Link between grouse moors & raptor persecution based on ‘ill-informed rumours’, apparently

Fearnan Angus Glens Dec 2013Last month a letter written by Logan Steele was published in the Scotsman, urging the government to introduce a licensing system for grouse shooting estates (see here).

This came on the back of the news that the Scottish Raptor Study Group and RSPB Scotland had written to the Environment Minister to call for estate licensing (see here) following the discovery of poisoned golden eagle ‘Fearnan’, found dead on an Angus grouse moor in December 2013 – the latest in a very long line of victims.

This month, the Scotsman published a response letter, penned by Tim Baynes, the Director of Scottish Land & Estates Moorland Group (a group chaired by Lord Hopetoun [Leadhills Estate] and comprising moorland owners and representatives of GWCT and the SGA – see here).

It’s perhaps then of little surprise to read the content of Mr Baynes’ letter – read it here. Basically, Mr Baynes is suggesting that Logan Steele’s assertions of a strong link between grouse moor management and the illegal persecution of raptors is ‘probably based on ill-informed rumours’.

GE Cons FrThose ‘ill-informed rumours’ no doubt include the following peer-reviewed scientific publications, some dating back over ten years (so the results have been available for a long time), which have all shown a direct link between driven grouse moor management and raptor persecution (and this list is by no means exhaustive – it’s just the ones we have to hand):

Etheridge et al (1997). The effects of illegal killing and destruction of nests by humans on the population dynamics of the hen harrier in Scotland. Journal Applied Ecology 34: 1081-1105.

Stott (1998). Hen harrier breeding success on English grouse moors. British Birds 91: 107-108.

Green & Etheridge (1999). Breeding success of the hen harrier in relation to the distribution of grouse moors & the red fox. Journal Applied Ecology 36: 472-483.

Whitfield et al (2003). The association of grouse moors in Scotland with the illegal use of poisons to control predators. Biological Conservation 114: 157-163.

Hardey et al (2003). Variation in breeding success of inland peregrine falcon in three regions of Scotland 1991-2000. In Thompson et al [Eds] Birds of Prey in a Changing Environment. SNH.

Whitfield et al (2004). The effects of persecution on age of breeding and territory occupation in golden eagles in Scotland. Biological Conservation 118: 249-259.

Whitfield et al (2004). Modelling the effects of persecution on the population dynamics of golden eagles in Scotland. Biological Conservation 118: 319-333.

Whitfield et al (2007). Factors constraining the distribution of golden eagles in Scotland. Bird Study 54: 199-211.

Whitfield et al (2008). A Conservation Framework for Golden Eagles: Implications for their Conservation & Management in Scotland. SNH.

Summers et al (2010). Changes in hen harrier numbers in relation to grouse moor management. In Thompson et al [Eds] Birds of Prey in a Changing Environment. SNH.

Redpath et al (2010). People and nature in conflict: can we reconcile hen harrier conservation and game management? In Baxter & Galbraith [Eds] Species Management: Challenges and Solutions for the 21st Century. SNH.

Smart et al (2010). Illegal killing slows population recovery of a reintroduced raptor of high conservation concern – the red kite. Biological Conservation 143: 1278-1286.

McMillan (2011). Raptor persecution on a large Perthshire estate: a historical study. Scottish Birds 31: 195-205.

Amar et al (2012). Linking nest histories, remotely sensed land use data and wildlife crime records to explore the impact of grouse moor management on peregrine falcon populations. Biological Conservation 145: 86-94.

Watson (2013). Golden eagle colonisation of grouse moors in north-east Scotland during the Second World War. Scottish Birds 33: 31-33.

Those ‘ill-informed rumours’ must also include all the reported incidents of illegally-killed or illegally-injured birds of prey that have been discovered on grouse moors over the last few decades (see here for a list of reported persecution incidents in the Angus Glens and here for a list of reported persecution incidents in South Lanarkshire).  These lists relate to reported incidents from grouse moors at Glenogil, Invermark, Millden, Airlie and Leadhills but don’t include other grouse moors in other parts of the country where illegally-killed raptors have been discovered, such as Farr & Kyllachy, Moy, Skibo, Cawdor, Corrybrough, Glenbuchat, Cabrach, Raeshaw, Invercauld, Glenlochy, Dinnet & Kinord, Glenfeshie, Dunecht, Strathspey and Glenturret, for example. And again, this list is by no means exhaustive.

