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Scottish Gamekeepers Association on the attack about ‘misleading’ information – oh, the irony

The latest target in the Scottish Gamekeepers Association’s (SGA) rifle sights is the Scottish Green Party.

I say latest, I’m not sure I can remember the SGA ever supporting any policy of the Greens, and some members of this political party have long been targets for personal abuse by some SGA Committee Members and supporters, so this current attack is just more of the same.

It all stems from a short piece in a regional campaign newsletter, currently being distributed by supporters of the Scottish Greens:

Of course, anybody challenging the status quo of grouse shooting is going to be a target for hatred and it will come as no surprise whatsoever to learn that candidate Maggie Chapman has been subjected to disgraceful misogynistic abuse on Facebook by SGA supporters, on the SGA’s own Facebook page. It appears that real women can’t have short hair AND breasts. It’s all too confusing if you still think it’s the 1950s. I’ll bet she was wearing trousers too. Shocking. The misogyny centred on Maggie’s appearance – god help us if they’d realised she was actually standing for election.

The SGA’s reaction to the Scottish Green Party’s campaign newsletter has been astonishing, although actually it shouldn’t be astonishing at all in light of their recent antics in relation to the death threat received by Chris Packham (see here). It seems they’ll complain about anything in their quest to resist progressive modernisation and so this time they’ve threatened to write to the Electoral Commission to complain about what they call ‘misleading information’ about grouse moors.

Here’s what the SGA published on its website earlier this week:

On the face of it, this SGA statement might seem like reasonable comment, especially as it was citing the results of a recent Government-funded study in to the socio-economic and biodiversity impacts of grouse shooting.

The thing is, the SGA isn’t accurately reporting that study’s findings. At all. In fact some might argue it was deliberately mis-reporting the findings.

How so?

Well, in the summary report of that study being cited by the SGA, the authors are quite clear about how the study results should be interpreted. In fact they couldn’t have been clearer (underlining added by me):

Furthermore, the small set of case study samples that the study used are also kind of skewed in favour of grouse shooting. This is not a criticism of the study authors, they have been totally upfront about it, but it just emphasises the caution urged by the authors on how these results should be interpreted; caution which the SGA has ignored:

There were nine case studies that involved some sort of grouse shooting, but only two involving rewilding/conservation. There’s absolutely no way that the study results can be seen as being representative of these land-use differences across Scotland, as the SGA is trying to claim.

I’d encourage the Scottish Green Party to study the summary report closely, and also read some wider research commissioned by REVIVE (especially this one) to rebut any complaint the SGA may make to the Electoral Commission about so-called ‘misleading information’.

The supreme irony of this latest attack is that the SGA is accusing the Scottish Greens of promoting ‘misleading information’ about grouse moors. The SGA are the masters of ‘misleading information’ (i.e. utter rubbish), and here is a small selection from over the years:

‘Professional gamekeepers do not poison raptors’ (May 2011)

‘It is unfair to accuse gamekeepers of wildlife crime’ (June 2011)

‘Will these very large creatures [white-tailed eagles] differentiate between a small child and more natural quarry?’ (September 2011)

‘Raptors are thriving on game-keepered land’ (July 2013)

‘I strongly believe the goshawk was never indigenous to the United Kingdom and there is absolutely no hard evidence to suggest otherwise’ (September 2013)

When asked whether gamekeepers are involved with the poisoning, shooting & trapping of raptors: ‘No they aren’t. We would dispute that’ (March 2014)

‘In the last ten years we have stamped out poisoning. We’ve absolutely finished it’ (October 2014)

‘We kill animals because probably we’re the doctors and nurses of the countryside’ (January 2015)

‘Grouse moors are a birdwatcher’s paradise’ (December 2020)


‘It’s time to end burning on grouse moors’

The focus remains firmly on the deliberate burning of our uplands with yet another article discussing the environmental damage caused.

