landowners’ condemnation of raptor persecution exposed as a sham?

On 21 May 2010, this blog reported on the news that over 200 landowners (members of the Scottish Rural Property & Business Association – SRPBA)  had written a letter to Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham MSP, condemning the continued practice of illegal raptor persecution on Scottish sporting estates.

This letter has now become available for public viewing: SRPBA LETTER MAY 2010

On close scrutiny of the signatories to this letter, it is now apparent that on 23 of the estates listed, wildlife crime incidents have been recorded, and on seven of them, estate employees have criminal convictions. Here they all are in their full glory:

Careston Estate, Brechin: Buzzard found poisoned by Chloralose 1992.

Dochfour Estate, Inverness: Buzzard found poisoned by Chloralose 1992.

Invercauld Estates, Braemar: Buzzard found poisoned by Chloralose 1992; Three Buzzards and a raven found poisoned by Carbofuran 2005; Gamekeeper convicted for illegal use of spring trap 1997.

Balmanno Estate, Bridge of Earn: Buzzard found poisoned by Carbofuran, illegal gin traps and egg collection – Gamekeeper convicted 2003.

Haystoun Estate, Peebles: Gamekeeper filmed allegedly removing Peregrine chick from nest – evidence ruled inadmissable in court (a legal technicality) – but keeper convicted of firearms offences 2003.

Haddo Estate, Aberdeenshire: Gamekeeper convicted for  laying poisoned baits and illegal traps and fined £2,600 in 1989.

Dunachton Estate, Kincraig: Buzzard found shot 1990; Buzzard found shot 1992.

Dougarie Estate, Isle of Arran: Eagle found poisoned by Chloralose 1991.

Rosehaugh Estate, Black Isle: Buzzards found poisoned by Mevinphos 1991.

Dinnet & Kinord Estates, Aboyne: Gamekeeper convicted for firearms offences and trespassing on neighbouring estate while carrying a firearm 2006; Golden eagle found poisoned 2006.

Straloch Farm, Blairgowrie: Buzzard found poisoned by Chloralose 1992.

Lothian Estates, Jedburgh: Osprey found shot 1993.

Glenfeshie Estate, Kincraig: Golden eagle found poisoned by Carbofuran 2006.

Islay Estates, Islay: Raven found poisoned by Mevinphos 1989; Buzzard found poisoned by Mevinphos 1989.

Dunecht Estates, Aberdeenshire: Buzzard found shot 2007.

Coignafearn Estate, Tomatin: Poisoned bait found 1983; Golden eagle found poisoned 1988.

Roxburghe Estate, Kelso: Buzzard found poisoned by Mevinphos 1989.

Seafield Estate, Strathsprey: Buzzard found poisoned by Chloralose 1991.

Innes Estate, Elgin: Dead Buzzards and crows found dying after poisoned by Carbofuran – Michael Royan (head gamekeeper) convicted of firearms offences and possession of illegal poisons 2007.

Carbeth Estate, Stirlingshire: Buzzard found poisoned by Chloralose 1989.

Wemyss & March Estates, Longniddry: Managers of the Barns Estate in Peebleshire, where gamekeeper was convicted of poisoning 20 raptors, described at the time as “Britain’s worst wildlife crime” 2004.

Alvie Estate, Kincraig: Golden eagle found poisoned 1980.

Aberarder Estate, Strathnairn: Eagle found poisoned 1993.

One has to ask, why are these estates still allowed a membership of SRPBA? Doesn’t their continued membership ruin any credibility of the SRPBA’s public pronouncements against illegal raptor persecution? Indeed, it seems to go against the SRPBA’s very own Code of Practice: 

Although of course, we should point out that some of these Estates may have changed ownership/staff since some of these incidents occured – we should probably give them all the benefit of the doubt because after all, the SRPBA has ‘repeatedly condemned the illegal poisoning of wildlife’ and of course we should all accept that their members are all above board and not engaged in criminal activities.

The SRPBA is also a fully-fledged partner in the Partnership Against Wildlife Crime (PAW Scotland) – as a commited partner, I’m sure that the SRPBA has expelled any members that are associated with wildlife crime. Otherwise, what is the point of SRPBA being a partner in PAW Scotland? No point, other than paying lip-service to raptor conservation in a feeble attempt to protect their public image. But we are giving them the benefit of the doubt, aren’t we.

At the latest PAW Scotland meeting  that was held on 25 May 2010, Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham MSP apparently congratulated the SRPBA on their letter. Let’s give her the benefit of the doubt too and assume she hadn’t read it yet.

licences have not been granted to kill birds of prey (yet)

It seems that the news report from The Sunday Times last weekend was a wee bit hasty, and was the result of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association’s Chairman Alexander Simpson Hogg opening his mouth when he’d have been better off keeping it shut. 

According to a statement posted on several birding discussion groups’ websites from Stuart Housden, Director of RSPB Scotland:

This [story about licences being granted to kill buzzards] is completely erroneous and is based on misinformation put out by the Gamekeepers organisation SGA [Scottish Gamekeepers Association].

