The gift of grouse: spectacular propaganda from the Angus Glens

Gift of GrouseWe love it when the grouse shooting community produces its propaganda pieces to spoon-feed to the (sym)pathetic right wing elements of the national press. It’s usually a masterclass in foot-shooting and provides us with ample material for a good laugh.

Take this month’s latest offering –  a published, commissioned report from the University of the Highlands & Islands:

Grouse Shooting, Moorland Management and Local Communities: Community Perceptions and Socio-Economic Impacts of Moorland Management and Grouse Shooting in the Monadhliaths and Angus Glens

and a video produced by the Angus Glens Moorland Group (basically all the gamekeepers that work there) entitled:

The Untold Story: Driven Grouse Shooting’.

The publication of these two pieces was celebrated at a Parliamentary reception last week (see here) hosted by Fergus Ewing MSP, Minister for Business, Energy and Tourism (a long-standing supporter of the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association) and attended by gamekeepers and luminaries from the grouse shooting industry such as Doug McAdam from Scottish Land & Estates.

The report mostly suggests that there is great support for grouse moor management and all its ‘benefits’, from within the two communities surveyed. We’re not going to say very much about these findings at the moment other than to say that we are aware that someone has been analysing the survey questionnaire data and has discovered some fundamental flaws that basically render the report’s findings obsolete. We’ll return to this once the analysis has been completed. The report can be downloaded here: Grouse Shooting Moorland Management and Local Communities_2015

What we do want to blog about now is the hilarious video produced by the Angus Glens gamekeepers. This video (watch it here) was first published on the Inglorious 12th, timed to coincide with the opening of the grouse shooting season. It formed part of a new campaign called ‘The Gift of Grouse’, which is a one-year propaganda offensive, heavily promoted (and maybe even funded) by Scottish Land & Estates, and others, aimed at cleaning up the media image of the grouse shooting industry. Check out their website here.

For some reason, the video has now been re-launched this month, perhaps to coincide with the publication of the commissioned report. Whatever, that doesn’t really matter. This video really is a gift and an almighty own-goal.

You would think that if the grouse-shooting industry wanted to portray an image of lawful, environmentally-sensitive management, that they’d choose to focus on an area that wasn’t notorious as a massive wildlife crime scene, wouldn’t you? Well, apparently not.

This video is brilliant. It includes interviews with head gamekeepers from five grouse-shooting estates in the Angus Glens; some of these estate names will be very familiar to regular readers of this blog. The interviewees are: Jason Clamp (Millden Estate), Garry MacLennan (Invermark Estate), Martin Taylor (Glenlethnot Estate), Danny Lawson (Glenogil Estate) and Bruce Cooper (Glenprosen Estate). [Incidentally, one of these head keepers shares his name with a gamekeeper who was formerly employed on Skibo Estate in 2010 when three poisoned golden eagles were found poisoned. What an amazing coincidence. No prosecution for poisoning those eagles, natch, although the sporting manager was done for possession of a massive stash of banned Carbofuran].

The video provides a heart-warming narrative of the daily lives of gamekeepers in the Angus Glens, complete with a soothing musical backing track, where the keepers are keen to explain how they care for the welfare of all the wildlife in the Glens and how the emphasis is no longer on just the grouse, apparently.

Jason Clamp (Millden) says: “We’re not looking for massive bags of grouse” and “We’re not looking to kill thousands of grouse“.

That’s an odd statement coming from the head keeper of perhaps one of the most intensively-managed grouse moors in the area. According to the Millden Estate sales brochures (2010 and 2011) great emphasis is placed on the record number of grouse that have been killed / are available to be killed and this is a prime selling point. Record bag sizes are also apparently the main reason the estate owner decided to withdraw his estate from sale in 2011 (see here).

We’re also told by Garry MacLennan (Invermark) that the Angus Glens are great for raptors (ahem – see below) and the video bizarrely cuts to show what looks remarkably like a Gyr/Saker hybrid falconry bird….whatever it is, it certainly isn’t a native species and it certainly isn’t a wild bird living in those Glens.

Probably the most amusing thing about this video (and there is an awful lot to laugh at) is the title: ‘The Untold Story’. Oh, the irony.