This time it’s an opinion piece written by Max Wiszniewski, the Campaign Manager for REVIVE, the coalition for grouse moor reform in Scotland. The article has been published by UK Climbing.

[Muirburn on a Scottish grouse moor, photo by REVIVE]

While the public are implored not to start wildfires, the practise of burning heather for grouse moor management takes place on a huge scale, and is often carried out on peat bogs, a vital carbon store. Ending ‘muirburn’ could boost both biodiversity and the fight against climate change, say environmental campaigners. As Scotland prepares to host the UN Climate Change Conference, it’s time to set an example, says Max Wiszniewski of REVIVE, the coalition for grouse moor reform’.

To read the full article on the UKC website please click here

If you’d like to support REVIVE’s vision for grouse moor reform in Scotland, please consider signing up here


Emmerdale actor speaks out against grouse moor burning & raptor persecution

Hot on the heels of her last article on how burning Britain’s moorland is ‘an environmental disaster’ (here), the Daily Mirror’s Environment Editor, Nada Farhoud has a follow up article out today.

This time she interviews Emmerdale actor Nick Miles, who lives in the Yorkshire Dales National Park and has been a long-time supporter of conservation campaigns such as Hen Harrier Day.

Nick talks about his village ‘disappearing under a blanket of smoke’ when the gamekeepers have set the moors alight and how letters to his MP, Rishi Sunak, have fallen on deaf ears.

He also talks about how few red kites he sees in Upper Wharfdale (hardly surprising given its proximity to Nidderdale, where killing red kites on grouse moors is de rigueur) in comparison to Harewood, where Emmerdale is filmed and from where red kites were reintroduced and are doing well.

Read today’s article in the Mirror here (and watch out for the comedy input from Moorland Association Director Amanda Anderson).

Meanwhile in Scotland the fires also continue. I’ve been sent some horrific photographs that were taken in the Angus Glens two days ago – I’ll be publishing those later this weekend.

And here’s a photo sent in by another blog reader (thank you) taken yesterday in Manor Valley in the Borders:

It’s astonishing that not only is this burning still legal (although for how much longer remains to be seen) even though we’re in a climate and nature emergency, but that gamekeepers in Scotland can lawfully continue to set the moors alight until 15th April, and then with landowner’s permission can continue to light fires until 30th April.

Still, it’s a cracking wheeze for torching out hen harrier nests, peregrine breeding ledges and golden eagle eyries, which can then be explained away as ‘accidents’ (see here).

Pass the matches.


RSPB blog: Scotland’s uplands going up in smoke in the nature & climate emergency

Further to the blog I wrote about Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing’s astonishing recent statement, “It’s essential that we carry on with muirburn” (see here), RSPB Scotland has now published a blog to discuss this burning issue [geddit?].

The RSPB’s Duncan Orr-Ewing and Andrew Midgely explain the charity’s position on moorland burning in the context of the nature & climate emergency and what policy commitments they want to see from the next Scottish Government.

[A grouse moor set alight in Strathbraan in March 2021, photo supplied by a blog reader who wishes to remain anonymous]

The RSPB blog begins…

As one of our key election requests, we are asking Scottish political parties to support the licensing of muirburn, and indeed the banning of muirburn on deep peatland soils (defined as over 30cm in depth). Peatlands are our vital carbon stores, and both their protection and restoration to healthy condition are critical to meeting Scottish Government targets for Net Zero carbon emissions.

Muirburn is the practice of burning vegetation and is mainly associated with managing land for grouse shooting, deer management or for sheep farming. Much of this vegetation burning is visible from plumes of smoke rising from moorland and upland farmland across the country during calm and warm spring days.

In recent years, RSPB Scotland has been receiving messages and photographs from concerned members of the public asking why, in the context of the climate and nature crises, the practice of muirburn is still going on in many of our upland areas across Scotland. Although lowland farmers no longer burn stubble—they have adapted and found alternative ways of managing the land—burning continues in the uplands.  Members of the public appear, quite rightly, to be struggling to reconcile the clear messages about the need to reduce carbon emissions with the locally widespread practice of muirburn.

