, an anti-worming drug that is used by grouse moor managers at up to twenty times the strength permitted in the UK, in the form of medicated grit placed out in trays on grouse moors.

Photo of a medicated grit tray on a Scottish grouse moor [Ruth Tingay]

Grouse moor managers, if compliant with the law (not something they’re well known for), should remove all traces of medicated grit from the moors no later than 28 days prior to the grouse being shot and entering the human food chain. Statutory testing is required to ensure legal compliance, as is done for every other meat product destined for human consumption.

When challenged about its failure to conduct statutory tests on shot red grouse to ensure the drug is not entering the food chain, the Government’s Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) claimed, unbelievably, that testing had never taken place because officers didn’t know where to find carcasses to test!! (see here).

After we’d pointed out where dead red grouse could be located for testing, the VMD promised to begin tests in 2016. We followed up on this to find out how much testing had been done in 2016 and were shocked to find that only six samples (two from Scotland, four from England) had been tested, out of a conservatively estimated 700,000 shot birds (see here).

In 2017 we followed up again and discovered that the VMD had only managed to test eight birds this time (four from Scotland, four from England) (see here).

This year, according to an FoI response to one of our blog readers, the VMD says “Ten samples are scheduled to be collected“.

This continued level of inadequate testing is scandalous. The number of red grouse shot each year is now likely to exceed 1 million birds (the estimated 700,000 shot birds comes from the industry’s 2012/2013 figures and we know that the intensification of grouse moor management has increased significantly in some areas over the last five years so an estimate of 1 million shot birds is probably still a gross underestimate).

How can the testing of ten birds, out of an estimated 1 million, be considered representative?

How can the Government continue to risk public health like this?

Ah, but then this is the same Government that refuses to test ANY game birds for lead shot, a highly toxic poison, despite every other type of meat destined for human consumption having to undergo rigorous tests for Pb.

We do know that the Scottish Government’s current review of grouse moor management is considering the unregulated use of medicated grit, which presumably will include an assessment of the risk to public health as well as the significant spread of wildlife disease that is a consequence of using communal medicated grit trays (see here).

We’ll return to this issue throughout the year as the game shooting industry launches yet another desperate greenwashing campaign to market red grouse and other gamebirds as ‘healthy’.

Some toxic red grouse ready for cooking. Yum yum. [Photo by Ruth Tingay]


Hen harrier satellite tag data to be presented in……Vancouver!

Natural England has been using tax payers’ money to fit satellite tags to young hen harriers in England for over ten years.

Since then, there has been a steady stream of reports of those tagged harriers ‘disappearing’ in suspicious circumstances on grouse moors, or being found illegally shot (often on grouse moors), or occasionally dying from natural causes.

We, and several others, have been asking Natural England to release the geographic data for several years because we believe the data will demonstrate a strong link between the locations of ‘disappearing’ hen harriers and land managed for driven grouse shooting (in exactly the same way ‘disappearing’ sat tagged golden eagles have been strongly linked to land managed for grouse shooting). These hen harrier data should be in the public domain, not just because we’ve paid for the data collection, but because these data could provide the evidence we need to apply badly needed pressure on the Government to take action against the criminals within the grouse shooting industry who continue to persecute this species.

However, Natural England has steadfastly refused to release the data, first telling us that the data were part of a PhD study and so couldn’t be released prior to the PhD submission. Then when we found out that the PhD had been abandoned after 11(!) years of ‘study’, NE told us last year that the data wouldn’t be released because an analysis was being undertaken by external academics and would be submitted for peer-review publication in 2018.

We have been highly critical of NE’s refusal to discuss these data and have suggested (here and here) that NE is involved in a massive cover-up to suppress these data to protect the interests of the grouse shooting industry; an industry NE is supporting through its ludicrous hen harrier brood meddling scheme.

Well, after another year of waiting for these data to emerge, it now appears that an analysis has been completed and the findings will be presented at a scientific conference in August……but you’ll have to go to Vancouver to find out the results!

The following is an abstract that has been accepted for presentation at the International Ornithological Congress on 25th August 2018:

Disappointingly, this abstract does not reveal any of the findings but it is interesting to note that Professor Stephen Redpath is listed as a co-author – that’ll be Stephen Redpath who is heavily involved in Natural England’s scandalous hen harrier brood meddling proposal (currently facing two legal challenges, from Mark Avery and the RSPB) and the proposed ‘reintroduction’ of hen harriers to southern England (more on this subject shortly).