Here are some of the untold bits of the untold story that, unsurprisingly, don’t feature in this film:

Known raptor persecution incidents in the Angus Glens 2004-2014 – 

2004 May, near Edzell: long-eared owl and two short-eared owls starved to death in crow cage trap.  No prosecution.

2004 May, Invermark Estate: peregrine nest destroyed. No prosecution.

2006 March, Glenogil Estate: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2006 April, Easter Ogil: poisoned buzzard (Alphachloralose). No prosecution.

2006 April, Easter Ogil: poisoned tawny owl (Alphachloralose). No prosecution.

2006 May, Glenogil Estate: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2006 June, Glenogil Estate: poisoned woodpigeon bait (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2006 June, Glenogil Estate: Traces of Carbofuran found in estate vehicles & on equipment during police search. No prosecution. Estate owner had £107k withdrawn from his farm subsidy payments. This was being appealed, but it is not known how this was resolved.

2006 July, Millden Estate; poisoned sheepdog (Lindane). No prosecution.

2007 November, Glenogil Estate: Disappearance of radio-tagged white-tailed eagle ‘Bird N’ coincides with tip off to police that bird been shot. No further transmissions or sightings of the bird.

2008 May, ‘Nr Noranside’: poisoned white-tailed eagle ‘White G’ (Carbofuran, Isophenfos, Bendiocarb). No prosecution.

2008 May, ‘Nr Noranside’: poisoned buzzard (Bendiocarb). No prosecution.

2008 May, ‘Nr Noranside’: poisoned mountain hare bait (Carbofuran, Isophenfos, Bendiocarb). No prosecution.

2008 May, Glenogil Estate: 32 x poisoned meat baits on fenceposts (Carbofuran, Isophenfos, Bendiocarb). No prosecution.

2008 October, ‘Glenogil Estate: poisoned meat bait on fencepost (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2009 March, Glenogil Estate: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2009 March, Glenogil Estate: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2009 April, Millden Estate: poisoned buzzard (Alphachloralose). No prosecution.

2009 July, Millden Estate: poisoned golden eagle ‘Alma’ (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2009 August, Glenogil Estate: poisoned white-tailed eagle “89” (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2010 May, ‘Nr Noranside’: poisoned red kite (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2010 September, Glenogil Estate: poisoned buzzard (Chloralose). No prosecution.

2010 October, Glenogil Estate: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2010 October, Glenogil Estate: poisoned pigeon bait (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2010 October, Glenogil Estate: poisoned pigeon bait (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2011 February, Airlie Estate: buzzard caught in illegal crow trap. (see below)

2011 March, Airlie Estate: 3 x buzzard caught in illegal crow trap. Prosecution (!) but dropped after statement from suspect given to SSPCA deemed inadmissible.

2011 April, Millden Estate: shot buzzard. No prosecution.

2012 April, ‘Nr Noranside’: Remains of buzzard found beside pheasant pen. Suspicious death.

2011 June, Rottal & Tarabuckle Estate: dead kestrel inside crow cage trap. No prosecution.

2012 February, ‘Nr Edzell’: spring-trapped buzzard. No prosecution.

2012 February, ‘Nr Bridgend’: remains of buzzard found under a rock. Suspicious death.

2012 May, Millden Estate: satellite-tagged golden eagle seemingly caught in spring trap, then apparently uplifted overnight and dumped on Deeside with two broken legs & left to die. No prosecution.

2012 May, Glen Esk: disappearance of sat-tagged red kite. No further transmissions or sightings of bird.

2013 January, Invermark Estate: white-tailed eagle nest tree felled. No prosecution.

2013 November, Glen Lethnot: poisoned golden eagle ‘Fearnan’. No prosecution.

2014 October, Nathro: shot buzzard. Prosecution? Unknown.

There’s also no mention of the massacre of mountain hares known to take place across the Angus Glens. This photo shows a pile of slaughtered hares photographed on Glenogil Estate in 2012:

mountain-hare-cull-angus-glens-large - Copy

And no mention of the “savaged, stripped and blasted land” as portrayed in this photograph of Millden Estate in 2014 (by Chris Townsend):

Interestingly, a Parliamentary Motion has now been lodged (Jamie McGrigor, Tory) congratulating the Angus Glens gamekeepers on their video and welcoming the Gift of Grouse initiative. The motion hasn’t attracted a lot of support although some of the signatories are surprising, to say the least (see here).

