Posts Tagged ‘scottish gamekeepers association

20
Apr
18

SNH issues licence for mass raven cull in 5-year ‘experiment’

To the utter disbelief of conservationists, statutory conservation agency Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has issued a licence authorising the mass killing of ravens in a large area of Perthshire (an area identified as a wildlife crime hotspot where six satellite-tagged eagles have suspiciously disappeared in recent years), as part of a proposed five-year experiment, on the basis of ‘seeing what happens’ to wader populations when ravens are removed.

The licence has been issued to a consortium calling itself the Strathbraan Community Collaboration for Waders (SCCW) which, according to the licence application, ‘represents some of the local land management (farmers, gamekeepers) and private interests in the area who value wading birds for their biodiversity, social and economic value to the area and to Scotland more widely. The application is supported by the Scottish Gamekeepers Association and technical advice and support, notably data gathering and interpretation, is being provided by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT)‘.

[Raven photo by Dieter Schaeffer]

The following has been written by a group of Scottish Raptor Study Group (SRSG) members as a guest blog:

STRATHBRAAN RAVEN LICENCE

The news about the missing white tailed sea eagle disappearing in Glen Quaich on Tuesday 17th April could sadly not have been more timely as Scottish Natural Heritage, (SNH), have issued a licence to several estates in the Strathbraan area in Perthshire, including Glen Quaich Estate, for the killing of 300 ravens in a large scale trial over five years to see if wader productivity and populations can be improved by removing raven predation.

The manner in which the government’s statutory nature conservation agency have conducted themselves has come as a shock and there is grave concern about the mis-application of science, the lack of consultation with key stakeholders, such as the RSPB and SRSG, their choice of estate partners and the lack of transparency, trust and honesty, and even seasoned SNH watchers are aghast.

We have raised our concerns and are unhappy with the response so far and have resorted to writing this blog to make the matters public. Following the “suspicious” disappearance of the white tailed sea eagle and the fact the police are describing this as ‘an illegal act’ we call upon SNH to conduct a review and if the circumstances fulfil what we consider to be the established criteria set out in SNH’s own report then we expect the licence to be withdrawn.

Our concerns focus on three areas, firstly the choice of partners:-

Firstly when selecting a trial area why would you choose an area dominated by driven grouse shooting with a history of illegal raptor persecution? What message does this send out to the many law-abiding estates? Is it that persecution will enable you to ‘cut a deal’ with the statutory nature conservation body? Cynics might suggest this is more about an opportunity to kill ravens in an attempt to protect red grouse stocks and it could also be argued that a licence has been issued to kill one species of bird to enable another bird to be shot for fun.

[Map of proposed cull area in north Perthshire, from the licence application, running from Loch Tay in the west to the A9 in the east]:

Raptor workers over the years have been monitoring the area and can speak with authority on raptor persecution. The Scottish Government’s review of satellite-tagged golden eagles showed that four of these birds have disappeared suspiciously in this area, with a satellite-tagged red kite also disappearing in 2010. In all cases, the tags can be classed as “stopped – no malfunction” as used in the review – ie. highly suspicious.

[Map of north Perthshire showing the last known fixes of five satellite-tagged golden eagles that disappeared in suspicious circumstances. Sea Eagle Blue X also disappeared in Glen Quaich last month]:

In addition, a radio-tagged white-tailed eagle was tracked to this area, but disappeared in January 2012, while a further satellite-tagged white-tailed eagle recently similarly disappeared in Glen Quaich. An illegal clam trap was found in November 2012, while a buzzard was spring-trapped in January 2012. A red kite was found poisoned in January 2015. A raven was poisoned in 2017. In addition, licenced raptor study group members have noted a number of cases of suspicious failure of nesting attempts by hen harrier, red kite and buzzard across the area. They have also recorded a higher than usual turnover of red kites and a loss of breeding pairs at nearby sites. All of which indicates on-going illegal persecution.

Even bearing in mind these detected incidents represent an unknown proportion of actual persecution taking place, this is an area where land management practices have displayed a proven criminal intolerance to protected species, stretching back for many years. All this has been in the public domain so why did SNH press on knowing that their partners in this initiative have such a dubious record, and what level of confidence can we have in their honesty and integrity?

