Scottish landowners still in denial about raptor persecution

Roseanna Cunningham MSPToday, new Cabinet Secretary for Land Reform & the Environment, Roseanna Cunningham, will deliver a keynote address at the spring conference of Scottish land owners’ lobby group Scottish Land & Estates (SLE).

According to an amusing article in this morning’s Telegraph, clearly orchestrated by SLE to coincide with this conference, ‘Ministers have been warned they need to re-build trust with Scottish landowners’ who are miffed about the way the Land Reform agenda has been pushed through and are still whining about the reintroduction of sporting rates on their huge multi-million pound shooting estates (see here). The arrogance and sense of entitlement is there for all to see.

Obviously, we have no idea what Roseanna Cunningham will be saying at this conference but we hope that as well as land reform, the issue of raptor persecution will also feature. It’s been five years since she was having to deal with raptor persecution in her former role as Environment Minister and the issue hasn’t gone away. Although, according to SLE, it has.

We’ve been sent a copy of SLE’s Policy Update, an internal document written for SLE members, dated April 2016. Here are some excerpts:

Mountain hares

Although there is no issue over population reduction, it continues to be highly emotive and even a long distance photograph of a cull is enough for the Herald and social media. Meeting arranged with GWCT, SNH, and CNPA [Cairngorms National Park Authority] on 27 April to tighten up joint statement.

So yet again SLE claims ‘there is no issue over population reduction’, even though there isn’t a shred of supportive scientific data to back up this claim. And this is the group that SNH is relying upon to exercise voluntary restraint! In March 2016 we asked SLE to provide evidence that the current mountain hare slaughter was sustainable (see here). No reply.

Raptor persecution maps 2015

A small increase from 18 to 20 recorded incidents, many unrelated to land / sporting management. This issue is dying away statistically and in media interest, but pro-raptor groups in overdrive trying to make new publicity out of it.

So, raptor persecution is acknowledged as a National Wildlife Crime Priority, SLE serves on the PAW Raptor Group, and yet here they are, telling their members that it’s no big deal and it’s just us lot making a big fuss about nothing. They do have a long track record of denial, of course, because it’s in their interest to pretend that everything’s just fine and no further sanctions or legislation is required.

Rather than focus on one year of data (even though those data showed an increase in recorded incidents, not a decline!), SLE would do well to take note of the long-term data trends, all recently published by RSPB Scotland (see here):

A total of 779 birds of prey were confirmed to have been illegally killed during the period 1994-2014, either by poisoning, shooting or trapping. The known victims included 104 red kites, 37 golden eagles, 30 hen harriers, 16 goshawks, 10 white-tailed eagles and 458 buzzards.

In addition to these confirmed victims, a further 171 incidents were documented where poisoned baits and/or non-birds of prey victims were found, including 14 pet cats and 14 pet dogs, and then a further 134 incidents where no victim had been found but clear attempts to target raptors had been uncovered (e.g. illegally-set traps).

Drilling down in to the detail, there’s a useful analysis of land-use type of confirmed poisoning incidents between 2005-2014 (219 incidents). A shocking (or not) 81% of confirmed poisoning incidents during this nine-year period were on land used for game-shooting: 57% on grouse moors and 24% on land managed for lowland pheasant shoots. This tells us a great deal about who is responsible for the vast majority of illegal raptor poisoning. Despite their continued denials and protestations, and their increasingly-desperate attempts to minimise the scale of these crimes (“it’s just a few rogues”, “it’s just a small minority”, “this issue is dying away”), this graphic exposes the criminality at the heart of the game-shooting industry:

RSPB persecution review 1994 2014 land use

And of course, there has also been a recent scientific paper documenting the long-term decline of peregrines on grouse moors in NE Scotland (here), reflecting a problem that is widespread across the Scottish & English uplands (here) and another scientific paper documenting the catastrophic decline of hen harriers on grouse moors in NE Scotland (see here).

A big fuss about nothing, eh? Let’s see if Roseanna Cunningham shares their view. It’s so obvious that with this level of denial, calling for the game shooting industry to self-regulate is utterly futile. If change is going to happen, it will have to be forced upon them.

Petition calling for a ban on driven grouse shooting can be signed HERE

27 thoughts on “Scottish landowners still in denial about raptor persecution”

  1. I’m supportive of this site, but that chart is much too poor to include in a website of this calibre. Umpteen shades of blue, and an illogical series order, make it hard to read.

    1. You don’t have to be able to differentiate between the shades of blue. The figures are all provided on the right hand side of the chart.