To read the rest of this blog please click here


Gun, banned poisons & dead birds of prey seized in third multi-agency raid in England

Press release from Dorset Police (1st April 2021)

Officers and partners who executed a warrant at a rural property in East Dorset have seized pesticides, dead birds of prey and a firearm.

Dorset Police Wildlife Crime Officers have been working with the Police National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU), Natural England and the RSPB to investigate the alleged poisoning of a Red Kite, which was found dead in a field in north east Dorset in November 2020.

The bird of prey was recovered by police following the discovery by a member of the public and sent for forensic analysis at a specialist laboratory. The results of a post mortem examination subsequently indicated that it had been poisoned. 

On Thursday 18 March 2021 officers, accompanied by NWCU, Natural England and RSPB, attended an address in rural north east Dorset, having obtained a warrant and also exercised further powers under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. 

A number of dead birds of prey and several pesticides, including banned substances, were located at the premises. A firearm was also recovered. 

[Photo by Guy Shorrock]

Police Constable Claire Dinsdale, Lead Wildlife Crime Officer for Dorset Police said: “This investigation is ongoing and no further information or comment can be made at this time regards this specific case

The national picture is that the persecution of birds of prey sadly continues in the UK. This is one of our six national priorities for wildlife crime, highlighted on the National Wildlife Crime Unit’s website 

A great deal of work has already been done by police and partner organisations but still there are those who think they are above the law.  The deliberate killing of birds of prey will not be tolerated. We have had previous cases in Dorset of illegal shooting and trapping as well as poisoning. 

I would urge the public to be vigilant and report dead birds of prey to police. Clear evidence of a wildlife crime, such as an illegal trap, shooting or suspected poison bait should be reported immediately to police without delay. A ‘What Three Words’ location or grid reference is really useful.

If a dead bird of prey is located and you are not sure whether it is suspicious or not, still report it to police immediately. We can access assistance from vets to examine and x-ray birds and submit them for forensic testing, therefore ruling out natural causes. Police can access forensic funding for such wildlife crime cases. 

A wildlife crime in progress is a 999 call, an urgent suspicious finding needs to be called in on 101 immediately and for all other non-urgent reports you can email or visit Dorset Police online 

If you have any information on the illegal killing of birds of prey or other types of wildlife crime, you can speak to police in confidence by emailing We do not act in a way that would identify the source of the information to the police.” 


This is the third multi-agency raid that’s taken place in England in the space of a couple of weeks, in relation to the suspected persecution of birds of prey.

On 15th March 2021 there was a raid in Lincolnshire (see here), on 18th March this raid in Dorset, and on 26th March a raid in Devon (see here).

It’s alarming that all three raids were triggered by the use of poisons to kill birds of prey.

Well done to all the partners involved – let’s hope their efforts are rewarded with successful prosecutions and convictions.


Podcast discussion on how shooting industry could deal with its raptor-killing criminals

There’s an interesting and amusing podcast out this week, featuring Cardiff University senior lecturer Dr Rob Thomas talking to two blokes about how the shooting industry could deal with its raptor-killing criminals if it really wanted to, instead of shielding and supporting them.

The podcast was published by an outfit called The Yorkshire Gent, and you’ll need to get through some pretty tedious justification from the two presenters about why they’ve invited a ‘non-shooter’ as a podcast guest and how they expect to receive abuse (from their own supporters) for doing so, before getting to the actual interview itself.

Rob will be familiar to those who use Twitter (@RobThomas14) for his often thoughtful, sometimes teasing, commentary on ecology and gamebird management and its impact on biodiversity, especially birds of prey.

During the podcast discussion, Rob outlined some ideas about how the shooting community could tackle the issue of raptor persecution, for example by blacklisting estates and having a shooter-led boycott where it is obvious that criminal activity continues.

