Last night’s Landward programme: putting lipstick on a pig

lipstick-pigLast night’s BBC 2 (Scotland) Landward programme was all about driven grouse shooting. The programme had been billed as follows:

‘Grouse shooting brings millions of pounds into the Scottish rural economy, yet it is controversial. Dougie Vipond and Sarah Mack go on a shoot to see the sport first-hand, while Euan McIlwriath investigates the impact of grouse moors on the environment’.

On that basis, we expected a well-balanced programme exploring the detail of those ‘controversies’ with input from both ‘sides’. What we got was a BBC whitewash with a quite astonishing level of presentational bias. Not what we expected from a team who are all-too-familiar with raptor persecution, especially after their programme a couple of years ago which produced the classic Alex Hogg quote lie: “Professional gamekeepers do not poison raptors“.

You only have to look at the line-up of interviewees on last night’s programme to see that something was amiss:

Robert Jamieson, owner of gunmakers James Crockhart & Son, Blairgowrie.

Andrew Farquharson, owner of Finzean Estate, Aberdeenshire.

Allan ‘Hedge’ Shand, head gamekeeper of Finzean Estate.

Charlie Thorburn, gungog trainer from Mordor Gundogs.

Robert Rattray, sporting letting agent from CKD Galbraith.

Robbie Kernahan from SNH’s licensing department.

Tim (Kim) Baynes, Moorland Group Director, Scottish Land & Estates.

How many of these individuals would you expect to provide a fully comprehensive commentary on the dirty realities of driven grouse shooting? It’s almost as if the programme had been written and directed by the SGA!

We heard about the history of driven grouse shooting, how it’s the ‘Sport of Kings’, how much a decent gun would cost, how it’s a key part of the Scottish rural economy, how good it is for supporting rural jobs and how it’s still considered a ‘prestigious field sport’. You’d expect as much from people with a vested interest in maintaining this filthy industry. But what about the other side of the story?

We did hear about habitat management on the Finzean Estate (from the estate owner and his head gamekeeper) and we were told that this is an award-winning estate because it won this year’s Golden Plover Award for Moorland Managagement. What wasn’t said was that this award was given by two industry organisations –  The Heather Trust and GWCT – two organisations who clearly don’t have a vested interest in promoting driven grouse shooting. Ahem.

But we didn’t hear anything about the environmental implications of driven grouse moor management, such as the effects of intensive heather burning, building tracks across the moorland, putting in car parks on the moors, installing grouse butts on the moors, the increased risk of flooding resulting from grouse moor management, the wholesale (legal) indiscriminate slaughter of hundreds of thousands of native creatures that could conceivably eat an egg or a grouse, including foxes, stoats, weasels, crows etc, nor the unregulated massacring of mountain hares for no good reason whatsoever (see here here and here). Why not?

And what about raptor persecution? Well, poisoning did get a brief mention, although there was no indication about the scale of illegal killing associated with driven grouse moors in Scotland (and northern England). Why not?

The head gamekeeper was asked what predators he had on the hill at Finzean, presumably in an attempt to show that this estate was predator-friendly. He mentioned foxes and hoodies, but ‘forgot’ to mention that they’re not tolerated and are routinely killed year-round, as they are on all driven grouse moors. He also mentioned a few raptor species, including merlin, ‘eagles’ and peregrine. Now that was interesting. Finzean does indeed have some raptor species, including a pair of red kites and golden eagles. But there’s having eagles and then there’s having eagles. The Finzean eagles aren’t doing very well. Their breeding attempts are routinely unsuccessful and there is a suspiciously regular turn-over of breeding birds at this site. Why is that? Golden eagles tend to be relatively sedentary once they’ve settled in a breeding territory, and only rarely do they move or change partner. The odd turn-over event is to be expected – if one of the pair dies (natural mortality) or if a nearby ‘superior’ breeding site becomes available – but these events are relatively rare and certainly couldn’t be described as a ‘regular’ behaviour, and yet territorial eagles are turning over with regularity at Finzean. Hmm.

And what about hen harriers? Why didn’t the presenter ask about those? We would have liked to have heard the head keeper’s comments on that. Finzean did used to have breeding hen harriers, but they’re not there any more and haven’t been for some time. Why not?

