Hen Harrier spin: 1

In public relations, spin is a form of propaganda, achieved through providing a biased interpretation of an event or campaigning to persuade public opinion in favour or against some organisation of public figure. While traditional public relations may also rely on creative presentation of the facts, “spin” often implies the use of disingenuous, deceptive, and highly manipulative tactics” [Wikipedia].

The Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association issued the following press release yesterday lunchtime. Here it is in full:

Estate hope Harriers on their moor are fine after Harrier Protest.

A Perthshire estate hopes a Hen Harrier protest staged next to their ground yesterday (sun) will not have bothered the Hen Harriers which have fledged on their grouse moor.

Campaign groups gathered at Glen Turret reservoir near Crieff to highlight the plight of the birds, three days before the start of the grouse shooting season.

The lobby groups believe some of the birds of prey are being killed on grouse moors because they feed on wild red grouse and their chicks.

However, the estate adjoining the site where the protest was staged has successfully fledged Hen Harrier chicks on its grouse moor this year and are hopeful the protest will not have disturbed the young birds which are just beginning to hunt independently.

An estate spokesperson said: “It was great to see people that share the same interest as ourselves in Hen Harrier conservation. The future definitely lies in co-operation between land managers who produce birds such as Hen Harriers and those who wish to see and enjoy them.

“We regularly have Harriers here on our grouse moor and we are lucky to have had successes this year, despite the weather. Naturally, our concern is for the birds because we have had nests of differing species abandoned, due to members of the public or photographers visiting the nests.

“We have restricted the activities of the estate around the nests so the birds get the best chance they can to grow and hunt in peace. Obviously, the gamekeepers will be checking the area to make sure the young birds are fine, but we are hopeful everything has gone off, well.”

The estate bordering the protest was audited recently, with RSPB counts in 2012 showing 9 raptor species on the grouse moor, 6 of which are known to have bred.

The estate is also a haven for other birds with two species of eagle recorded.


It’s fascinating that the SGA is attempting to infer that a group of peaceful protesters might ‘disturb’ some birds on an adjacent site by standing in the rain for a couple of hours, chatting, miles from any nests. No mention then of the start of the grouse shooting season in three days time where large groups of beaters will be marching across the moor waving flags, shouting and whistling as they scare (‘drive’) any bird in their path (but notably red grouse) towards a line of grouse butts where another load of people will be standing with guns to blast the birds to bits. Which activity do you think is likely to cause the most ‘disturbance’?

But what’s particularly interesting about this press release is the claim that there was a successful hen harrier breeding attempt on this driven grouse moor this year. Why is this interesting? Well, because the one known hen harrier breeding attempt on this site actually failed about a month ago [cause of failure unknown].

Now, of course, it’s possible that there was a second hen harrier breeding attempt on this estate, and that the raptor workers who closely monitor this site just missed it, and that the breeding attempt was successful and that there are indeed now young hen harriers “which are just beginning to hunt successfully”. If that is the case, then presumably the estate will have notified SNH’s ‘Heads up for Hen Harriers Project’ because, like all good Scottish sporting estates, this one will be keen to cooperate (we’ll be blogging more about the Heads up for Hen Harriers project in a separate ‘spin’ blog, to be posted later).

Up until a few years ago, this estate was part of the Operation Countrywatch Partnership – we blogged about it here and applauded their efforts. Funny thing is, this estate pulled out of the project shortly after it was suggested that nest cameras could be installed at hen harrier nests to better understand the causes of breeding failure regularly being recorded in this area. However, it was probably just a complete coincidence that the estate pulled out at that time and there will undoubtedly be an unrelated and perfectly reasonable explanation for their withdrawal.

Also interesting to note the final sentence of the press statement. Two species of eagle have indeed been ‘recorded’ on this estate (note the ambiguous choice of word – ‘recorded’ can mean a breeding attempt but it can also mean something was simply observed flying over/passing through). Just for the record, there aren’t any officially recorded white-tailed eagle breeding attempts on this estate, but golden eagles have certainly bred there in the past. Funny thing is, this year the golden eagle nest site was burnt out and the eagles moved to another estate for their breeding attempt. Those spontaneously combusting nests are a real problem on driven grouse moors, it seems.

The photograph shows some of the people who attended the Hen Harrier rally in Perthshire yesterday. Well done to those who organised it and also to those who turned out to support it.

