Going to the Scottish Birdfair? Read this first

PrintThere’s an article today in the Sunday Herald about the RSPB’s controversial choice of venue for next month’s Scottish Birdfair. For the second year running, the RSPB has chosen to hold this event at Hopetoun House, the stately home of Lord Hopetoun whose family also owns the Leadhills (Hopetoun) Estate in South Lanarkshire, a grouse moor that has been at the centre of raptor persecution allegations for years. Sunday Herald article here.

Regular blog readers will know we’ve commented on this issue at length: see here, here, here, here, here and especially here.

In today’s article, veteran Scottish Raptor Study Group member Ronnie Graham urges potential Birdfair attendees to “make an informed decision” about going.

The following information might help. This is a list of confirmed persecution incidents listed at Leadhills/Abington between 2003-2011. This information has been sourced from the RSPB’s own annual persecution reports, in addition to Scottish Government data. The list does not include other ‘unconfirmed’ or ‘probable’ incidents, such as the discovery of skeletal raptor bodies found buried in forestry or dead raptors found shoved inside rabbit holes. Data are only available up to 2011, so any incidents that might have occured in 2012 or the first quarter of 2013 are not included. There are 41 confirmed incidents on this list; of these, only a couple have been successfully prosecuted (see here for a good example of why prosecutions fail). The list is a good example of why conviction rates should not be used to indicate the extent of criminal activity.

2003 April: hen harrier shot

2003 April: hen harrier eggs destroyed

2004 May: buzzard shot

2004 May: short-eared owl shot

2004 June: buzzard poisoned (Carbofuran)

2004 June: 4 x poisoned rabbit baits (Carbofuran)

2004 June: crow poisoned (Carbofuran)

2004 July: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran)

2004 July: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran)

2005 February: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran)

2005 April: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran)

2005 June: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran)

2005 June: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran)

2006 February: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran)

2006 March: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran)

2006 March: poisoned pigeon bait (Carbofuran)

2006 April: dead buzzard (persecution method unknown)

2006 May: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran)

2006 May: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran)

2006 May: poisoned egg baits (Carbofuran)

2006 June: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran)

2006 June: poisoned raven (Carbofuran)

2006 June: 6 x poisoned rabbit baits (Carbofuran)

2006 June: poisoned egg bait (Carbofuran)

2006 September: 5 x poisoned buzzards (Carbofuran)

2006 September: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran)

2006 September: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran)

2007 March: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran)

2007 April: poisoned red kite (Carbofuran)

2007 May: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran)

2008 October: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) [listed as ‘Nr Leadhills’]

2008 October: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [listed as ‘Nr Leadhills’]

2008 November: 3 x poisoned ravens (Carbofuran) [listed as ‘Nr Leadhills’]

2009 March: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran)

2009 March: poisoned raven (Carbofuran)

2009 April: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran)

2009 April: poisoned magpie (Carbofuran)

2009 April: poisoned raven (Carbofuran)

2010 October: short-eared owl shot

2011 March: illegally-set clam trap

2011 December: buzzard shot

32 thoughts on “Going to the Scottish Birdfair? Read this first”

  1. Get some Tee shirts printed with the (above) list & sell them off to people who are going to this event for them to wear to the bird fair & put any profits into campaign funds! That way you’ll get enlightened attendees, heightened awareness and possibly more supporters!

  2. Makes me wonder what is the politics behind all this?
    I’ve been a member of the R.S.P.B. for over 30 years and decisions like this one rock my respect for this conservation organisation – a question of double standards springs to mind.

    1. I also have quite a few years membership and this troubles me. It also troubles me that the RSPB do not seem to think that the precise reasons for choosing this venue require a public explanation.

    2. Mike, there are 2 faces that the RSPB wear, the one that many of us are familiar with and have been involved with for years in bird protection and research, then there’s the other face, the insidious one that think’s of nothing but publicity, brownie points and MONEY and cares little for the birds. I bet you can’t guess which face promoted the Leadhills Hopetoun Bird Fair.

  3. I know it goes against everything that we stand for, but would it be possible, just for one year, for RPS to have a stall at the fair? As John has mentioned above, there could be a few things for sale, such as t-shirts, which could be sold to cover the costs of the stall, and at the same time get the message across to many people, unaware of the real problem.

    1. Sounds like an excellent idea, I can imagine a quite few large scale photos and posters that would go down well on public display, I’m sure we could all contribute to that.

  4. Marco –

    Wouldn’t that be like shooting yourself in the foot, doing exactly what RPS is criticizing the RSPB for doing ? And what a feather in the cap for the Hopetouns Estate ! A concerted petition might work – bit late for this year, but maybe for next ? An explanation from the RSPB is owed us, and we should press for it. Has anyone emailed them on this matter ? Unfortunately I detect signs of the RSPB displaying the very corporatism we abhor.