There was a short piece on the new restriction on General Licences that SNH may choose to use if they believe, on the balance of probabilities, that illegal raptor persecution has taken place. However, there was no mention of the ‘get-out clause‘ that would allow an estate to simply by-pass the imposed restriction and get an individual licence instead.

All in all then, a pretty god-awful, poorly-researched programme that failed to highlight the on-going environmental concerns associated with driven grouse shooting, and instead tried to portray it as something it really isn’t. You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.

As it’s the awards season, we might have to consider starting our own – the Lip-sticked Pig Awards for Grouse Moor Management. This programme would be a contender for best documentary of the year.

If you missed the programme, you can watch it in BBC iPlayer for the next 29 days here

46 thoughts on “Last night’s Landward programme: putting lipstick on a pig”

  1. I was under the impression that this Golden Eagle territory has been unoccupied for years but recently a radio tagged immature female has attempted to breed, surely that is positive.

  2. We were thinking of coming to Scotland next year for our holiday, principally to watch birds, however we may choose a different destination now if this is the sort of behaviour that goes on north of the border.

    1. Your not the only one. Between wind farm sprawl and criminal gamekeepers Scotlands reputation as a destination to experience wildlife in a natural setting is certainly being eroded as the years go by

    2. What has being ‘north of the border’ got to do with it? Will you be taking a holiday in England instead, because things are so much better there? remind me again, how many hen harriers there are breeding in England?

      1. No better in England, although you are far more likely to see Red Kites, but Scotland used to have a strong reputation for wildlife that is fast becoming eroded. The U.S, is one of the best places to see wildlife. Yellowstone for example, a National park whereas unlike the Cairngorm’s National park, they are not building a whole new town!

  3. Wouldn’t be great if on the next Hen Harrier Day there were protests around Scotland that not only drew attention to a much loved raptor and the level of their persecution but also highlighted the likes of the BBC/Landward who shamefully disguises the truth and protects the gentry criminals!

  4. I, like RPS, also thought that the Landward programme was written by the SGA. It was by far the most biased, disgusting excuse of a programme that I have ever seen. I am completely disgusted at the Landward presenters for participating in such a blatant ass-licking spectacle, I can only assume that they are all very naïve or are grouse shooters themselves.

  5. I am a Govan Glasgow man, who, as a child thought the only types of birds were pigeons and gulls, and the only mammals were dogs, cats (mostly strays) and rodents, the latter visiting my rotting tenement on a regular basis. If a coloured butterfly were to be seen, I would rush to see this thing of great beauty and wonder. I was rescued when the tenements came down, and we got a house built on the South Side of our city, which was near the countryside, and then I heard blackbirds and thrushes singing, and foxes and roe deer would be seen in semi-wooded areas. Blue butterflies and brown ones too, would flutter on undeveloped land. When I was a mid-teenager, I dodged school one day and took a bus to the Campsies, and there found a dead hawk, and did not understand why such a bird should have been killed. In those days, we had not been enlightened about the real role of the gamekeeper; we had been brainwashed that they killed naughty vermin, that threatened the nice grouse and pheasants.

    As I wandered the Scottish countryside with my friends, we wondered why the moors were so deficient in wildlife, and why birds of prey never soared above our heads. Other times, we were told not to venture on to the hills, as it was deer stalking season, and we could get shot. The Sixties came and along with it a more questioning population of young people, who were adverse to touching their proverbial forelocks to the “gentry” in all its repressive forms. The world saw the rise of the conservationist and animal welfare activists, and the old myths were challenged. We did notice that the so-called rural world did not give fig for those working in the coal mines, the shipyards and other dangerous and unpleasant places. No, the rural world was to be subsidised and left alone for the toffs to hunt in, as they had done for nigh on 800 years.