Mr Baynes is being disingenuous at best to point to the  fact that two months on from the illegal death of Fearnan there is no evidence to link the crime to anyone on a grouse moor. While his assertion is technically correct, it is not an indication that anyone on a grouse moor was NOT responsible. Viewing one incident in isolation is also misleading – and the results of this police ‘investigation’ are more reflective of ineffective policing than anything else – there are many many examples of this ineptitude and include police actions such as delayed appeals for information (often up to 4-6 months after the discovery of a crime against raptors), issuing cryptic police statements about the type of crime and its location, arriving at scenes of crime in highly visible marked police vehicles instead of a covert entry, and failing to undertake timely follow-up searches of associated land, vehicles and buildings to search for evidence. This police ineptitude, followed by plea bargaining and failures to accept evidence by the Fiscals, means that few of the incidents listed above have resulted in a prosecution (although there are some notable exceptions including convictions of gamekeepers at Skibo, Moy, Dinnet & Kinord, Invercauld and Leadhills).

Added to this mix is the legal advice given to gamekeepers should they find themselves at the centre of a police investigation. This legal advice undoubtedly thwarts any attempt by the police to investigate an alleged raptor persecution crime. This from the SGA to their members:

Accordingly, it is the advice normally given by solicitors to clients that they need make no reply to any allegation and that they should not in fact give any further information than their name, address and date of birth in answer to any police questions“.

This advice is technically correct but is it what the public would expect from an organisation that is purportedly committed to partnership working to stamp out illegal raptor persecution?

We would suggest that Mr Baynes takes some time to read the above peer-reviewed scientific publications that demonstrate a clear and unequivocal link between driven grouse moor management and the illegal persecution of raptors, as well as taking the time to read up on the many reported incidents of raptor persecution on grouse moors, before he writes any more embarrassingly ignorant statements of denial in the national press.

20 thoughts on “Link between grouse moors & raptor persecution based on ‘ill-informed rumours’, apparently”

  1. It’s this muddying of the waters that I feel will ultimately backfire, it leaves you in no doubt that those that could be in a position to help put an end to these practices, by adding their voices and their will to improving the situation, would rather send their time pretending it’s not happening.

    In the end I think this will prove to be the reason that there has to be licensing of grouse moors and gamekeepers, because the illegal killings continue unabated and the pressure is building from the general public, these issues have been ongoing for such a long time now and we are passed the time when this type of bullshit is accepted by anyone other than the most naive or ignorant.

    [Ed: Thanks Mike. Edited slightly!]

  2. Obviously, in my opinion, driven grouse shooting is so much into the practice of the illegal killing of our wildlife, that licencing may not be sufficient anymore, perhaps it is time for it to go the same way as bear baiting, dog fighting and fox hunting. The proof is there for all to see.

  3. How can all the many well documented Raptor persecution facts be ‘ill-informed rumours’. What non fictional documented evidence do they have that proves that the Red Grouse shooting estates and their gamekeepers are not poisoning, shooting and trapping birds of prey and other protected wildlife.

    Can they provide well documented evidence to prove that all the many publically advertised facts that show the persecution of Raptors IS taking place on these estates are nothing but lies to discredit them.

    How many of these estates and their gamekeepers can put their hands on their hearts and say we look after and nurture these magnificent legally protected birds of prey and the environment they need to survive in. How many of them can honestly say they are proud to have such esteemed wildlife on their lands, wildlife that thousands of people would give their eye teeth to have the privilege of being in close proximity too on a daily basis.

    Come on estate owners, wake up before it’s too late, you’ve got the potential to open up the privilege of being close to this wildlife, let the people see it first hand, offer them escorted wildlife tours and observation posts on your land.

    Protecting and enjoying wildlife can be far more gratifying than just killing it for “SPORT”, or would that be too difficult for you? I know the majority of you are died in the wool throwbacks from the Victorian era and still think that this is what one with your rank and position in society should do, but it doesn’t have to be like that, you could lead the way and come out into the 21st century, you could put the shotgun away for good and relegate it to the museum where it belongs in this day and age!

  4. “Accordingly, it is the advice normally given by solicitors to clients that they need make no reply to any allegation and that they should not in fact give any further information than their name, address and date of birth in answer to any police questions“.

    Then call Saul Goodman!

  5. If these people and their organisations, like SGA, have a policy endorsing game keeping within the law and action against keepers who don’t stay within the law then surely we would expect cases where they take action and throw out some bad boys. The fact that they don’t and that they continually deny that it is happening and try putting up a smoke screen here and there loses them all credibility. Without that credibility how can they possibly remain members of PAW?