The two presenters seemed surprised that persecution hotspots could be identified (!!!) but after Rob gently pointed out that to deny the bleeding obvious was just laughable, they both agreed that yes, in principle, a blacklist approach could work.

[Five dead buzzards pulled from a hiding spot on a grouse-shooting estate at Bransdale in the North York Moors National Park during lockdown last year. Tests confirmed that four had been illegally shot. Photo from police bodycam – see here]

There was also discussion about raptor satellite-tagging and one of the presenters announced with great conviction that ‘tags can be tampered with’ (by the tag owners) and that he’d been ‘assured’ that this was possible – unfortunately he didn’t go on to explain who had ‘assured’ him or how this could be done. It’s absolute nonsense, of course, because if there was ever any suspicion that the tag owners had ‘faked’ the tag data (as a Director of the Scottish Gamekeepers Assoc has libellously claimed) the police can simply ask the tag manufacturer for a copy of the original tag data.

There was further discussion about why the shooting industry isn’t contributing resources to support the policing of raptor persecution crimes such as monitoring, satellite tagging and surveillance.

The podcast is available here. If you want to skip the tedious stuff, start at around 58 minutes.


National Game Dealers Association going lead-free from July 2022

The National Game Dealers Association (NGDA) is the latest organisation from the UK game-shooting industry to realise, belatedly and after years of resisting, that if it is to survive then dropping products shot with toxic lead ammunition is the only way to go.

The NGDA has issued the following statement this morning:

At the National Game Dealers Association ( NGDA) annual general meeting members voted to commit to sourcing all feather and fur Game as well as venison and wild boar from lead-free supply chains from the 1st of July 2022.

This was agreed in order to future proof the sale of Game meat in their customer’s businesses, and to ensure continued consumer growth from those people seeking to enjoy our healthy delicious game products. This is a positive move for our industry to protect the environment and further assure our products in a highly competitive market place. The NGDA and its members will be working with the relevant industry groups to ensure, with this notice, our supply chains are able to make a transition.

If you have any concerns as a supplier to an NGDA member, please discuss your individual requirements with them or the NGDA.

Thank you

Stephen Crouch

Chairman National Game Dealers Association.


This U-turn from the NGDA comes hot on the heels of an announcement from the Westminster Government last week that it was planning to phase out the use of poisonous lead ammunition (see here).

Amusingly, some commentators from the game shooting industry are trying to portray the NGDA’s U-turn as an example of how the industry can take sensible decisions all by itself instead of having to be dragged, kicking and screaming, in to the 21st Century by the rest of us.

Not very convincing when you consider that the NGDA Chair, Stephen Crouch, was one of those who resigned from the Lead Ammunition Group in May 2015 when the group’s official report to Government advocated a recommendation to ban the use of lead ammunition. Mr Crouch, along with the others who resigned (John Batley, Gun Trade Assoc; Mark Tufnell, Country Land & Business Assoc; Barney White-Spunner, Countryside Alliance) argued there was insufficient evidence to support such a move!!

The scientific evidence to support a ban on toxic lead ammunition, for the sake of human health, wildlife and the environment, has not changed at all since 2015. It’s just built and built and built.

It’s good to see the tipping point has finally been reached, after years and years of ongoing hard work by scientists such as Professor Debbie Pain and Professor Rhys Green (see here for their latest findings which showed that one year in to a so-called ‘voluntary transition’ away from lead shot by the UK game shooting industry, virtually no actual progress had been made). Although with the industry still dragging its feet and arguing that there aren’t enough supplies of non-toxic ammunition available yet and there won’t be for another four years, it’ll be fascinating to see whether the NGDA can source lead-free products from next year.

Nevertheless, it’ll be like watching falling dominos now. There is no chance of stopping what has been started. It’s just shameful that it has taken this long to get here.


Welsh Government to appoint national police wildlife crime coordinator

The Welsh Government has announced plans to appoint an all-Wales rural and wildlife crime coordinator.