    1. Yes Marco. I wrote to Mike Clarke asking very specific questions regarding this choice of venue and not surprisingly and not for the first time I must add, I failed to get a reply despite the RSPB claiming to respond to all letters to their Chief exec. What this says to me is that the RSPB Board are less interested in members who care about protecting birds and more interested in appealling to the masses of arm-chair enthusiasts who are non-plus about politics and controvesy. My advise would be to choose your NGO membership wisely and there are plenty to choose from.

      1. That sounds like the technique some organisations use to deal with difficult questions. Often called “stonewalling”. The questioned person may chose to remain silent or respond in a way aimed at deflecting the question (look out for an evasive answer). The technique is often used because in the vast majority of cases it works due to the questioner getting fed up and going away.
        However, it is a technique that can backfire on the user. When he (or she) eventually runs up against an adversary who will not go away then not only will the original question have to be answered, but an explanation will need to be given as to why answering it was avoided.
        So, don’t go away. Make it plain that you know your question is being avoided and that you will endlessly seek to give it a high public profile until it is properly answered.
        Stonewallers can only hide for so long.

        1. Well as an RSPB member & volunteer, I see myself as a shareholder. In this instance I will take my membership funds to another NGO – simple, I will sell my shares and buy someone elses. If the RSPB and any other NGOs wants to step up and have their Chief Execs demonstrate greater accountability to their members then I might just change my mind.

    2. It would only be for the one year and it could be seen as a demonstration from within. Openly questioning the RSPB for their choice of venue and humiliating the host landowner would certainly get the message across to a wide range of people, and it would generate a lot of press interest.

      Petitions certainly have their place, and there was wide criticism of the RSPB when they decided to host the fair at this location last year, with some boycotting the event and some cancelling their memberships. Despite this, and RPS and others proving the link between the estate and raptor persecution, the RSPB went ahead and organised this year’s fair at the same venue. It would appear that in this case, the RSPB are unwilling to react to any criticisms aimed at them, and they are choosing to ignore the views of many of its members and supporters. Similarly, I don’t think an outside demonstration would have much impact. Visitors to the fair could be handed leaflets, but the majority of these would end up in the bin without being read, and there is also the probability that the demonstrators would be moved on by the police, particularly if his lordship’s connections are being made public.

      Like others, I cannot understand why the fair cannot be held at Vane Farm, or one of the many country parks in the central belt. I used to go to the fair at Vane, both as a visitor and a volunteer, but I cannot support this event in its current state, so I do hope that the RSPB see sense and find an alternative location for next year’s event. However, I do believe that participating on a one-off basis could prove valuable in combatting raptor persecution. It would certainly get the message across to a captive audience of thousands.

      1. Thanks Marco for your lengthy explanation, I can quite see that it would be effective. It’s depressing that the RSPB is stonewalling on this important issue. I’ve been a member for many years, and I think it’s time they showed a little humility in the light of the proof so far shown of persecution of birds of prey on this estate. It’s certainly an odious connection and I’m frankly astonished that the RSPB keep it up. However, as I don’t actually go to this event, I’m reluctant to terminate my membership. Publicity from RPS would certainly generate press attention, indeed it sound a little risky. What if the RPS stall was to be closed down ?

        1. If the literature was carefully worded, then they wouldn’t have the opportunity to close the stall down. But then again, after the RPS criticism of the event, perhaps they would not be allowed to have a stall! It would be an interesting exercise to see if RPS, or OneKind, would be allowed to have a stall dedicated to raptor and wildlife persecution, or if the application would be blocked.

          1. Thanks for all the interest but we have no desire to attend this event while it’s being held at Hopetoun.

            We’re big supporters of the RSPB’s work, and particularly their Investigations Team, their scientists, reserve managers, conservation officers etc. However, we will not support the RSPB’s senior management team’s decision to partner with Hopetoun on this or any other event.

          2. Thanks Marco – we shall see, I guess. I note the predictable reply given by the RSPB to the enquiry by John Derek and David Edwick. Let’s hope the RSPB realise that this issue will not go away until they move to Vane Farm!

      2. It makes you wonder just what the RSPB really stand for and who is pulling their strings in the background. They certainly don’t seem to care that they are going against all the priciples of bird protection in associating themselves with Hopetoun Estates, not only that but they are alienating their own members and conservationists in the process. You say I hope the RSPB see sense and find a new location for next years Bird Fair, it seems to me that sense is the one thing lacking with this organisation, they appear to be hell bent on antagonising the serious ornithologists and conservationists who they supposedly represent, while at the same time getting in bed with the shooting estate owners and putting two fingers up to us.

  5. As a proud and long term member of the RSPB, I have to admit that I am ashamed that they are once more at this hidious location. Why? if they can’t come up with a good explanation, I may just let my membership laps at the end of May. I most certainly will not be attending!