    Today, we are right out in the open world wide trying to save rainforests, tribal peoples, wildlife in all its forms, the oceans, the climate, the poor and enslaved, the animals that suffer in factory farms, fish farms and laboratories in unnecessarily inhumane conditions. The trophy sportistas and ivory and rhino horn gangs will render the Elephant and Rhino extinct within a decade with the help of corrupt governments. In our Britain, nwe have a form of this barbaric way of treating sentient life. The persistent and poorly policed killing of our Birds of Prey show the contempt of those responsible, and who exhibit cynicism due to the power they hold with their supporters in parts of the media and in law enforcement. The present generation is not tolerant of such power to dominate the landscape of Britain, and the future lies in the struggle to marshal that resentment and produce alternative ways of using our land, and thereby pulling the rug from under the feed of the blood sports mob, with their claims of contributing millions to the UK economy. Condemnation has to go to those pseudo-conservation groups who espouse the belief that hunting of wildlife on the game reserves of Africa and elsewhere, will bring resources to beleaguered economies, and some of it used to protect endangered species. That is no working and we are witnessing the removal of tribal peoples such as the Baka Pygmies, the Bushmen and the Maasai from the ancestral lands to provide for shooting areas, the equivalent of our glorious shooting estates.

  6. There’s growing talk of “land reform” in Scotland. If it means an end to these vast shooting estates and their entourage of Lord Muck types then that would be a good thing

  7. The Bromide Broadcasting Corporation. Lazy uncritical, shoddy journalism, which, along with huge bias, also disfigured the whole Referendum debate.

  8. I follow your excellent blog for the expert information and analysis you print – and am wholly in favour of your causes – but please don’t use such images as the pig with lipstick. Yes, I know my AR views are peeping out here – but please let’s work for the benefit of all creatures, and respect them all.

  9. LOL I watched the program and just because it WAS balanced you so called Raptor people are screaming like little girls everything presented was factual so no wonder you don’t like it, time for a little truth as oppose to sentimentally!! WAKE UP!

  10. Biff, if you really believe that was a ‘balanced’ programme do make sure of where you walk – you might unbalance and fall off the edge of the real world! Pray tell me how many times Hen Harriers or Short-eared Owls were mentioned in the programme. ‘Balanced’? I think not, it was totally unbalanced and biased. The presenter’s jacket said it all. As soon as I saw that I knew what we were in for! Mr Greer-Hart, I greatly enjoyed your words, and having filmed in Kalimantan, Tanzania, Kenya and worked in the Philippines, I share your concerns for our planet. And RPS don’t ever go away – you are doing a magnificent job in ensuring the truth also has a voice.

    1. “The presenters Jacket said it all” ha ha ha I have definitely heard it all now, look at your ridiculous comments man, wild life thrives on Moors managed by Gamekeepers dozens of surveys have proved this as oppose to the crap job the so called RSPB have done, again you don’t hear about these failures in the mainstream NO they are more interested in gathering money and involving themselves in politics Talk sense Tony!! One more time “The presenters Jacket said it all”????!!! LOL

  11. “He also mentioned a few raptor species, including merlin, ‘eagles’ and peregrine. Now that was interesting. Finzean does indeed have some raptor species, including a pair of red kites and golden eagles. But there’s having eagles and then there’s having eagles”….I mean what exactly does this mean, Tony said Raptors weren’t mentioned this so called report on the program says there is having them and there is having them, who is being biased here one does have to ask its a little ironic to say the least!!!

  12. Biff, can I suggest you read my comment again. When you have done this please tell me where I said “raptors weren’t mentioned”. What I did ask was “how many times were Hen Harriers or Short-eared Owls mentioned in the programme”. Please answer my question. And sorry, if there was one thing I didn’t find in the programme it was LOL!!! My reason for mentioning the presenter’s jacket (which you obviously couldn’t understand) was because it was a splendid example of mimicry of the ‘sportsmen’, landowner and keeper who were his hosts. I think it’s called ‘fawning’. And by the way, re. eagles, please note RPS’s answer to that one. One last thing you can do for us – since you are evidently ‘in the know’ can you please tell us how many pairs of Peregrines nested successfully on the Finzean Estate this year? We could do with some good news. You might also like to tell us your relationship with the Estate. A beater perhaps?

    1. Don’t worry Tony, I know exactly what you meant about the presenters jacket, even if Biff and Norman (below) didn’t, and thought the same.

      If the programme write up didn’t say “Looking at the arguments surrounding grouse shooting” but said instead something like “A days shooting on a grouse moor” we would have all known what to expect with regard to this sorry episode.

    2. Tony, some people are born imbecilic, with many of them going on to represent the shooting industry, in one way or another. They are incapable of sensible debate, and find it impossible to understand very basic language, or the most basic elements of fact.