Speaking about the proposal, Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths said:

I take the issue of rural and wildlife crime very seriously and commend police forces in Wales for the great strides they have made to tackle this over the years.

Our police Rural Crime Teams are seen as a shining light in this area of policing throughout the UK, supported by Welsh Government, Natural Resources Wales, the Police, Fire Service, Government Agency Intelligence Network and the Crown Prosecution Service. 

Working with our Welsh Police Forces we now have a unique opportunity to build upon the good work of our Rural Crime Teams to establish a dedicated all-Wales Rural and Wildlife Crime Coordinator. 

I believe this police role could make a step change to the coordination, effectiveness and multi-agency response to rural and wildlife crime work. The coordinator would also represent Wales strategically in regards to UK initiatives as well as various UK forums and priority delivery group meetings.

I have therefore agreed to provide funding for this 12 month pilot role and have written to the Chief Constables of the 4 Welsh police forces and the police Crime Commissioners seeking their cooperation and support to appoint an all-Wales Rural and Wildlife Crime Coordinator“.

[Photo by Dyfed Powys Police]


‘Burning Britain’s moorland an environmental disaster’

The Daily Mirror, of all places, published a large feature article yesterday about the damaging effects of grouse moor burning.

Written by Environment Editor Nada Farhoud, the article featured comments from the usual suspects but also some new voices, including a local resident of the North York Moors National Park, Richard Gray, who was quoted:

They say grouse shooting brings money into the local economy, it brings nothing other than smoke and destruction of our wildlife“.

For some reason the article also included a random photograph of what was alleged to be a poisoned rabbit bait, and another photograph of a dead peregrine ‘believed to have been discovered in North Yorkshire’. The association between grouse moor management and raptor persecution wasn’t really made clear and I would imagine that many Mirror readers would have wondered what any of that had to do with setting fire to the moorlands.

There is a link, of course, and that link is grouse moor management, but it was maybe too subtle in this article.

That’s not to take anything away from the article itself – it’s fantastic to see a mainstream tabloid focusing on this issue.

You can read the article here


Operation Easter: 24 years of stopping egg thieves & egg collectors

Press release from the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU)

Wild birds are nesting and the national campaign to protect them across the UK is underway.

Egg thieves will go to any lengths to raid the nests of rare wild birds but Operation EASTER is determined to stop them in their tracks.

Operation EASTER was developed in Scotland 24 years ago.  The operation is now facilitated by the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) in conjunction with UK police forces and partner agencies.  The operation targets egg thieves by sharing intelligence across the UK to support enforcement action.

[Peregrine eggs area particular target. Nestcam photo by Nick Mooney]

In recent years the operation has also been expanded to cover some emerging trends of criminal behaviour – the illegal taking of raptor eggs or chicks to launder into falconry; the online trade in eggs and the disturbance of nests for photography.

The taking of wild bird eggs is a serious crime yet it remains the pastime of some determined individuals.  Whole clutches of eggs can be taken from some of the UK’s rarest birds with potentially devastating impacts. The eggs are stored in secret collections. 

Chief Inspector Kevin Kelly (Head of the NWCU) says: “Operation Easter is a yearly event that is engrained within wildlife crime Policing. This year we have given the operation some much needed emphasis, focusing our efforts onto assisting Police Wildlife Crime Officers on the front line.

The NWCU collates and disseminates the information that identifies the hotspot areas where the crimes are likely to be committed and we work with Police officers and partners to ensure these areas of interest are given the attention they deserve, to protect the future of our wild birds. We have a number of skilled and dedicated Police Wildlife Crime Officers across the UK who have adopted this operation and will work with us to reduce criminality, and for this, I thank them greatly“.

If you have any information on egg thieves, or those who disturb rare nesting birds without a license, you should contact your local police by dialing 101 – ask to speak to a wildlife crime officer if possible. Nesting will be in full swing by April so please contact the police if you see anyone acting suspiciously around nesting birds.

Information can also be passed in confidence to Crimestoppers via 0800 555 111.


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