    1. I got in touch with RSPB direct regarding Hopetoune. Duncan Orr-Ewing very kindly replied and said much to allay many of my concerns. I am still not entirely happy with Hopetoune, but can now understand some of the reasoning behind the decision.

      1. Hi Chris, I have also been in touch with Duncan Orr-Ewing and Stuart Housden about the decision to hold The RSPB Scottish Birdfair at Hopetoun. Unfortunately they said nothing to put my mind at rest or to assure me that this was part of some big plan which would stop raptor persecution at Leadhills or elsewhere.
        Perhaps you would be kind enough to share with us what Duncan Orr-Ewing said which has allayed your fears?

        1. Hello Ronnie, nothing specific, just an overall feeling after an informative conversation on the telephone with Duncan Orr-Ewing. He put my mind completely at rest with regard to the RSPB stand on persecution. There are behind the scenes negotiations between RSPB,the Earl of Hopetoun and Leadhills which hopefuly will lead to a more possitve outcome. Vane Farm couldn’t be used in May due to breeding birds etc. More was said, but overall I just feel better about the situation. Although I still won’t be attending!

  6. Normally I would love to go to the Scottish Bird Fair but, last year and now this year, I won’t and can’t honestly go there. I won’t put one penny into to the pocket of a Landowner who owns the Leadhills Estate. So perhaps if RPS did run on online petition, using e.g. facebook, twitter and others, then it might stop a few birders,nature lovers etc going to the Bird Fair and hopefully affect their profits. I am a long time member of the RSPB and take pride in the work they have done and still do, but find this “business agreement” with Hopetoun Estate very upsetting. I have just renewed my membership in February but will be seriously considering not renewing next year if this continues.

    1. Have just sent a message to RSPB Scotland re Hopetoun House/Leadhills with my name and Membership number. I await a reply.

  7. People should go and mount a noisy demonstration highlighting the appalling level of criminality in and around such grouse estates. Its time to take the fight for upland raptors to another level given the sense of impunity and arrogance that appear to infect those who run such estaiblishments.

  8. Thanks to RPS for publicising this scandal.
    The list of dead raptors and incidents on Leadhills Estate really does make grim reading. Why would RSPB want anything to do with the owner of this horrible place never mind holding a Birdfair in his back garden?
    Anyone who is still considering attending this event please think very carefully about it. My own personal feeling is that I would love to go. but if I did I would be condoning the slaughter of raptors over many years at Leadhills Estate.
    Perhaps this sits comfortably with RSPB but I find it too hard to swallow.
    To those of us who feel it would be morally bankrupt to go to this event, Please don’t suffer in silence. Tell the RSPB they’ve got it wrong. Write to them, email them, tweet, facebook, phone them up and demonstrate just how strongly you feel about this scandalous decision.

  9. Last year I went to this Bird fair rather than Rutland due to the distance. My friend brought a client from India who will have a stand there this year. There is a long waiting list for Rutland. Something like 300 people/stands!!! I know many more people with stands at Hopetoun this year. It will cost them a lot of money if no one turns up! A question must be asked why not Vane farm where it used to be! Even more money for the RSPB! The Langholm report said majority of Red Grouse moors are still killing birds of prey [98%]. When you see how few people sign the e petitions you then understand how few people care about birds of prey. Most of that is due to lack of knowledge and little publicity from the organisations that should be protecting them. Do we tell people not to go to game fairs for the same reason!

  10. Just sent this message to the RSPB & will update if they answer me:
    I have been a member & supporter for over 30 years. I was somewhat perturbed to see the news that the Scottish Birdfair is to be held again at Hopetoun. My friends in Scotland assure me that the Hopetoun Estate has a less than honourable track record regarding the persecution of raptors and I am at a loss as to why the RSPB should partner them for this event. I would appreciate an explanation that makes some sense and puts my mind at ease

  11. RSPB have responded to queries by John Derek and myself: “…It is the sporting tenants on Leadhills Estate, through a UK sporting agent, who employ and manage the land and the employees at this site, and who are therefore ultimately responsible with ensuring that birds of prey are protected on this land…” http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=486470498074396&set=a.184895478231901.48866.184842418237207&type=1&comment_id=1254439&reply_comment_id=1255284&offset=0&total_comments=4

    1. So, because Hopetoun Estates tenants’ managers and employees are ultimately responsible with ensuring that birds of prey are protected on this land makes it alright for the RSPB to excuse them and organise a bird fair there, therefore condoning Raptor persecution at this site. By doing this I think they are sending out a clear message to all other Raptor persecutionists that the RSPB will turn a blind eye to their criminal activities as long as there’s a POUND, PUBLICITY AND BROWNIE POINTS to be made. Is that something similar to a bribe.

      1. I agree entirely. It’s only money that counts. I know RSPB and others need money to survive but this is the same as selling their soul to the Devil. Think they will be sorry in the long run, they will lose members in Scotland, that would be a shame and a victory for the Shooting Estates.

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