Secondly, science and key questions that remain unanswered:-

  • What monitoring is in place to assess that this cull will not affect the raven population status?
  • How will SNH be able to differentiate from other factors affecting the decline of waders such as other predatory pressures, the loss of suitable habitat and changes in agricultural practices?
  • What criteria will be used to differentiate between breeding and non-breeding birds? This year we have noticed that the breeding season is later than usual.
  • What allowance has been made for the immigration of immature flocks into the proposed licence area?
  • Why has the licensing decision been taken in the absence of the raven population modelling report, as it was commissioned with the sole, or at least the main, purpose of underpinning raven licensing decisions with sounder background information?
  • What is the nature and extent of the independent scrutiny that has been carried out?
  • If any raven roosts are located during the period of the licence, can we be assured that any Schedule 1 non-breeding species and other protected species (possibly also using the same roosts) will not be disturbed?
  • What safe guards are in place to ensure the numbers killed will remain within that permitted?

Thirdly, the lack of engagement

SNH are always keen to trumpet words such as ‘trust’, ‘building relationships’, ‘shared objectives’ ‘working collaboratively’ but we have seen none of this.

  • There has been no communication with SRSG workers who have been active in the proposed licence area and have many years of breeding data on ravens and raptors.
  • We understand that not all landowners/managers within the area of licence have been contacted about this licence, contrary to reassurances provided.
  • This proposed application was developed outside the much lauded ‘Working for Waders’ initiative and we only became aware of this by accident; hardly working together or building trust!
  • Under the Scottish Raptor Monitoring Scheme raven data are submitted to SNH (who is a key partner), yet it seems this information was not included in the licence considerations, (we know this as under the permission sharing protocols raptors workers who collected the information in the first place would have had to have been consulted).

We are deeply suspicious that the lack of engagement was deliberate as SNH knew their proposal was weak and would not stand up to the rigour of an independent scientific review.

We again call upon SNH to withdraw the licence.

ENDS

It’s well known that SNH issues a number of licences every year to cull ravens where they are considered a ‘serious threat’ to livestock (e.g. see here, here) but these are apparently for a limited cull, not related to game management and supposedly based on sound scientific evidence of a perceived local problem.

It’s also well known that gamekeepers have long wanted ravens to be added to the General Licence (e.g. see here, here) because they are seen as a perceived threat to grouse stocks.

It’s also well known that ravens are routinely demonised in the press, including this outrageous piece published by the BBC (see here, and well worth a read to understand the hysteria whipped up around this protected species).

However, this latest licence authorising a multi-year mass culling of ravens over a large area for spurious reasons (and apparently very little, if any, scientific justification) is unprecedented. That it also happens to be a well-known raptor persecution hotspot just adds to the lunancy of this situation.

If you share the concerns of the SRSG members, please consider sending an email to Mike Cantlay, SNH Chair, calling on him to withdraw the licence with immediate effect. Emails to: chair@snh.gov.uk

UPDATE 14.20hrs: Thanks to the blog reader who brought this article to our attention, reporting on the results of a scientific study that dispels many of the myths associated with ravens and wader population declines. And here is the scientific peer-reviewed paper by Amar et al that specifically warns against making predator control licensing decisions without a thorough evaluation of the evidence.

UPDATE 21 April 2018: A quote from SNH Head of Wildlife, Robbie Kernahan:

We understand the concerns over wildlife crime in Strathbraan, but we are also clear that the granting of this licence is wholly unconnected to the issues concerned.

This licence is about a pressing and complex conservation issue. It  is a large-scale collaborative trial which will help improve our understanding of factors affecting key wader species, populations of which are declining at an alarming rate. We are satisfied this licence will not affect the population of ravens overall, and is over a five year period.

The licence places significant responsibility and expectations on all those involved – to be able to show that this approach can work and will help deliver what are essentially shared objectives.

Trust is a key element of this and this presents a great opportunity to develop that trust and relationships with all involved. If it becomes apparent that actions are not being carried out in accordance with the terms of any licence then we will have no hesitation in removing the licence“.