19 thoughts on “The gift of grouse: spectacular propaganda from the Angus Glens”

  1. This be the same Ewing that continuelly supports contraversial wind farms across Scotland’s wild lands. Not suprising he’s no friend of Scotlands beleguered raptors. As for those estates in the Angus glens – their having a right laugh given the shamefull record of that area when it comes to serious wildlife crime

  2. Aw! What a tough life the poor gamekeepers lead. Marital problems caused by long hours!
    Great talking point about predator control and how they would wipe out every ground nesting bird.
    Not a single utterance of the their prime villain the….. roll of drums….. Hen Harrier. They don’t exist so they can’t be persecuted?????

    An utterly pathetic film and no right minded person should fall for the sob story it tells. It should be on the shelves with Mills and Boon stories and other such fiction.

  3. I blame the Scottish government and Police Scotland for knowingly allowing this rampant in your face criminal onslaught of the so-called legally protected wildlife on Scottish grouse shooting estates. They know it’s happening on an industrial scale and yet they continue to turn a blind eye, in fact they are actually condoning the persecution by doing nothing. They are just as much to blame for this shocking situation as the people who are actually killing our protected wildlife, if there was any justice at all they should be prosecuted for neglecting their duties.

    So much for the Scottish Nationalist Party and all their promises, they’re no better than the Tory’s where the protection of wildlife is concerned.

      1. How much real positive action have you witnessed from either the police or the Scottish government in their “attempts” to stop the criminal persecution of raptors on the grouse shooting estates, if you have any real meaningful details please post them here, I’m sure we’d all like to hear about them. The police and the government are the only people who have the power in their hands to do something to put a stop to this wanton slaughter of our legally protected wildlife, by doing nothing they are in effect condoning it !!!

  4. How telling that it had a good reception in parliament. The entire UK needs a shake up, with those that kill vulnerable animals for fun in a place of power things will always be this way. At least JC is vegetarian.

  5. Yes very surprising names supporting the Gift of Grouse – one MSP I’m definitely not happy with. Re Jamie McGrigor – he was once giving a submission to a parliamentary group about red deer populations in the Highlands, surprise, surprise they weren’t actually a problem! They meant there were less ticks for walkers (!?!!?!), and the hills were better not looking like tundra – yes he was trying to be clever and confused tundra with taiga so proving he wasn’t. He also said deer weren’t a problem re road accidents if you drove carefully. Ah well what are a few fatalities on the road compared with the noble Scottish Sporting Estate. Yes he’s well up to the standard for being involved in this crap.

  6. Cant help drawing parallels’ with what has happened over the years in football, hear me out on this. for years the top brass in football were dismissing there were problems in the sport, hooliganism wasn’t the clubs problem it was societies problem, racism didn’t exist and large brown envelopes weren’t being mysteriously passed around. It was only when football fans started to turn their backs on the sport that changes started to occur.
    The CLA in England have in the last week announced that the major country fair in the UK will no longer take place, for the last 3 years it has run at a loss. People are turning their back on it. You can only con people for so long, the embarrassment caused by the greed of some people involved in driven shooting is having repercussions for those involved in other aspects of shooting and field sports. The following simple quote was taken from a well known shooting magazines online forum on a discussion about Grouse shooting and Raptor persecution by a guy who classed himself as a wildfowler , he was referring to the gamekeepers “those bastards will get all our sports banned mark my words”
    I soon stopped watching the video, as you rightly say its pure properganda. We can all complain about long hours at work some of us have to carry on when we get home, we have four walls to look at, we can all worry about our futures, the steelworkers in Redcar. The Dairy farmers who are pulling milk from the shelves of supermarkets because they are selling it for less than it costs to produce. Are there no large subsidies to help these communities?
    In football many of the fans knew the rot was at the top, its now being uncovered. We know that the rot is also at the top with driven Grouse shooting and it runs deep, how long will these people cling on to what little power they have how long will they carry on lying and deceiving?
    On a final note if you look at the picture in the blog at the fashion sense it is from a completely different era, this is one of the problems. These people can’t change, they always dressed like this so they always will dress like this, they have always shot with lead they will always continue to shoot with lead, they always killed anything that could possibly harm the Grouse so they will always go on killing anything that might harm the Grouse. There is no untold storey, there are words in black and white, Record Grouse Bags equals record profits, get those profits at all costs

