Tomorrow (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.