We [RSPB] would be as concerned as anyone if this was to happen – but to strengthen our negotiating position with the Scottish Government you and others may wish to make your concerns known to our Environment Minister, Roseanna Cunningham MSP. The Scottish Government is considering clarifying how it issues licences to control birds alleged to be doing damage – and we have been active making the case as strongly as we can for conservation.

The article in The Sunday Times that started this rumour had a strong quote from the RSPB making clear we want the law upheld and that raptors fully deserved the protection they have”.

For anyone interested in expressing their views to Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham MSP, here is her e-mail address:

Licences granted to kill birds of prey

New licences will legalise buzzard killing

In an astonishing act of short-sighted stupidity, the Scottish government, backed by Scottish Natural Heritage, the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, and the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, has announced that licences to kill protected raptor species such as buzzards will now be issued to gamekeepers who can demonstrate that 10% of their gamebirds have been killed by birds of prey, according to an article in The Times.

Roseanna Cunningham (Scottish Environment Minister) and SNH – you should be ashamed of yourselves – we expected better from you. Ministers claim that the new licensing scheme will help to prevent illegal raptor persecution. Just how thick are you? The illegal killing will continue, and its effects on the raptor population will be further magnified because ‘legal’ killing will now also be allowed.

SGA Chairman Alex Hogg

Chairman of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) Alex Hogg has been campaigning for licences to kill raptors for over ten years now. His latest statement that “growing buzzard predation is causing serious welfare issues” is nothing short of delusional. This is not about “welfare issues” but is all about financial issues. If Alex was so concerned about the welfare of gamebirds, he & his fellow gamekeepers wouldn’t be releasing over 43 million of them into the countryside each year, just so that commercial hunting parties can come along and blast them from the sky! Buzzards and other raptors have taken about 100 years to recover from the effects of Victorian persecution, and now this legal persecution is set to begin again. Have we learned nothing from our past mistakes?

Roseanna Cunningham, Environment Minister? You’re having a laugh. And this, the International Year of  Biodiversity.

This blog will be monitoring which estates are issued with these licences to kill our protected species and will report the findings here.

landowners condemn raptor poisoning

Well, well well. Now here’s a turn up for the books. Over 200 Scottish landowners/shooting estate owners have written a letter to Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham, to condemn illegal raptor poisoning and to call for the “full weight of the law” to be brought down on those who commit these crimes.

This is a real change of strategy from the landowners, because usually after a persecution incident, they bleat on about how gamekeepers are ‘unfairly blamed’ and that the body of the dead golden eagle/white-tailed sea eagle/kite/buzzard/peregrine/harrier/sparrowhawk/short-eared owl/kestrel/tawny owl/goshawk or whatever other species has just been persecuted, must have been planted by ‘animal rights’ activists to cause trouble for the gamekeepers. They’ve been denying any involvement for years, as demonstrated by these two links below. Regular readers of this blog will know better, of course.

Now, whilst this new public condemnation of illegal persecution is to be applauded, I can’t help but ponder over the motive. It wouldn’t be anything to do with the speech that SNH Chairman Andrew Thin made recently about ‘pompous and selfish’ landowners, would it? 

Or the growing calls from the general public for shooting estates and gamekeepers to be licensed, so that when they commit wildlife crime, they can be properly penalised where it hurts (by having their licence revoked) instead of the pathetic admonishments and fines that they currently get.

Or perhaps it’s the latest brainchild of the SGA, who think that if they can demonstrate good behaviour and stop any criminal activities, the government would be more inclined to provide them with legal licences to kill raptors – licences that SGA Chairman Alex Hogg has been pursuing for over ten years now – fortunately with limited success so far: )

Whatever next? Full disclosure of the names of estates where illegal raptor persecution incidents have been discovered? No, thought not. Nice try landowners, but to be convincing you’ll have to do better than simply writing a letter.

Police investigate missing peregrine eggs in Dumfries & Galloway

Police have launched an investigation after a clutch of peregrine eggs have been reported stolen from a monitored nest site near Thornhill, Dumfries & Galloway.

PC Plod will have his work cut out catching the culprits, as there are so many to choose from – in the past, peregrines have been targeted by egg collectors, falconers, pigeon fanciers and gamekeepers.

Full story:

3 golden eagles & other raptors found dead on Skibo Estate, Sutherland






THREE golden eagles, a buzzard and a sparrowhawk have been found dead on Skibo Estate, Sutherland, in the last week. The bodies have been sent for toxicology analysis at the government laboratory in Edinburgh, on suspicion that they had been poisoned. Now, unless those THREE golden eagles all died of old age at the same time on the same estate, and the buzzard and sparrowhawk died of a heart attack at seeing the dead eagles, I think it’s fair to assume that the toxicology results will prove to be positive and that some of these birds have been illegally killed by someone with access to poison. Even PC Plod should be able to work out the connection here.