UPDATE 21 April 2018: A quote from RSPB Scotland Head of Species & Land Managament, Duncan Orr-Ewing:

We are extremely concerned about the likely scale on impact of this research licence on the local raven population in the Strathbraan area of Perthshire. We are also very surprised that SNH have issued such a research licence  in the vicinity of Strathbraan, which has an appalling  and well documented track record of illegal persecution of raptors, noting also the very recent “suspicious” disappearance of a satellite tagged white-tailed eagle in this very same area.

We, together with local raptor workers who have been monitoring ravens in the area for decades, could have helped SNH with this background detail to the licence application if we had been consulted.

We will be seeking a high level meeting with SNH shortly to discuss. We will be pressing for the research licence to be revoked on the back of the white-tailed eagle incident, and instead consideration given by SNH to removing the use of the Open General Licence in this area, as is within their powers“.

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19
Apr
18

Why shooting estates should fear eagle disappearances

An interesting and insightful Leader Comment in today’s Scotsman: (whoever wrote this, well done!) –

As the RSPB Scotland points out, the disappearance of a fourth satellite-tracked eagle in a part of Perthshire that’s home to several shooting estates over four years is “highly suspicious”.

The Scottish Gamekeepers Association complains its members are the “first to be accused when any bird of prey goes missing”, but the illegal killing of raptors undoubtedly happens, as a 2016 report on red kites by Scottish Natural Heritage found, and few others have a motivation. Each case is a further challenge to the rule of law that will eventually force parliament to react.

And that could lead to the licensing of shooting estates – with the threat of licences being revoked over killings of birds of prey – or a strict liability offence so that a landowner would be found responsible for the unnatural death of any raptor on their land.

Both are measures that estates would – and should – fear.

The sooner the shooting community realises that the death of a sea eagle represents a greater threat to their business than a live bird, the better the chances will be of protecting these magnificent creatures.

22
Feb
18

Golden eagle Fred: the SGA doth protest too much

The highly suspicious disappearance of our golden eagle Fred continues to make the news.

The Scottish Gamekeepers Association has issued the following press release today:

GAMEKEEPERS SEEK END TO ‘TRIAL BY MEDIA’ OVER EAGLE.

The Scottish Gamekeepers Association has called for an end to the ‘trial by media’ over a golden eagle which has gone missing near Edinburgh.

Last week, BBC wildlife presenter Chris Packham issued a press release claiming a young satellite tagged eagle had gone missing just miles from the Scottish Parliament, in a wood in the Pentland Hills.

According to the Springwatch presenter, the tag was later found to signal in the North Sea, after appearing to stop transmitting for three days.

A video released to the media by Packham – who actively campaigns for grouse shooting to be banned- implied that the eagle, which has not been located, had been illegally killed.

The video the BBC presenter appeared in, pointed the finger at a grouse moor as it was geographically close to the wood and fields where the bird was understood to be.

Now the SGA has called for an end to what it describes as unsubstantiated speculation and for greater transparency over evidence.

Despite media claims that the area 7 miles to the south of the capital is managed for driven grouse shooting, the moor is used principally as a partridge shoot as quarry numbers are now too low to sustain viable grouse shooting due to high levels of public access.

The area is popular with hikers, dog walkers and mountain bikers from Edinburgh and beyond, with the Pentland Hills welcoming 600 000 visitors per year.

A Spokesman for The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: “Trial by media has already taken place. Now everyone who has been drawn into this needs the truth as to what happened to this eagle.

It is not enough for people to be implied as being criminals and those in possession of the satellite tag evidence to walk away, after presenting their judgement to the media, then say no one will probably ever know what has happened.

If the tags are as reliable as everyone has been told, then the tag data will surely provide conclusive evidence. Many questions need to be answered including why it could not be located in the sea, if it continued to transmit locational data for several days.

There needs to be greater transparency because there are too many elements to the carefully stage-managed narrative which do not stack up despite its presentation as a fait accompli.

If, by releasing this evidence, in full, to Police Scotland, it helps to bring this to a successful conclusion or prosecution, then the SGA and others would be satisfied that justice, as we have come to expect justice to look like, will have run its course.