  13. I have just watched the Landward programme about Finzean estate. A completely unbiased programme about estate management. I think most of the previous commentators must have been watching a different programme.
    As for the ridiculous comment about a jacket one of the presenters was wearing, did he think the presenter should be on the hill on a cold day in his shirt sleeves.

  14. How about a program looking specifically at hen harrier populations in the UK and comparisons with Europe.
    A detailed look at last known locations of tags no longer transmitting. With that an analysis and comment from the tag manufacturer as to what they think is the cause and a comparison of reliability of the same tags used elsewhere.
    With this sort of focus you might just get a prog that is worth watching.

    I wouldn’t trust the BBC to make it.

    1. I agree; the sat. tag data from the Dutch Montagu’s Harrier Foundation make for a very interesting comparison. Over 10 years they’ve tagged 58 birds and only lost one tag due to electronic failure. Compare that with the failure rate some in the shooting community claim as the reason why so many tagged Hen Harriers go ‘off the radar’.
      (The Dutch group were recently involved in tagging Montagu’s Harrier “Mo” in Norfolk only for the tag to undergo a “catastrophic” failure.

  15. Thanks Chris. Nice to know someone else understood what the jacket was all about. I wonder if Norman thinks the presenter wears it normally in his everyday life. And if Norman wears a similar jacket on the Scottish moors I fear for him on his trips to ‘the hill’ in cold weather! Hardly outdoor clothing I would say – and I speak as a hill walker. And as for my ‘admirer’ Biff. He seems to have gone awfully quiet since I asked him three pertinent questions. I wonder why?

    1. Pertinent!!!@ Don’t make me laugh again MBE lol you think a presenter is biased because of a jacket, yeah real intelligent response that, you prove my point fool

    2. The sensible ones know exactly what you meant. The imbeciles that think a flimsy tweed suit is the perfect attire for the Scottish hills, only need watch the programme again, and they would soon realise that Vipond obviously found out otherwise. He is later seen wearing a more sensible, waterproof jacket over the tweed jacket.

  16. I am at a loss to know which jacket you people are on about, it can’t be a tweed jacket as this is the most suitable hill wear as worn by the majority of keepers and others. Maybe it is the Berghaus, very often brightly coloured, and worn by many hill walkers, a thin, breathable and wind and waterproof jacket, there were a few other jackets worn in the film including an old Musto, but the majority of the people were wearing tweed.

  17. Still not willing to answer my questions then Biff? As for the jacket question – sorry, but I have more important things to do than argue over that one. let us stick to the important one – i.e. the on-going illegal persecution of supposed ‘protected’ birds of prey by people like the stars’ of this film.’

    1. So you have proof of those who kill Raptors then take in to the Police word has it Raptors dying means big stories and big mony to the likes of Raptorfiles and RSPB fools that cant manage what they have only money, so who benefits from these deaths certainly not shooting folk, open your eyes blind fool, you cant stand a balanced argument!

  18. After lots of comments on the Landward facebook page, this is what they posted in response.


    Thanks very much for all your thoughts on this weekend’s programme – those of you who liked our coverage and those who strongly feel we didn’t do a good job. Balanced coverage is very important to us and for our thoughts on this episode and the concerns raised, read on…

    Our job on Landward is to cover the views, issues and stories that matter to the people who live and work in the Scottish countryside, as well as those of everyone who loves it. This weekend’s programme certainly touched on a subject that matters a lot to many of you and there are a wide range of strongly-held views, as the postings on Facebook reflect.

    It is very important to us that we reflect the range of views fairly, but with a subject as wide-ranging as this it is impossible to cover every angle of every issue in a single programme. We therefore look at the balance over a period of time. In the spring we did an extensive piece based on the latest research arguing against hare-culling on moors, and we also did an item with the RSPB about raptor-poisoning, in addition to featuring it on Friday’s programme. In previous series Landward has also covered the issues of muir-burning, the hill tracks debate and the diversionary feeding of hen harriers at Langholm moor. We have already plans in place to film an item about hen harriers in the spring run too.