The police investigation is continuing and no arrests have been made. A statement from Skibo Castle said: “The owners and management of Skibo Castle are committed conservationists and do everything they can to support the welfare of wildlife and birds. We will cooperate fully with the authorities in their investigation”.

BBC news story:

Skibo is a prestigious highland estate and was the location for Madonna’s marriage to Guy Ritchie in 2000. The estate includes a 3,000 hectare grouse moor and a members-only hotel. Skibo was bought for £23 million in 2003 by Ellis Short, an American multi-millionaire investment banker who also owns Sunderland football club. In 2007, his wife, Eve Short, is alleged to have threatened two pensioners who were walking their dogs on the estate, telling them she would have her gamekeeper shoot the dogs if they were seen again. According to the report, the estate later apologised to the pensioners after realising that the pensioners had every right to walk their dogs there, under the rules of the Scottish Access Code.


third dead sea eagle in a month – latest poisoning event in Ireland

Project Manager Dr Allan Mee examines the carcass with the schoolchildren who found it

A third white-tailed sea eagle has been found poisoned in the space of one month in Ireland. The latest victim was found by schoolchildren on a kayaking trip in Kerry, within one kilometre of  the other two poisoning incidents. It is suspected that farmers in this area are placing sheep carcasses laced with poison to kill the eagles.

When will these stupid, selfish bastards stop? Probably not until the penalties for raptor persecution are increased substantially.

Full story:

PAW gets into bed with an estate with a track record of wildlife crime

Oh dear. It looks like those fools who run PAW have made a serious error of judgement (again). The news section on the PAW website contains information about a recent deer training course for Police Wildlife Crime Officers and a Procurator Fiscal, helping them to understand the process from slaughter to table. All well and good….that is until you read where the training course was held…

Balmanno Farm.

For the eagle-eyed amongst you, you will recognise the name ‘Balmanno’ from the Named Estates section of this blog, and also from the blog entry on 5th March 2010. These entries refer to a conviction for wildlife crime of a gamekeeper on the Balmanno Estate.  A poisoned buzzard (killed by Carbofuran), gin traps and an egg collection were found on this estate in 2001-2002, and a gamekeeper was convicted of wildlife crimes at Perth Sheriff Court on 12th November 2003. A quick google search identifies Balmanno Farm as being part of the Balmanno Estate in Perthshire.

Click here for the PAW press release:

Well done PAW! Your credibility is plummeting to new depths.

sea eagles have ‘minimum impact’ on lamb survival – new research findings

White-tailed sea eagle wrongly accused of lamb deaths

Take note, crofters and farmers – the results of the SNH-funded study to examine the effects of white-tailed sea eagles on lamb survival have just been published – less than 2% of lamb deaths in Gairloch, Wester Ross, were directly linked to the sea eagles.

The study was undertaken last year, in response to crofters’ claims that sea eagles ate 200 lambs at Gairloch. The crofters should have gone to Specsavers, and saved the taxpayer over £100,000.

The politicians considering the crofters’ latest petition to remove the legal protection of sea eagles and golden eagles so that crofters can kill them, had also better take note.

Download the full report here: B603609_WTElambstudyGairloch_2010

BBC news story here:

crofter petition asks for licences to kill sea eagles & golden eagles

Crofter Farquhar Macbeath wants to kill sea eagles

A crofter from Glenelg  has submitted a petition to the government to ask for the removal of legal protection for sea eagles (and other predators, including golden eagles, and inexplicably, badgers) so that he and his fellow crofters may kill them. The petition (#1309) was submitted in February 2010 by crofter Farquhar Macbeath.

The petition comes after SNH sponsored a research study in 2009 about the effects of sea eagle predation on lambs at Gairloch, Wester Ross. Local crofters and farmers had claimed that sea eagles at Gairloch were eating over 200 lambs a year. The subsequent research demonstrated that they weren’t (no surprise there then!). After the study was completed, the Gairloch farmers claimed the research was “flawed”, because the sea eagles were “put off” taking the lambs by the big plastic tags attached to them as part of the research study. (There’s your solution then, farmers – in future, just attach plastic tags to your lambs!!). Here is the link to that story:

Farquhar Macbeath’s petition was heard by Holyrood’s Public Petitions Committee on 20 April 2010. It really is worth a read – it includes his and his family’s sightings of pumas and he refers to eagles as ‘vermin’ and ‘vultures’ – hideously out-dated and uneducated views but then Farquhar is 85 years old, bless him.

You can also watch the discussion surrounding this petition on Holyrood TV by clicking here: Scroll to the petitions heard on 20/4/2010. The video is 4 hours long, but you can fast forward to this particular petition at 2.17hrs – 2.38hrs. It is worth watching!

In response to the petition, the Committee agreed to write to the Scottish Government, SNH, National Union of Farmers Scotland, Scottish Gamekeepers Association, Scottish Wildlife Trust, SSPCA and RSPB to ask for their views. No prizes for guessing what those will be.

Click here to read Farquhar’s amazing petition: PE1309