In the meantime, serious allegations have been made against a community of people on the basis of a running commentary of media speculation, implication and suggestion which makes a laughing stock of what looks to be a live investigation.”

ENDS

We have provided a response to media enquiries, reproduced in full here:

The circumstances of Fred’s disappearance are highly suspicious and fit with the findings of the Scottish Government’s recent review of the fates of satellite-tagged golden eagles in Scotland, which demonstrated that almost one third of tagged golden eagles have disappeared without trace in areas managed for driven grouse shooting.

Since our initial press release, we have obtained further information from Fred’s tag which corroborate our earlier suspicions that Fred is a victim of illegal persecution. Far from “walking away”, as the SGA claims, this new information has been passed to the police for investigation so we cannot comment further at this stage.

It’s laughable that the SGA is complaining about ‘trial by media’ when one of its own Directors has been using social media to smear and discredit the conservationists involved in this project, suggesting we’ve fabricated the whole story. If the SGA used its time and resources more productively to root out the criminals within the game-shooting industry, eagles like Fred would stand a much better chance of survival“.

ENDS

Meanwhile, we’re still waiting to hear from the SGA whether Scottish gamekeeper Alan Wilson, who was recently convicted of animal cruelty, was a member of the SGA at the time he committed his crime and if so, whether he has now been expelled. Strangely, the SGA has not yet commented.

Emails to: info@scottishgamekeepers.co.uk 

03
Feb
18

The Gift of Rogues

Last Thursday, at the invitation of Andy Wightman MSP (Scottish Greens), several conservationists attended the Scottish Parliament for a meeting to discuss illegal raptor persecution with Andy and some of his parliamentary colleagues. It was our privilege to be invited and we are grateful to Andy for the opportunity to contribute to what turned out to be a very productive session.

Prior to the start of our meeting, Andy invited some of us to attend a parliamentary reception for the Gift of Grouse (Gift of Rogues for you anagram fans) hosted by Kate Forbes MSP (SNP) and designed to celebrate red grouse as a ‘healthy and sustainable’ food. We’d actually blogged about this forthcoming event the day before where we’d argued that rather then being ‘healthy and sustainable’, red grouse shot on driven grouse moors were more likely to be toxic, diseased and unsustainably harvested (see here), so we were delighted to be able to attend as invited guests and listen to the speeches.

You can probably imagine the warm and welcoming reception we received from the pack of tweed-clad gamekeepers who’d come along to boost the numbers (the official press statement said the event was attended by “over 60 guests” – it wasn’t, there was about half that number, mostly from the grouse-shooting and game dealer industry and a handful of Conservative MSPs, and us) but all credit to Colin Sheddon (BASC) and Tim (Kim) Baynes (Scottish Land & Estates / Scottish Moorland Group / Gift of Grouse) who came over and introduced themselves. Kate Forbes also made a point of coming over and we had a brief chat about unsustainable driven grouse shooting and its association with the criminal killing of birds of prey.

So, the turn out was lacklustre and to be honest, so were the speeches. We heard from Andrew Hopetoun (of the infamous Leadhills Estate and Chairman of the Scottish Moorland Group) who muttered something about there being “environmental benefits” of driven grouse shooting but failed to elaborate on what those benefits are, and carefully avoided any mention of the long history of recorded raptor persecution at Leadhills, including the alleged shooting last year of a hen harrier and a short-eared owl. (Incidentally, we’re still waiting to see whether SNH imposes a General Licence restriction on this estate).

We heard from Jeremy Dixon of Ochil Foods in Perthshire (the company that supplies red grouse to Michelin-starred chef Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles – you’ll remember him, he’s the one who falsely claimed red grouse are ‘organic’). Jeremy claimed that his company had seen a “five-fold increase in the demand for red grouse last year” – but then he was hardly going to say that his business is struggling to sell an unpopular product.

Then we heard from Chef Brian Grigor (The Balmoral Hotel, Edinburgh) who made the extraordinary claim that the red grouse that reaches your plate is ‘truly wild’ and has been ‘untouched by human hand’. Really, Brian? Is this the same ‘truly wild’ and ‘untouched by human hand’ bird that has been raised on a moor where all the native predators have been ruthlessly destroyed and the grouse itself has been netted in the middle of the night to have a powerful drug used in chemotherapy forced down its throat and a pesticide band attached to its leg that will transfer the pesticide directly to the grouse to kill off ticks (also used as a topical treatment in humans to treat scabies and pubic lice)?