      Land use type in relation to confirmed poison abuse incidents, 2005-2014 (n = 219)

      Grouse moor 57%
      Lowland pheasant shoot 24%
      Farmland 14%
      Urban 2%
      Quarry 3%

    2. Better blues than reds and greens. I’ll admit it could be better, although since it gives us the text values in a simple black font off too the side then colour confusion doesn’t really matter, but it is far more readable than the charts that are done in shades of reds and greens.

  2. And, let us not forget that the ‘numbers’ of recorded incidents of raptor deaths, will be just the tip of the iceberg, real numbers will be many times greater.

    I wonder what percentage of the farmland mentioned, would be owned by the estates, and rented ? The estate keepers will cover that land as well !

    Pet cats are routinely ‘disappeared’ in the eastern Cairngorm’s national Park and borders, local knowledge estimates in the hundreds in the past 20 years, the police will not issue a crime number, let alone investigate these thefts.

    Being extremely polite, the SLE are somewhat disingenuous. Ban shooting in the National parks, except for deer culling, which could be carried out by park rangers.

    1. Feral cat control is another issue that needs looked at, hard. There are too many running around and too many owners who will not keep their pets under control and confined to their own property. If you can’t keep it within your own property (for whatever reason) then it is not a suitable pet for you to own. Maybe once they are stopped from shooting raptors and wildlife the gamekeepers can turn their skill to keeping feral cats under control instead. That would be valid wildlife protection.

      1. One can’t keep cats on one’s property, they all have semi-wild instincts still, crypticmirror.

        Presumably you don’t want raptors confined to stop them killing other creatures.

        Nor are cats ‘pets’ – that is a demeaning term for companion animals.

        Don’t worry, folks, I’ll shut up now!

          1. I won’t go further than this, but cats can be kept indoors without harming them or their “instincts” the idea that they have to roam is total bullshit. It is as debunked as the grouse moor owners arguments over raptor control.

          2. The frequency with which some people divert to the feral cat debate is not just off-topic, it’s positively distracting and gives the impression to the opposition that we’re all a bunch of loonies. Your friendly reminder is so appropriate, and I do hope people take heed.

  3. Great stuff as always RPUK (got it right at last!). I always like it when the baddies shoot themselves in the foot, so come on Roseanna – make it a flying start and let them realise that they are fooling nobody..

      1. The arrogance of the land owners, is partly, because, “I own it”, “I am superior to all that try to say I am wrong” ” I am correct in all I say and do” and “my status does not require the answering of the questions of lower classes”. Their up bringing sets them aside from morality, arrogance is instilled in them and lying fluently without a twinge is a big part of their lives. We see this in UK politics a on a daily basis, where truth is laughed off and denied by using humiliation and ridicule as a weapon.

        That sounds like SLE!!!!

  4. It is the land owners that need to rebuild trust with the public, not the other way around. This involves them learning humility, genuine cooperation, and a huge helping of knuckling under and doing what they are told. Sadly they are probably too arrogant and full of entitlement and privilege to even consider they might be the arseholes in this. You can tell the big landowners are the arseholes because whenever they open up about anything, a stream of useless shit comes out.

  5. “Meeting arranged with GWCT, SNH, and CNPA [Cairngorms National Park Authority] on 27 April to tighten up joint statement.”

    This statement, almost an aside, is the one that worries me the most. If it was just SLE, CNPA and GWCT (laughingly named as they may be) then it would be perhaps OK. But here we have clear evidence that the national conservation body is colluding with the landowners and shooting lobbyists to produce a statement on an issue that many have concerns about.

  6. This “keynote address” should show us how important wild crime is to the Scottish parliament , and how the SNP government plan to tackle it in the future.

  7. From the SLE chap…

    “Although many feel they have been portrayed as being opponents of change, we now need to embrace this new era of landownership and do even more demonstrate we have listened and understand arguments for change.”

    … so there’s room for a sliver of hope.

  8. All very depressing this is still going to a long slog .Newspapers still only too willing to peddle SLE nonsense the whole establishment backing their lies. The whole shooting lobby have obviously agreed to build a wall of denial and lies and not to give one inch, just to keep killing but DONT get caught, and if you do we will pay for the best lawyers .So much will depend on Roseanna Cunningham are they going to play her like a fiddle as with her previous incumbent ? Don’t relax comrades the fight is very much still on.

  9. Where is wind farms in the graph?
    How many raptors have been killed on wind farms in the last year?

    1. “Where is [sic] wind farms in the graph”?

      Er, try reading the title of the graph and you might just grasp why wind farms are not included.

      Anything to deflect from the issue of illegal persecution, eh?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s