If, as we fully expect, the results of this sat tag data analysis do implicate grouse moor management with the suspicious disappearance of hen harriers, that’ll lead to Natural England facing further awkward questions (and perhaps further legal challenges) about how its actions are failing to help the hen harrier (a species it has a statutory duty to protect) and instead how it’s actions are helping to shield the grouse shooting industry criminals from facing justice.

Unfortunately we won’t be in Vancouver to listen to Dr Arj Amar’s presentation (which undoubtedly will be very good), but we know a few who will and we’ll ask them to try and attend this talk and provide us with some details.

We’ll also be asking Natural England to release the findings of this analysis, even if they’re only preliminary results.


More wildlife destruction on more Scottish grouse moors

Yesterday’s blog showing images of wildlife carnage photographed on a grouse moor in the Moorfoot Hills, south Scotland has caused quite a reaction and a few blog readers have been sending us their own grisly photographic evidence from walks in the hills.

As we said yesterday, this wildlife destruction is characteristic of what you’ll find on many grouse moors, especially those that are intensively managed for driven red grouse shooting, where it’s not unusual to have 2,000+ traps set out to kill native wildlife (just because shooting estates want to maximise the number of grouse available for ‘sport’ shooting). As we saw yesterday, and as you’ll see in today’s blog, these traps are indiscriminate and often catch non-target species.

This is routine, every-day wildlife carnage on driven grouse moors. Or as Rob Sheldon (@_robsheldon) described it on Twitter yesterday, ‘collatoral damage’. Red grouse is king and anything that gets in the way of red grouse production will be killed.

The photographs also sparked a lot of discussion about whether a trap was lawfully or unlawfully set. It’s a complex issue, the legislation is mostly ambiguous and debate is set to continue on each and every case. However, a good overview of the legislation relating to tunnel traps (shown in yesterday’s and today’s blog) can be found here, written in 2016 by former Police Wildlife Crime Officer Alan Stewart.

The following photographs come from three different grouse-shooting estates in the Angus Glens. It’s hard to believe they’re not historical photographs from a by-gone Victorian era, but no, the traps were photographed in 2013 and 2015, and the stink pit was photographed last week.

Stink pits are locations where animal corpses are dumped and the stench of rotting flesh is used to attract in other predators that are then killed and added to the pile. Incredibly, this disgusting practice is entirely unregulated and still legal although last year the Scottish Government announced two reviews of stink pit use (see here), including as part of the current review of grouse moor management (see here) which is due to report next spring.


Wildlife destruction on a Scottish grouse moor

The following photographs were posted on Twitter yesterday. They were taken on a grouse moor in the Moorfoot Hills, south Scotland, and are representative of what you’ll find on many grouse moors across northern England and Scotland.

The traps ‘appear’ to be lawfully set (i.e. the spring trap has been set within a natural or artificial tunnel and the entry/exit is tapered to restrict access to non-target species), although clearly not restricted enough to prevent this mistle thrush getting in. The rules about what makes a trap lawfully or unlawfully set are notoriously vague – sometimes its obvious (e.g. if the trap is set in the open) but often it isn’t clear at all.

And you have to wonder how a trapped stoat (a lawful target species) can get underneath the wire cage to hang below the log to suffer what must have been a gruesome and prolonged death.

Grouse moor management = wildlife carnage.

UPDATE 6 July 2018: More wildlife destruction on more Scottish grouse moors (here)


#Justice4Ravens: application lodged for judicial review

Yesterday a legal application seeking permission for judicial review of SNH’s disgraceful decision to licence the mass culling of ravens in Strathbraan ‘just to see what happens’ was lodged at the Court of Session on behalf of the Scottish Raptor Study Group.

The fantastic legal team working on this issue (thanks to the generosity of those who supported the crowdfunder) have worked hard to build a case and lodge this application within the restricted time frame allowed. Kudos and thanks to Sindi Mules of Balfour & Manson and Aidan O’Neill QC of Matrix Chambers.

The next steps will be a court order permitting the lawyers to serve the petition on SNH, and then a period of 21 days for SNH to provide ‘Answers’ (a response) to the points raised in the petition.

Then a judge at the Court of Session will consider the petition and the Answers and decide whether the case is strong enough to proceed to a full substantive hearing. There isn’t a set time frame for this and much will depend on how busy the court is.

We’ll keep you posted, of course, but won’t be providing any further details of the petition as legal proceedings have now begun.

The crowdfunder closed early this morning and the stretch target of £25k was smashed! An amazing 1087 people donated £26,765. That’s brilliant!

Thank you to everyone who donated and supported this effort to get #Justice4Ravens and made this legal challenge possible.

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