A freedom of information request has revealed some interesting correspondence between Doug McAdam, the CEO of the landowners’ organisation Scottish Land and Estates, and Paul Wheelhouse, the Scottish Environment Minister, on the subject of ‘Fearnan‘, the poisoned golden eagle found dead on a grouse moor in the Angus Glens in December 2013.
McAdam wrote to the Minister in January, setting out SLE’s “total condemnation” of the poisoning incident. He went on to say that SLE members in the area where Fearnan’s corpse was found were “perhaps more keen than anyone” that the culprit was found and prosecuted. He assured the Minister that these landowners had conducted their own enquiries and were sure that none of their staff were involved. He said that gamekeepers were “helping the police in all aspects of the investigation” (presumably this doesn’t mean giving a “no comment” response to any questions they are asked, as recommended by official SGA policy!). McAdam also emphasised how the introduction of vicarious liability had had an impact on best practice sporting management and besides, that gamekeepers love golden eagles, so much so that plans were under way to initiate ‘a golden eagle monitoring or conservation project’ in the Angus Glens.
You can read his letter here: SLE letter to Wheelhouse re Fearnan Jan 2014
Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse, to his credit, wasn’t convinced.
In what we would call a fairly robust response, Wheelhouse told McAdam that he was going to be frank with him. He pointed out that the illegal poisoning of Fearnan was just one of “a catalogue of incidents associated with the Angus Glens area“. He went on: “I understand in fact that there has been something like a dozen incidents in this area since 2008“. [We actually know of at least 26 incidents since 2008, (36 if you go back to 2004) and we also know that several others have never been publicised: see here].
Wheelhouse continued: “In the absence of any other credible explanation, I can only conclude that, despite all our efforts, there remains an element of sporting managers and owners who continue to flout the law and defy public opinion for their own selfish ends…”.
He also pointed out that any carcasses or baits that were discovered were probably representative of “only a fraction” of those put out by the criminals (in other words, he agrees with the long-held view that what is discovered is just the tip of a very large iceberg).
He warned McAdam that if persecution didn’t stop he would be put under increasing pressure to impose further measures and he suggested that the game-shooting industry would do well to stop issuing media statements of condemnation [about persecution] that give the impression of being defensive and resentful.
You can read his letter here: Wheelhouse response to SLE Fearnan letter Feb 2014
We were quite pleased with Wheelhouse’s response – a definite baring of the teeth – but as we’ve often said, it’s his actions that count, not just words. We’re waiting to see whether he can bite.
It’s interesting that he hasn’t yet made a public comment about the discovery of those five red kites and one buzzard that was all over the news yesterday, suspected to have been poisoned. We understand the death toll has since risen but more on that later. We’ll be watching with very close interest to see whether SNH will now enforce the new enabling clause to restrict the use of General Licences on the land where these corpses were found. A conviction is not required for them to exercise this new clause; SNH must just have ‘reason to believe that wild birds have been taken or killed by such persons and/or on such land other than in accordance with the general licence’ (see here).
19 thoughts on “Correspondence between SLE and Scot Gov re: poisoned eagle Fearnan”
Well, this explains a lot. They were just ‘monitoring’ Fearnan a bit too enthusiastically? I love this guy’s expression in the photo you’ve used. Looks as if someone’s doing to him what I think Fearnan’s fans would quite like to do?
That really is quite an impressive letter from Wheelhouse. The problem is he won’t be the minister by the they decide whether his efforts have had an effect. So then new Minister and the whole thing starts again.
Where do they get this nonsense
‘I understand your point about sporting managers not targeting golden eagles because they will keep tend (sic) to buzzards and other raptors away from their territories’
I live in a Golden Eagle territory and i’ve never seen a Golden Eagle act aggressively against another raptor (except other eagles) in fact it is the Buzzards which harass the eagles and then the GE will usually turn upside down and bare talons.
Golden eagles will attack or fend off any raptor, including a White-tailed Eagle, near its home territory ie within one mile of the eyrie especially during the breeding season and they will not tolerate Peregrines nesting in that area. Outwith that closed down area they, as you say, get harassed themselves in their foraging territory.
Our Golden Eagles have Kestrels breeding on the same cliff and Ravens and another Kestrel breeding within 1 km. Aggression is from the latter 2 species. The nearest Buzzard nest is about 3-4 km away and i have never seen the goldies attack the Buzzards only vice versa. A Short-eared Owl nests within about 2km of the eyrie and I have seen the goldies take a SEO nestling but otherwise it is a the SEOs that are the aggressors.
I have never even seen this pair attack a White-tailed Eagle although i have seen aggression from the neighbouring pairs juvenile. The only thing that gets our pair going is when the neighbouring pair come close to their territorial boundary. Then they go berserk with display and calling but again i have never seen them make an attack. I have probably watched this pair for hundreds of hours.
