On Wednesday, Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse gave evidence to the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee (RACCE) at Holyrood about the government’s 2012 Wildlife Crime Report. We said we’d be watching the proceedings with interest, given Scottish Land & Estate’s claim that raptor persecution receives too much media attention (see here).
We did watch the live session and on the whole we thought that Wheelhouse did quite well, although we did think that some of the questions put to him by some of the RACCE Committee Members revealed a certain level of influence from those with a vested interest in game-estate management.
Quite a few questions related to the ‘setting up’ of estates and ‘interference’ of legal traps by supposed animal rights activists – in fact one of the panel tried to push him into admitting that it was a ‘legitimate concern’ (for estate owners/gamekeepers). Wheelhouse, though, was pretty firm in his response. He argued that it was legitimate to discuss how big a problem trap-tampering is because currently there isn’t any evidence to support the assertion that it is even a problem, although he did acknowledge that of course, trap-tampering was possible.
Trap interference/damage was one of the issues raised by SLE in their evidence to the RACCE Committee (see here) – they claimed it was ‘another group of increasing wildlife crimes’ that should be included in the Government’s annual Wildlife Crime Report. Trap interference and/or damage is a pretty interesting definition of what constitutes a wildlife crime, don’t you think?
And apparently, trap interference is not necessarily a criminal offence anyway, let alone a ‘wildlife crime’! Here’s what lawyer David McKie wrote on the subject in the last edition of the SGA’s member newsletter (McKie often acts as a defence agent for gamekeepers accused of wildlife crime) –
“As a matter of law, there is a significant difference between interference and vandalism.
Vandalism would involve the breaking of a crow cage trap by someone punching or kicking a hole in it, for example, or the deliberate smashing up of a Fenn trap. It would also include the cutting of snares.
Interference does not necessarily involve a criminal offence….That can involve the removal of traps from their set location, the release of decoy birds or the pulling of snares.
The police can probably not charge the individual with interference“.
Fascinating! And before anyone tries to accuse us of encouraging trap interference and/or damage, this information is published here purely for the purpose of intellectual discussion.
It emerged during the RACCE session that BASC is currently conducting some research to evaluate the scale of trap interference/damage so we’ll look forward to seeing those results – we’ll also be looking closely at the methods they used to make their evaluation – especially if the research is based solely on the word of gamekeepers.
Anyway, for those of you who missed seeing Paul Wheelhouse at the RACCE Committee on Wednesday you could always watch the Holyrood TV video archive (here – only available for 28 days). There is also an official text report of the meeting available to download: RACCE wildlife crime 27_11_2013
See if you can spot the bit when Angus MSP Graeme Dey claims that wildlife crime policing in Tayside is the ‘gold standard’!!!