Brian had produced some grouse canapes for the reception and needless to say we weren’t tempted. We did consider collecting a few to have them tested for excessive quantities of toxic poisonous lead and a dose of the anti-parasitic wormer drug Flubendazole but that seemed a bit rude. We might instead just visit his restaurant later in the year and buy some grouse for testing.

We did check out the goodie bags but they weren’t up to much, either. Although we did find a pamphlet that repeats a false claim that 81 bird species thrive on grouse moors – a claim we debunked over a year ago.

We left the reception wondering what its objectives had been – a group of grouse-shooting industry insiders talking to some other grouse-shooting industry insiders and a few tame Conservative MSPs all seemed a bit pointless. But then we read this, and of course it all became clear: just another PR propaganda exercise designed to portray political support for the industry, although this time they probably hadn’t banked on Andy Wightman MSP having the final word:

There’s no assurance standards around grouse, we don’t know where the source of it is and we know there’s criminality mainly around the illegal culling of protected raptors.

Produce from a system that involves criminal activity should not get to the plates of high end restaurants.

I would also question whether grouse is healthy.”

Amusingly, our presence at this event prompted this outburst from Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association Director, Bert Burnett (thanks to the blog reader who sent us these images). A free Gift of Rogues goodie bag for anyone who can spot the irony!

27
Oct
17

Scottish gamekeepers complain about alleged escalation of trap vandalism

The Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association is today complaining about an alleged escalation in the vandalism of animal traps on shooting estates.

This supposed increase has been attributed to ‘activists’ and the SGA wants the law tightened up so that the alleged perpertrators can be prosecuted.

There’s widespread media coverage about it today e.g. in The National (here), The Times (here) and on the SGA website (here).

Photo of an allegedly vandalised trap (from The National)

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard such claims. Back in 2013 it was discussed during a Rural Affairs Parliamentary Committee meeting, when then Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse acknowledged that trap tampering might be taking place but that there was no hard evidence to show how widespread the problem might be so at that time it was considered all conjecture.

In 2015 the issue was raised again by a Fife landowner and an article in the local press suggested that “Police Scotland is reporting a rise in the number of traps being tampered with“.

We challenged that claim by looking at the results of a year-long trap tampering study carried out across Scotland by BASC between April 2014 and March 2015. The results showed that the issue was not widespread at all, but seemed to centre on a handful of local areas.

Whether the problem has increased since then is hard to tell without independently collected data. The problem might have increased. It’s not hard to understand the motivation that might lead to someone damaging a trap. It might be on animal welfare grounds (someone might see a non-target species dead in a trap). It might be because someone can’t tell whether a trap is legally or illegally-set – it’s not always easy to judge. It might be because someone objects to predator control just to maximise a landowner’s profits. Or the motivation might simply be because so many cases of illegally-set traps rarely result in a prosecution, even when a known gamekeeper has been filmed setting an illegal trap. That doesn’t make trap vandalism ‘right’, we’re just saying it’s easy to understand why it might be happening.

Photo of a young red grouse killed by a lawfully-set trap (photo by RPUK)

It’s equally plausible to suggest that some gamekeepers may be deliberately vandalising one or two of their own traps and then reporting it to the police as the work of ‘activists’ in an attempt to smear those whose campaign to put game-shooting under political scrutiny is gaining such traction.

Whatever might be happening, it’s ironic that the SGA doesn’t make this much noise when cases of illegally-set traps on game-shooting estates are reported in the media.

It’s very hard (virtually impossible) for us to sympathise with the SGA when it remains silent (or concocts outlandish alternative explanations) about the on-going abuse and use of illegal traps, by gamekeepers, to target birds of prey on game-shooting estates.

Speaking of which, we’re still waiting for the findings of the SGA’s inquiries in to who set the illegal traps that were discovered on a grouse moor on Invercauld Estate last year.