HH Day Perthshire 2015

19 thoughts on “Hen Harrier spin: 1”

  1. I had to laugh out loud when I read this, especially how they neglected to mention what starts on the moor in a few days! Comedy spin!

  2. Must have had to pick him/herself up off the floor several times in hilarious fits writing this press release which verges on the point of sickening.

  3. Not so much to do with hen Harriers, though I’ve been in some Facebook discussion with some of the shooting community in Inverness who appear convinced that the RSPB poisoned the red kites at Conon for their own nefarious purposes!

  4. The cynicism shown by these people is quite astonishing..I used to think they actually believed the drivel they put out in their public statements..now I realise its just barefaced lies to try and get the public off their backs.

  5. “use of disingenuous, deceptive, and highly manipulative tactics” is an understatement. They’re just blatantly taking the piss.

  6. You really could not make this up if you tried, all you can do is laugh at such a ridiculous statement by the estate, I love the line ” obviously the gamekeepers will be checking the birds to see if they are fine ” yes I bet they will .

  7. What a load of cr…….! They really are clutching at straws or is that heather twigs? We know what they do and no amount of lies and smooth talk will cover it up.

    I’m fuming!

  8. Firstly, well done to all of those involved in the planning and organising of yesterday’s event at Loch Turret, to all of the partner organisations, and of course all of the campaigners. It was much appreciated.

    Now onto the SGA lies. Once again, we have the typical response from the shooting lobby whenever their illegal actions are called into question – try and deflect the issue away from their widespread criminal practices onto something, or someone, entirely blameless. It is utterly pathetic of the SGA to even attempt to slur those peaceful protesters and campaigners at yesterday’s event (and that is exactly what they are trying to do).

    So, considering the vast majority of those attending yesterday’s protest stayed at the dam wall, the SGA has once again proven to the outside world, that they are indeed a bunch of imbeciles and morons – and the estate owner hasn’t exactly covered himself in glory with his xxxxx xxxxx. In fact, there were probably more members of the public that walked or cycled on or near those moors yesterday, as opposed to campaigners.

    We have to remember that when we are dealing with the shooting industry, its employees and its supporters, on many occasions we are dealing with sociopaths. These people will have no remorse, they will lie repeatedly (to the extent that they actually believe their own lies), they will manipulate others, they can’t accept any blame (and will instead blame others), they will be cruel to animals (which could lead to violence towards humans). Doesn’t it all sound so familiar?

    There are many other traits of the sociopath that easily fit in with the shooting industry behaviour, and I will leave others to do their own research, but one of those traits that does spring to mind is that the sociopath will have an entirely unrealistic vision of their own abilities, and will greatly exaggerate (or blatantly lie) about their abilities and achievements – Guardians of the Countryside, anyone?

    Finally, RPS, in relation to your statement “‘recorded’ can mean a breeding attempt but it can also mean something was simply observed flying over/passing through.”, I have a feeling that you inadvertently omitted “and immediately shot and killed.” from the end of that sentence!

  9. Project Raptor enjoyed the chance to be with folk who understands the needs of the Scottish countryside and the wildlife that lives within at the Glen Turret gathering. We all arrived along the road which took us to the reservoir car park and then walked to the dam itself, along the track. We all found it amusing when a big 4×4 turned up, crossing over the moorland, to stop and take photos of us. Clearly, xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx couldn’t resist coming over to see and photograph those common folk who do not understand that killing live quarry is fun and that burning the environment, poisoning it with toxic lead shot, snaring, poisoning and shooting any wild animal which gets in the way is a necessary part of country life.

    So Project Raptor decided to go for a ramble after the Han Harrier Day rally across a small area of the estate. We will be reporting our findings to the police……….

    1. Hmm. I don’t know about SLAM, but Common Weal, RIC and WfI were all pro-Scottish independence groups. The Courier (DC Thomson) is a pro-union/pro-establishment rag.

      The Hen Harrier Day saw a number of likeminded individuals forming a collaborative group to highlight their concerns against that ecologically destructive establishment pastime of driven grouse shooting. The Courier (DC Thomson) is a pro-union/pro-establishment rag.

      Can anyone guess as to why The Courier would choose to misinform its readership, and attack all of those groups and individuals in such a way?

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