    This autumn we felt it was time we took a wider look at the subject and were keen to show people what a shoot was actually like, as well setting the scene with the history of grouse-shooting and its role in the rural economy, looking at the significance of the recent change in legislation around the general licence, and discovering something about gun-dog training and of course how to cook grouse.

    Grouse shooting is controversial: a fact that we categorically stated in the programme. The controversy surrounding grouse shooting is featured not just on Landward but also gets frequent and extensive coverage on BBC News and specialist programmes such as ‘Scotland Investigates’. However, for many people in rural Scotland, shooting for sport and the culture and social life that surrounds it are a completely normal and uncontroversial aspect of their life: we have a duty to reflect that too.

    The programme was completed before the recent announcement was made by the First Minister on tax exemptions and Land Reform. Again we already had plans in place to film a special report examining land ownership in Scotland and the nature of its usage.

    While many of you really enjoyed the programme, others of you clearly feel we didn’t examine the environmental questions in enough detail. I think we can be sure this is a story that will run and run, and we will certainly make sure we keep covering these issues fully in the future. Thank you all very much for your comments – it is terrific for us to be able to hear your views so directly, even when you don’t like what we’ve done.

    I can understand their point – I had seen the other episodes in question. I however felt that the episode didnt live up to its billing – principally ‘examining the sport and the arguments’ as I’d expected it to be balanced; their post is almost an admission that this episode wasn’t.

  19. Glad I missed it….at least its flushed out a few more “shooting trolls” to the guns of our commentors…but some of you really should ignore them..with the huge mass of evidence [look at the yearly figures on this site alone] anyone who comes on here to defend these barbarities wont be persuaded by reasoned argument.

    1. Dead right Dick barbarous fools because of the Jackets they wear, nature is the reasoned argument, generations of love of the countryside is the reason, not pen pushers and city twats that throw money at problems eh, rock on!!

      1. I thought it was largely city twats that practice grouse shooting and fund it by throwing money at it.

        Anyway I’m glad all the shooting folks enjoyed the programme. What was their favourite bit I wonder? Was it the bit at 8 minutes 10 seconds where we see an injured grouse flying lopsided into the heather with a broken wing? Or was it the bit at 11 minutes 23 seconds where we see an injured grouse fluttering its wings as it is pulled out of a dog’s mouth?

        1. City folk don’t shoot goes to show how ignorant you are, its city folk and twats like you that have not a clue what goes on in the countryside that is the real problem, get over it, Grouse = Food or does yours grow on trees in towns???

  20. One last attempt to get an answer to my unanswered questions from ‘Biff’, plus two more. What is your job, and in which Scottish region to you work in? If you still refuse to answer these questions you will just have to accept that we will draw our own conclusions and I for one will follow Dave Dick’s advice and ignore Biff’s self degrading
    utterances. I do hope he recovers from his obvious ‘tweed jacket virus’ obsession though!

    1. Tony my Job is of no business to you so lets dispense with that, number 2 I am from Ireland so in one feel swoop I have rubbished your theory I have personal gain in all this again quite ironic when you consider the massive houses and salaries that the head bombardiers in RSPB and other so called charities get, so that blows that out of the water, talk about shooting yourself in the foot, if you pardon the appropriate Pun, MUST TRY HARDER TONY!!! It wasn’t me that mentioned the tweed Jacket Faux pas Tony good liars need good memories, but your a let down!

  21. OK. So I shot myself in the foot in your blinkered eyes. I could have sworn that it was you who latched onto my true statement about the jacket, but there again, perhaps you have forgotten that despite your apparently good memory, so I’ll leave it at that. And oh yes, Ireland. Isn’t that where introduced Golden Eagles and Red Kites are currently being killed? P.S. I don’t expect you to answer this question. After four attempts to get you to answer my initial simple questions, I have slowly come to realise that empty vessels ……….. !!! So this is my last response to your ravings. Sorry it has taken so long RPS.

  22. Ah reasoned debate at its finest ,have lived in Angus most of my life and work in Aberdeenshire now , found it to be an interesting program and very balanced , the fact that it represented grouse shooting and landowners is only fair , you have to listen to both sides with the truth being somewhere in between ,not sure how a debate about the rights and wrongs of grouse shooting managed to end up as a debate on the merits of tweed v goretex came about but hey ho ,loved watching the dogs work too , great programme .

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