27
Sep
17

Evidence of wildlife crime results in General Licence restriction on Edradynate Estate

As many of you will know, SNH has the ability to impose a three-year General Licence restriction order on land, or on an individual, where there is sufficient evidence, substantiated by Police Scotland, that raptor persecution has taken place (see SNH framework here).

This measure, based on a civil burden of proof, was introduced by then Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse in 2013 in response to the continuing difficulties of meeting a criminal burden of proof to facilitate a criminal prosecution. The measure became available for incidents that occured on or after 1 January 2014.

Photo of a poisoned buzzard (RPUK)

Since then, only two restriction orders have been imposed, both in November 2014: one for the Raeshaw/Corsehope Estates in the Scottish Borders, and one for the Burnfoot/Wester Cringate Estates in Stirlingshire (see here for details, and an explanation of what a General Licence restriction actually means).

As you’ll also probably be aware, Raeshaw Estate and Corsehope Estate made a legal challenge to SNH’s decision and this resulted in a judicial review. The judicial review dragged on for some time but eventually concluded in March this year, and the court found that SNH had acted fairly and that the General Licence restriction at Raeshaw Estate and Corsehope Estate should remain in place (see here).

While this legal challenge was underway, SNH, quite reasonably, did not impose any further General Licence restrictions, even though there were plenty of candidate estates to consider. Once the legal argument had been settled, we expected SNH to open the floodgates and impose many more restriction orders for offences that had taken place since January 2014. We asked SNH about this in June 2017 and we were told that two notifications were underway, relating to offences in Perthshire and Aberdeenshire, although no further details were given at that time, presumably as SNH was giving the affected parties time to respond/appeal. Fair enough.

Today, SNH has announced that two General Licence restriction orders have been imposed in two separate cases.

The first of those cases relates to Edradynate Estate in Perthshire: SNH_GL Restriction Notice_Edradynate Estate_15Sept2017

Here is the decision notice:

And here is the estate boundary map to which the General Licence restriction applies for the next three years:

For the next three years, Edradynate Estate will no longer be able to enjoy the privilege of using General Licences 1, 2 or 3, but the estate will be entitled to apply for the use of an Individual Licence that will allow them to kill certain bird species but under closer scrutiny than if the estate was using a General Licence. We’ll be monitoring the use of any Individual Licences that SNH approves for this estate, and, if there is any breach of the licence conditions, we fully expect SNH to revoke the Individual Licence just as they did for Raeshaw Estate earlier this year.

SNH has not provided any information about the Police Scotland evidence used as the basis for this General Licence restriction order on Edradynate Estate. However, it’s probably a fair assumption that it relates to the alleged poisoning of several buzzards in 2015. This is one of the five prosecution cases that the Crown Office dropped earlier this year, without explanation. The case did not involve video evidence, as some of the others did, and the case was dropped by the Crown despite a plea from Police Scotland to proceed (see here).

We’ve been blogging about Edradynate Estate for a very long time. It’s well worth reading an earlier summary we wrote (here) which includes some fascinating commentary about the estate by former RSPB Investigator Dave Dick, who claimed as far back as 2004 that the estate was “among the worst in Scotland for wildlife crime“, and commentary by former Police Wildlife Crime Officer Alan Stewart, who said in 2005, “Edraynate Estate has probably the worst record in Scotland for poisoning incidents, going back more than a decade“. The details involve a disturbingly high number of poisoned birds and poisoned baits that were found over the years, as well as a number of dropped prosecution cases (nobody has ever been convicted for any of the alleged offences). The summary also includes information about links between the estate and the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association.

Now, whether you think a General Licence restriction order is a sufficient sanction against this estate is open to debate. However, while we wait for the Scottish Government to get on with estate licensing, a General Licence restriction order is all that is currently available, so well done to SNH for imposing the General Licence restriction order on this particular estate and for being semi-transparent about the details.

Unfortunately, we can’t say the same about the second General Licence restriction order that SNH has just imposed. We’ll be blogging about that one in the next blog…..it’s an absolute shocker.