  7. Hmmm, the survey of households in that “paper” is awfully subjective: a lot of asking about respondents perceptions without any external, objective support, which does not fill me with any sort of confidence, especially as the actual questions asked do not seem to be in the document (hands up all those who can rig a questionnaire by slanting the questions? It is a well-known phenomenon in psychology research or political research).

  8. Actually, the further I read into that document the less happy I am with them reaching any sort of conclusion: the response rate from households is on the low side (19%) for that kind of survey (at work when we surveyed our service users we reckoned on a 30% response rate, which ties with what we expected from psychology literature) and then the number of “Don’t Know” responses is pretty high, which further reduces the validity of any results.

    And it is not clear how they even tried to allow for any confounders, such as vested interests in the respondents…

  9. …… and funnily enough, Jason Clamp, headkeeper at Millden, owns a Gyr Saker falcon which, no doubt, could easily be used to attempt to deceive the public as to the presence of numerous indigenous raptors in the Angus Glens.

  10. It is well known that captive raptors are tethered on grouse moors to attract other raptors that are shot .
    Love for raptors is not a quality that is usually encouraged by persons who want surpluses of game birds.

    Tame pet fox next perhaps…….

  11. Sorry, I’m a bit late to respond on this item, but I’m still recovering from thinking I was watching a comedy film made by the Keystone Cops! Do these guys really believe the dross they spouted? Or were they working from a well written script given to them by their bosses? The crassness of the Glenogil headkeeper’s words defy belief given this estate’s record of raptor persecution. The fact that all these illegal killings went on without a single prosecution speaks for itself. Nirofo and Merlin are absolutely right. Unlike foot rot, the stink comes right from the top (and I am not only speaking of the estate owners here). We can only hope that those who protect the criminals – for criminals they are – will eventually get their come-uppance and join Sep Blatter into oblivion. I also agree with Merlin about the ‘man about town’ wearing apparel for their big launch – big boots and baggy plus fours, plus a couple of ‘going to kirk’ grey ‘best’ tweed suits which I can hardly imagine being the perfect clothing on ‘the hill’!

    My observations on the film follow: –

    The word ‘vermin’ lives on. This of course is the Victorian gamekeeper’s description for anything which eats game birds or their eggs and chicks. However, I can never understand why these self-proclaimed ‘wildlife biodiversity saviours’ never explain how predators and their prey, plus their habitats, managed to avoid extinction until gamekeepers and their ‘conservation work’ came along? Perhaps they can tell us now?

    Do I take it that (as shown in the film) gamekeepers on Grouse moors use guns instead of sticks in order to surmount the slopes of their beats? Or do they use their telescopic sights for birdwatching?

    Quote – “We control vermin such as foxes, crows, stoats and weasels to protect other species such as waders and white hares which provide food for the Golden Eagles”. No mention of raptors here of course, but isn’t it marvellous that they protect Mountain Hares for the eagles. The heaps of rotting corpses were obviously a mirage then?

    Talking of Golden Eagles. How amazing that one keeper told us with pride of the clutch of 3 eggs on his estate. Trouble was, he never said how many fledged successfully! And how about all those Merlins, Peregrines and Sparrowhawks? What a marvellous estate that must be! Funny again though – no mention of Buzzards or Hen Harriers Loved the Gyr/Saker cross though! Good to know this ‘species’ is doing well in the Highlands!

    RP has already dealt with the statement “We are not looking for the shooting of thousands of Grouse”. Of course not (!!!), so I will end with the reassuring assertion by one worthy that “Without the gamekeepers, the number of wildlife, waders and RAPTORS will decline”. We shall see!

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