Landowners unhappy with raptor persecution publicity

GaggedTomorrow (Weds 27th Nov), Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse will give evidence on the government’s Wildlife Crime Report (2012) to the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment  (RACCE) Committee at Holyrood.

The session will begin at 10am in Committee Room 3 and can be watched live on Holyrood TV (see here).

An interesting piece of written evidence has been submitted for the RACCE Committee to consider (see here, scroll down to page 11). It comes from Scottish Land and Estates and they are basically saying that raptor persecution receives too much media attention whereas poaching should be the focus of enforcement and publicity. They justify this by saying that poaching is the most commonly recorded wildlife crime (as shown in the government’s 2012 Wildlife Crime Report).

What they don’t say is that raptor persecution is clearly happening on a scale far greater than the police-recorded figures – so much so that its effect is having population-level impacts on species such as golden eagles, hen harriers, red kites and goshawks. Population-level impacts are not caused by ‘a few incidents’ – they are caused by widespread, systematic incidents. They also forget to mention the cack-handed way Police Scotland continue to deal with reported raptor persecution incidents, leading to poor recording and what we would call less than reliable figures.

It’s not the first time that SLE has tried to stifle media attention on raptor persecution incidents. Earlier this summer, CEO Doug McAdam wrote to the Environment Minister to complain about news coverage of certain crimes against raptors. So too did an ‘Industry Co-ordination Group’ – believed to include the following organisations: BASC, Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association, Scottish Countryside Alliance, Scottish Association of Country Sports and Scottish Land and Estates. A Freedom of Information request revealed the Minister’s responses, and all credit to him as he told them to piss off and focus on the real issue, that is, trying to stop the continuing illegal persecution of raptors in Scotland (although obviously he didn’t phrase it like that).

Here are copies of his letters: FOI Scot Gov 2013 media coverage raptor persecution

It’s no surprise that SLE want to put a stop to damaging media reports about raptor persecution incidents, especially if such incidents take place on estates owned by SLE members. It’s also no great surprise that they should be so interested in poaching; some of us think that poaching isn’t actually a wildlife crime at all – it’s more about ‘theft’ from super-rich landowners that just happens to involve wildlife. It doesn’t make any difference to the deer or the fish whether their death is caused by someone operating with or without the landowner’s permission, but it matters a great deal to the landowner, either because they’re losing money (from people who will pay to kill deer and fish)  or because they just don’t like the idea of someone else taking what the landowners perceive to be their property.

But is there another reason why landowners want to reduce the amount of media coverage that raptor persecution incidents receive? Look closely at the penultimate paragraph in the Minister’s letter to the Industry Co-ordination Group –

You mention the decision by Natural England to issue licences to control buzzards and your view that there should be open debate on how or whether, we manage common raptors. As far as Scotland is concerned I have been careful to remind anyone who asks about our position, that the provision allowing control of avian predators remains on the statute book and that SNH as the licensing authority will give careful consideration to any application. As far as debate is concerned, I am happy to discuss issues that are raised with me, but as you will be aware, the continuing levels of illegal persecution will inevitably and understandably produce an emotional response to this question from many members of the public“.

Surely the game-shooting industry’s intention isn’t to keep raptor persecution incidents out of the media to fool the general public into thinking that illegal persecution has stopped, in order to smooth the way for buzzard-killing licences to be issued?

We’ll be watching the Minister’s speech with great interest tomorrow.

9 thoughts on “Landowners unhappy with raptor persecution publicity”

  1. Poaching is NOT a wildlife crime. The victim in a wildlife crime is the wildlife. Poching is a property offence related to shooting or fishing rights. The victim is the owner of the rights. Scotland should not tolerate the idea that crimes against our wildlife are the same as crimes against the economics of landowners’ game books.

  2. Landowners unhappy eh! GOOD. If they ask all their members and associates to stop illegally killing OUR wildlife, then maybe they will get a better press.

    1. Ah Chris, your comment infers that it’s their members and associates that are illegally killing our wildlife. Surely you know they’re all innocent? It’s those extremist animal rights thugs wots doin the killin in an elaborate ploy to set up the game-shooting industry.

  3. I am bewildered that this issue of who decides what lives and dies on the landscape of Scotland, has never become a main item in the public interest. One reason could be that we have been brainwashed, as have past generations, into believing that the land owners and their gamekeepers are doing the country a favour, by killing of nasty predators which prey on their grouse and pheasants. Indeed, the gamekeeper had almost become a sage of country lore, in the eyes of the public. A person who would keep our opinions right on what creatures were good and which bad. Thanks to the landowners for taking over the land, and allowing us to ramble on it. Thanks to the toffs who come here to shoot, as they boost our economy. Indeed, Scotland would be moribund without the whole crew; their industry is a mainstay and is using land in its most productive way. I also want to thank the MPs, MSPs and others in politics and the civil service, for assisting these people in making sure no rebellious conservationists and animal welfare people get their misguided opinions heard and acted upon. One such group, Scotland for Animals, was escorted from Holyrood, and told not to darken its doors again, for making a correct point on a certain issue which our junta wants to keep wraps on. I want to thank their country fairs for introducing the public to Larsen Traps, one of which was found in use in Queen’s Park Allotments in Glasgow, after two silly laddies brought one back from a fair, to kill all the corvids which may have attacked their Fort Knox enclosed chickens. Finally, thanks for making Scotland an almost desert with the help of sheep farming and the over-stocking of deer. Those nasty humans called the natives or indigenous people have been removed, and we can get peace now in the glens. If the Scottish people awoke they would clear this lot from the scene, and begin a programme of restoring the landscape of Scotland, and finding a more humane and productive way of using the landscape. I most certainly resent their abuse of wild animals and their stranglehold on my country and its politicians, police and judiciary in the main. Let the people manage the land without having all this industrial slaughter of game birds and wildlife.

  4. “Surely the game-shooting industry’s intention isn’t to keep raptor persecution incidents out of the media to fool the general public into thinking that illegal persecution has stopped, in order to smooth the way for buzzard-killing licences to be issued?”

    Yes of course it is [to answer your rhetorical question!]..and always has been, whether it was licensed killing of harriers, peregrines, buzzards or ravens [oh, I forgot, some weak fool actually gave them licences to kill ravens].

    This has been their main agenda since the Scottish Landowner’s Federation [SLF] attempts to get alphachloralose licensed for “crow control” in the 1980s, up to the present time when their provisional wing, the SGA, go for raptor licences.

    Dont licence criminals to carry on their crimes…

  5. I would have thought they would welcome the publicity. After all they are not the one killing the birds. More publicity might mean the perpetrators are caught which would prove the landowners innocence. Oh I’ve just seen a major fault there.

  6. An over-riding problem is that the perception of predators as somehow undesirable or even “evil” persists in our culture as it is so firmly deep-rooted. One way to rid ourselves of this stain in our national character is to convince people otherwise, which I know is easier said than done. Education has an important part to play, and if the RSPB in its educational role would instil a proper understanding and appreciation of nature in all its forms, with an ethical slant, that could go a long way to achieving the objective. For political reasons they seem frightened to tackle ethical issues like those posed in Greer Hart’s comments. Some raptor workers could also help by not favouring fox control to protect Hen Harrier nests, which is regarded by others as hypocritical and in itself a misunderstanding of the important role of predators in the ecosystem. I feel as much distress as anyone when a harrier’s nest I’m monitoring fails due to fox predation, but I accept it as a natural consequence of the harrier being a ground nesting bird. And there is no evidence that the proportion of nests lost to natural predation has a significantly damaging effect on the population, unlike human persecution.

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