Edradynate Estate (photo by RPUK)

UPDATES:

RSPB press statement here

SNH imposes General Licence restriction on ‘mystery’ gamekeeper (here)

More on the mystery gamekeeper with the General Licence restriction (here)

18
Jul
17

SGA Chairman wonders why gamekeepers aren’t respected

We always look forward to the publication of Scottish Gamekeeper, the quarterly rag for members of the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association. As you can imagine, it’s often stuffed full of bright intellectual commentary and an appreciation of birds with hooked beaks and sharp talons.

The latest edition landed on our doormat last week and as ever, its content didn’t disappoint. Looking at the cover, we were particularly keen to read Chairman Alex Hogg’s thoughts on ‘working people’ (he means gamekeepers) being fed up about being wrongly ‘tarred’.

As an aside, we were also intrigued to see the Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime (PAW) logo displayed on the banner. As some of you will recall, the SGA recently spat the dummy and announced they’d no longer attend PAW Raptor Group meetings. So apparently you can be a member of PAW, and pick and choose your own terms of engagement. Marvellous.

Anyway, back to Chairman Hogg’s musings on life. Here’s his column:

Apart from having to point out to Chairman Hogg (not known for his grasp of factual accuracy) that, contrary to his claim, the hen harrier is red-listed precisely because of ‘poor management actions by gamekeepers’ in Scotland (and of course in England), what really intrigued us was his confusion about why gamekeepers are so maligned.

It’s a tricky one alright. Maybe, perhaps, we’re not entirely sure, but might it have something to do with the fact that of all those convicted for offences related to raptor persecution in Scotland between 1994-2014, 86% of them were gamekeepers? (Source: RSPB 2014 annual review)

Or that of all poison abuse incidents reported in Scotland between 2005-2014, 81% of them took place on land managed for grouse and pheasant shooting? (Source: RSPB 2014 annual review)

Chairman Hogg also uses his column to whip up a spot of scaremongering (as was regurgitated by a gamekeeper’s wife in the Mail on Sunday last weekend) about the introduction of game shoot licensing claiming that “law abiding people will be at the mercy of the extreme fringe that want nothing other than grouse shooting stopped. For them, the removal of a few licences (and a few gamekeepers and their families) is a means to an end; a stepping stone“.

Why is licensing such a difficult concept to understand? If you break the terms of the licence, you get penalised. If you abide by the terms of the licence, you won’t get penalised. It’s really pretty simple. Perhaps by using the term ‘extreme fringe‘ Chairman Hogg is suggesting that gamekeepers will be ‘set up’ or framed. Has there ever been a case of this happening, where a gamekeeper has been wrongly convicted by the action of somebody else? We can’t think of one. Members of the ‘extreme fringe’, whoever they might be, have no need to ‘set up’ gamekeepers because gamekeepers keep on breaking the law all by themselves, time and time and time again.

To be fair, Chairman Hogg does have a point about all gamekeepers being tarred by the same brush. The reason this happens is because it’s virtually impossible for observers to distinguish between the law-abiding gamekeepers and the criminal gamekeepers. Even industry leaders don’t differentiate, so why should we? The criminals within the ranks are repeatedly shielded and protected by the game-shooting industry, until the point of conviction. Once they’re convicted, the leading organisations within the industry are put under strong public pressure to react, (e.g. a membership expulsion), but this is a fairly recent phenomenon and it doesn’t always happen (e.g. see here) and actually we’re still waiting for the SGA (and Scottish Land & Estates and Wildlife Estates Scotland) to comment on the membership status of convicted gamekeeper William (Billy) Dick who committed offences on the Newlands Estate in Dumfriesshire. We’ll come back to this case soon.

However, as everybody knows, convictions for raptor persecution are as rare as hens teeth (especially when the Crown Office refuses to accept what appears to be clear cut evidence of alleged crimes) and so the SGA and others within the industry spend their time concocting the most fantastical explanations for what might have happened to the crime victims (e.g. see here, here, here, here) instead of focusing on the blindingly obvious suspects. That isn’t going to earn Chairman Hogg et al any respect, and will simply engender the commonly-held view that many (not all) gamekeepers are nothing more than irredeemably archaic luddites.

Here are some top tips for earning back some respect:

  1. Stop killing raptors
  2. Er
  3. That’s it



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