Bird boycott

Here is a letter that was published in today’s edition of The Scotsman:

I recently had another holiday in Scotland – my third visit this year – principally to do bird and wildlife watching.

Like many others I have always wanted to go bird watching in Malta and Cyprus, but have boycotted these islands on principal because of their hunting and persecution of birds.

On each visit to Scotland I learn of more illegal poisoning and persecution of raptors – including a major tourist attraction, the iconic golden eagle.

I am beginning to think that my patronage of your tourist industry is somewhat hypocritical in view of my stance on the European countries I mentioned.

It appears that wildlife crime detection is grossly underfunded and that penalties are woefully inadequate.

What good is a fine of a few thousand pounds to a gamekeeper whose multi-millionaire lord and master will pay the fine anyway?

I think a universal boycott by wildlide enthusiasts would be damaging to the economies of Scotland, and I implore the Scottish Government to make a concerted effort to stamp out these crimes.”

P. Bateson, Halifax.

The Scotsman letter here

‘Unfair to accuse gamekeepers of wildlife crime’, says gamekeeper Alex

In an article published in The Courier on 30 May 2011, Ian Thomson, an investigator for the RSPB, expressed his concern about the high number of wild birds illegally killed in Tayside. 14 incidents were recorded there between March 2010 and March 2011.  In the same article, it is reported that PC Bryan Prestwood, a wildlife crime officer based in Angus, ‘believes the biggest problem is with gamekeepers and land managers’. Full article here

In an angry response published on 6 June 2011, Alex Hogg suggested it was ‘unfair to accuse gamekeepers of wildlife crime’. His letter here

I think people will make up their own minds Alex, based on the factual evidence and government statistics. You’ve even said yourself, on many occasions, that if gamekeepers were to be given licences to kill protected raptors then illegal raptor poisoning would stop. This notion was also repeated last week by David Hendry of Cardney Estate in his BBC 2 Landward interview. Quite a strange prophecy from a ‘profession’ that claims not to be involved with wildlife crime, don’t you think?

For those still in any doubt whether some gamekeepers are involved in willdife crime, and specifically raptor persecution, here’s a link to a piece we wrote on the issue last year, including some revealing statistics provided by the RSPB. Here’s a link to another piece we wrote last year, with the most recently-published RSPB statistics. These show clearly that 85% of people who were convicted of illegally killing birds of prey between 2003-2008 were gamekeepers!

Sleeping gamekeeper fined over guns on table

A GAMEKEEPER who was found asleep in a chair in his kitchen with a shotgun and rifle lying on the kitchen table was fined £160 at Inverness Sheriff Court this week.

Martin MacKenzie has been suspended from his job and also faces losing his firearms licence.

Depute Fiscal Karen Smith said police had to attend the house at Mains of Aberarder and found Mackenzie asleep at the kitchen table.

The rifle and shotgun were lying on the table, she told Sheriff Ian Abercrombie.

Mackenzie (36) of Craggan Valley, Kiltarlity, admitted on May 18 last year failing to comply with conditions of his firearms certificate that he failed to keep the guns in a secure designated place.

Craig Wood, solicitor, said Mackenzie was married with two children, and had been a keeper at Arberarder for 10 years. “Since this incident he has been suspended by his employers.”

Mr Wood added that a letter had been received from the Chief Constable asking for Mackenzie’s certificate to be revoked, but this was the subject of an appeal.

He had been using his guns and intended to clean them,” said Mr Wood. “He took several phone calls and when the police attended he accepts he should have dealt with it more expeditiously. He is a perfectly reasonable human being.”

So, it appears that Northern Constabulary consider falling asleep in your home in charge of unsecured firearms an offence serious enough to revoke a certificate. No complaints here and well done to the newly-appointed Chief Constable of Northern Constabulary, Mr George Graham. It follows then surely that the Moy and Skibo gamekeepers, convicted last week, should also have their firearms certificates revoked given the seriousness of their crimes? If you measure seriousness in terms of the court’s punishment, then both James Rolfe (Moy Estate) and Dean Barr (Skibo Estate) committed crimes far more serious than the one committed by Martin MacKenzie at Aberarder:

Rolfe = £1500 fine; Barr = £3300 fine; MacKenzie = £160 fine.

I also wonder whether MacKenzie is a member of the SGA, and if so, whether he faces sanctions in light of his firearms conviction? Incidentally, there’s still no public statement of condemnation from the SGA over last week’s convictions of the Moy & Skibo keepers. They also haven’t said whether Rolfe or Barr are SGA members and if so, whether their SGA membership has been terminated after their criminal convictions. Hopefully the SGA’s bed-fellows at PAW Scotland will be asking these questions.

Many thanks to the contributor who brought this article to our attention.

Highland News

Peregrine falcon found with shotgun injuries in Grampian has to be destroyed

Grampian Police are appealing for information after a shot peregrine had to be destroyed. The badly injured falcon was discovered in woodlands at the Pass of Ballater in the Cairngorms National Park on 27 April by a dog walker. Tests showed the bird had been wounded by a shotgun, with the pellets causing a serious fracture to its right leg.

Force Wildlife Crime Officer Dave MacKinnon says ” I am appealing for anyone, particularly in the upper Deeside area, who may have information as to who is responsible for shooting this protected bird.  It is an absolute disgrace that anyone thinks they have justification for shooting a rare and specially protected bird.

There are a few known peregrine nest sites in the Ballater area.  These birds like to nest on cliffs hence the reason for them choosing to trying to live and breed in upper Deeside.  

This latest incident of raptor persecution in Grampian clearly indicates that some people are still prepared to break the law risking a custodial sentence, the reputation of their employers, their livelihoods and their right to possess firearms.”

This statement hints that the finger of suspicion might be pointing at someone who works in the shooting industry, perhaps on a shooting estate. The Pass of Ballatar runs through land owned by Invercauld Estate, according to a well-known geographical resource. However, this bird wasn’t neccessarily shot at the Pass of Ballater, it was just found injured there. It could have been shot somewhere else nearby – there are several other well-known shooting estates in this area close to Ballatar whose employees have also previously been convicted of wildlife crime.

Anyone with information should call Grampian Police on 0845 600 5700.

BBC news story here

More details here