    It is also true that more and more evidence is mounting, more and more public opinion gathering with more focus on the undeniable and scientifically proven. It then becomes a waiting game only we cant see this persecution carry on another day let alone weeks, months or years.

    1. Hi Mike,

      The SGA has finally started to throw out some bad boys, probably as a result of the bad press they were receiving for not doing so for many years (a good example of how public pressure can be effective).

      Just last year the SGA admitted to expelling three members for raptor persecution crimes, which makes Hogg’s statement of denial all the more ridiculous.

      1. I’m quite sure that many convicted gamekeepers continue to work in this industry, but is there any evidence to show that gamekeepers expelled from the SGA have been allowed back in at a later date? Or has anyone looked into this?

        1. Hard to say, as as far as we can tell they have only just recently started expelling them. They certainly weren’t expelling in 2008, as we know one convicted SGA keeper went on to commit other offences (incl the poisoning of 4 buzzards) less than six months after his first conviction. It was only after his second conviction (finally received in 2012) that he was allegedly given the boot from the SGA [in addition to his 100 hour community service order for poisoning the buzzards!!!!!]

          1. Thanks for that. I suppose without a list of current SGA members, it will be difficult to keep track. Added to that is the xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx nature of the organisation and the possibility that they could easily lie about whether certain convicted gamekeepers were/are members in the first place.

            Aye, another shameful episode for the Scottish judicial system. It will be interesting to see how the system treats the teenagers that broke into the Clutha Bar and stole £171 from charity tins and a quantity of alcohol.

            1. As a wee aside , I was listening to Good Morning Scotland re the tail docking debate this morning. There was a vet from the borders who mentioned that she had come across gamekeepers who had illegally docked their dogs. I wonder if the SGA will be expelling these criminal members? [if indeed they are members of the SGA]

              1. There was a certain Mr Hogg interviewed on the evening news, spouting on about that a ban on tail docking would bring animal welfare into the equation. I wonder if he thinks about animal welfare when gamekeepers throughout the land kill many millions of creatures each year, including the illegal persecution of Scotland’s iconic wildlife?

            2. ” It will be interesting to see how the system treats the teenagers that broke into the Clutha Bar and stole £171 from charity tins and a quantity of alcohol.”

              Sentence was passed yesterday, and two of the teenagers (who had been held in custody for three months) were given six-month prison sentences, and the other an 18-month community payback order.
              See here

              They all pleaded guilty to the crime, so where was the leniency in this instance? A six-month sentence (nine-months if they had not pleaded guilty!) for stealing £171 ($57 each!) and illegally obtaining and consuming some bottles of alcohol seems a bit excessive, especially when you consider the leniency afforded to those running amok in the countryside with weapons and wilfully distributing and placing banned, lethal substances throughout our countryside.

              Three teenagers, perhaps in an alcohol-fuelled act of bravado, have had their futures destroyed, and this will possibly lead into a life of crime. Ah, the equality of the Scottish judicial system!

      2. Thanks for filling in that information, I did wonder what their track record was. It seems indicative of your handling of information on this site that you are happy to correct a misunderstanding regarding their behaviour so that they are not unfairly accused yet all they do is lie, distort, try to discredit and deny the scientific and accumulated evidence against their activities and impact.

        I guess that we all know that the truth will prevail – eventually!

  6. This is typical of Tim Baynes and is the same type of nonesense he wrote in various articles when he still worked for the Countryside Areliars here in England. Rather than face the truth and say something positive he has always chosen to try to cast doubt on the evidence showing quite clearly where and who commits the crimes against raptors. The game is up Tim you fool nobody, the body of evidence is too great , all you do is make yourself look equally a fool with his head in the sand or up your own arse, an apologist for the criminals xxxxx xxxxx xxxxxx xxxxx xxxxx x xxxxx xxxxxx xxxxx xxxx.

    [Ed: thanks Paul, had to delete last part of last sentence]

  7. He’s either very naïve and believes every word his gamekeeper tells him, which with him not being a countryman is my take on this or he’s being extremely cynical ( some of the persecution takes place on pheasant shoots which technically has nothing to do with Grouse shooting ) either way is that what you would expect to hear from a spokesman for a progressive organisation or is it what you’d expect from an organisation clutching at straws for credibility

  8. Well said everybody, and as always, very well done RPS for your response – a brilliant and truthful answer to the usual parrot-like nonsense emanating from the great unwashed. I don’t seem to be able to find a response to this from Mr Baynes nor the noble Lord Hopetoun. Now there’s a surprise!!!

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