This pair could be a fairly non-aggressive pair.
Certainly there are 2-3 pairs of Buzzard, several Hooded Crows, 2 pair Ravens and at least 2 pairs of Kestrels breeding in this pairs territory.
The neighbouring pair also have Ravens, Buzzards, Kestrels, SEOs (and possibly Hen Harriers as i am not sure how far this pair ranges) breeding within their territory.
I don’t believe the statements from Wheelhouse and Hogg that Golden Eagles prevent other raptors breeding in their territory. Certainly not with our pair or the neighbouring pair.
I doubt even less the statement that this is the reason they pretend to like goldies.
Peregrines are rare where i live so i haven’t had a chance to see the inter-reaction between these 2 species.
I just remembered, that the Lake District pair of GE used to have a Peregrine breeding in their territory. I was told by the warden, that they fought a lot, which i witnessed but they seemed to manage to co-exist.
Sorry i meant McAdam not Hogg.
Paul Wheelhouse writes a very good letter and I congratulate him for it. We, who have followed Raptor persecution for many years, unfortunately know that it wont stop just by using words. The criminals have been appeased for far too long. As has been said, I just hope that Paul Wheelhouse is in his job long enough to bring in the much tougher measures that are surely needed.
i just love that – “perhaps” more keen than anyone to find the culprit….”..Godd letter from Wheelhouse, even more so as it wasnt publicised as a PR exercise..and well done to raptorpersecutionscotland for digginbg it out through a FOI request…
I’d really like to see the quality of the statements from gamekeepers. I have head it said, from a wildlife crime investigator, that they’ve had a keeper say to them “I don’t help the Police and I encourage others not to also”. Doesn’t sound very cooperative to me! I am heartened however by the Minister’s view of statements from the “sporting community”. He clearly is seeing them for what they are, mealy mouthed, insincere apologists.
I also wonder just how patient the Minister will be in evaluating “current measures” against the ‘business as usual background’ that is evident with the latest shocking news from Ross-shire.
Here is the official advice from the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association to their members in the event of Police attending at home or at place of work:
“….you should not in fact give any further information than your name, address and date of birth in answer to any police questions”.
To be fair, that is exactly the same advice every single person in the country should receive. If you are questioned by the police, then confirm your personal details, but after that it is “Am I free to go” (and repeat that question until you are given a yes/no answer) and if “no” then it is “I request my lawyer, I invoke my right to silence” and nothing else not even answering a “do you want a cup of tea?” question until your lawyer has attended. That is the advice that is given to people attending protests and it is the advice I would give even gamekeepers.
Agree, as we said (see lower down) it’s a legitimate response. What isn’t legitimate though is when we are being fed a line that the gamekeepers are helping the police in every possible way when in fact, they’re just standing there saying ‘no comment’. How is that helpful?
We were fed a similar line last year with another high profile incident in the Angus Glens – we were told the keepers were all helping the police as much as they could when actually the gamekeepers were reportedly giving ‘no comment’ responses.
Minister Wheelhouse’s reply as certainly raised his kudos in my estimation. However he’s got to reinforce that with significant action. And no matter what, the SL&E& their lackeys had better realise we are in this for the long haul.
Golden eagles do attack other birds of prey. For instance I observed one depart an occupied eyrie & immediately go into what I thought was a hunting mode, going at tremendous speed, which it maintained, nor did it deviate one iota from its flight path until it was upon a hapless osprey fishing a mile down river, which it continued to attack has it chased it back down the glen. & out of sight,
I am not saying Golden Eagles don’t attack other birds of prey sometimes. That is obvious.
Compare Mr Wheelhouse’s letter with DEFRA’s response to the petition and ask yourselves which country you want to belong to after September.
Surely by advising their members on what they should and shouldn’t say the SGA are conspiring to hide criminal activity. That said well done Wheelhouse you do have a backbone.
Their advice is perfectly legitimate, in legal terms; any suspect in any crime is not obliged to answer any questions from the police other than name, address and DOB. But in ethical terms, from a group purported to be determined to crack down on raptor persecution? Their advice then becomes a bit more questionable…and more so if it is being stated that they’re helping the police in every way they can when in reality they may just be saying ‘no comment’.
Well you can hardly blame keepers for giving the ‘no comment’ response to police questioning. They are likely to be the first one (rightly or wrongly) suspected of any wildlife crime so naturally they should be wary of ‘dropping themselves in it’ by getting led down a certain line of questioning it doesn’t mean they aren’t co-operating!
Sorry Grouseman but there is no way that giving a ‘no comment’ response (which they are entitled to give) can be remotely considered as being cooperative!