“Risible, make-believe tosh”: RSPB responds to Gift of Grouse propaganda

RSPB Scotland has responded to the ridiculous claim (see here) made by the Gift of Grouse that raptors are ‘thriving’ on Scottish grouse moors. Here is the RSPB’s press release (reproduced below):


RSPB Scotland has dismissed a press release issued today by the “Gift of Grouse” campaign that attempts to draw a veil over the continued persecution of birds of prey on areas of land managed intensively for driven grouse shooting. The reports on which these assertions are based are not in the public domain, and therefore have not been subject to the usual levels of public scrutiny.
However, recent peer-reviewed scientific reports published in the last 12 months link sharp declines in nesting peregrines and hen harriers in NE Scotland to illegal killing; a recently-published SNH report shows that there has been no decline in the levels of persecution of red kites in north Scotland over 25 years; and, results of the 2015 golden eagle survey show that levels of home range occupancy by golden eagles is significantly below the national average in the eastern highlands, where grouse moor management is a dominant land use. In this part of eastern Scotland, prey availability is high, and golden eagles should be more numerous and more productive than almost anywhere else in the country.
There are also ongoing concerns about the regular “disappearance” of satellite-tagged birds of prey in grouse moor areas, to the extent that a review of these incidents has been commissioned by the Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Roseanna Cunningham MSP.
Ian Thomson, RSPB Scotland’s Head of Investigations said: “The content of today’s statement from the Gift of Grouse campaign is pure, unadulterated propaganda from an industry that, quite rightly, is under increasing public scrutiny by the Scottish Parliament. Their claims have no supporting evidence, their methodology is not explained, and to suggest that incidental observations of raptors which may merely have been flying over an estate indicate a population that is “thriving” is clearly ludicrous.
It is astonishing that the Angus Glens area is being held up as an example of good practice, given the long absence of successfully-breeding raptors over much of this region, as well as its appalling recent history of illegal killing of protected species. Walkers in the area this spring were greeted by a plethora of gas guns, inflatable decoys and strings of fireworks scattered across the hills, all designed to scare off, rather than welcome, birds of prey!
Good, strong stuff from RSPB Scotland.
Earlier today The Times ran a story based on the Gift of Grouse propaganda entitled ‘Our conservation skills help raptors to thrive, say gamekeepers’. It includes an amusing quote from RSPB Scotland spokesman James Reynolds, who dismissed the report as “a pile of risible, make-believe tosh“. He added:
These claims by the grouse industry simply serve to show the pathological state of denial in which they are gripped. That they are prepared to pedal such nonsense, flying in the face of repeatedly proven facts and official surveys, shows the degree of desperation that they are prepared to go to in order to try and make this damaging industry respectable. Thankfully, the Scottish people aren’t so easily fooled by such contemptuous rubbish“.

31 thoughts on ““Risible, make-believe tosh”: RSPB responds to Gift of Grouse propaganda”

  1. That is actually a great response from RSPB – well done to them. If they carry on in this vein I may have to rejoin.
    Incidentally I once saw a juvenile Gannet flying over The Lodge (much to the chagrin of the many resident listers) – I have often wondered how the breeding colony there is getting on.

  2. It’s looking better now. I have 2 new hopes:
    When the Moorland Group and BASC meet the Petitions Committee has now to give evidence before referring the petition on to the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee for further scrutiny that they are questioned about the gift of grouse in the same tone as the response to the Times from the RSPB.
    That the Cairngorms National Park Authority take a cue from the RSPB in their dealings with the estates and their shooting partners.
    Well done RPUK and for a very welcome change the RSPB. I always hoped that they would see sense.
    Even the times is qualifying the announcement from the gift of grouse. Only the Telegraph, Courier, Mail, Express, etc. to go. OK still a long way to go.

  3. I’ve added my bit in a letter to The Times:

    Mike Wade’s article on the claim that Scottish Gamekeepers are improving the lot of Raptors on the estates they work.

    What a load of cobblers! The shooting estates are still killing raptors and any other bird or mammal that may endanger their “precious” grouse, including enormous numbers of mountain hare. Add to this illegal use of gas guns to scare Hen Harriers from nesting, dangerous chemicals to treat grouse of diseases and parasites caused by over crowding, burning heather, pollution by the continued use of lead shot, draining blanket bog and stripping out trees (land management that all contributes to flooding).

    The raptor killing is still rife amongst the estates, the mountain hare killing is to reduce food for golden eagles. Raptors are regularly found dead, with either gunshot wounds or poisoning or evidence of being trapped and I believe this is only the tip of the iceberg.

    Satellite tagged raptors mysteriously disappear over the killing fields. Hen harriers are a prime target for these criminals but buzzards, peregrine falcons, goshawks and both species of eagle are regular targets for this sick industry. Too many gamekeepers and the estates, they work, for are still in the Victorian mindset that raptors and all other carnivores are vermin.

    Prehistoric man used to hunt by driving game into traps, this industry does the same but it is now for “FUN”. So sad!

    To add insult to injury a prime newspaper like The Times prints such uncorroborated drivel, which, at best is propaganda, in reality is unsupported lies.

    If The Times supports this type of lies from an industry that is well past its sell by date then it is time to go along with the Sun on fiction writing.

    An irate ex-reader,


    I’m not expecting a reply or it being printed but….


  4. Love that picture from The Times: the spaniel’s expression says it all…

    Well done RSPB Scotland! Proud that my subscription is being put to such good use..

  5. Well done RSPB Scotland, well done RPUK (as usual), and well done Doug – a great letter. It will be interesting to see if the Times editor has balls!!! Incidentally RPUK, a second request to the SGA re. Billy Dick’s membership has once again been ignored. Now there’s a surprise! I think we can now draw our own conclusions.

  6. Forgot to mention. Nor did I ever get a reply from Stephen Murphy re, the number of his tagged Hen Harriers which have ’emigrated’ without trace.

  7. Well done RSPB, for a factual & robust response to the unusual fabrications from the increasingly desperate intensive red grouse lobby. Well done RPUK /Scotland for your premier league level of investigating & reporting.

  8. At last, RSPB Scotland standing up to these estates. Now let’s hope England follow suit. We need more of this RSPB, as you well know Raptors play a big part in the ecosystem and maybe if you carry on standing up to these criminals, members who stopped supporting you, may rejoin The public voice is loud, we will back you all the way, because you should like your namesake Protect all Birds.

    1. I may be hallucinating but I swear that there were several highly critical comments about this article when I looked at the Courier website earlier today but now they seem to have disappeared ….

        1. I was beginning to think I’d imagined it. My relatively mild rebuttal (referencing the RSPB’s comment) has now survived for almost 24 hours, quite possibly longer than some Hen Harriers on grouse moors!

          1. I’ve just checked The Courier and all the comments that were there first thing this morning, including three of my own, appear still to be there.

  9. Great response by the RSPB – let’s hope that this presages a zero-tolerance approach to the lies and propaganda coming from the shooting industry, HOT, DEFRA and the asinine Tory and Scottish National Party governments

  10. I tried to read the Times article but not being a subscriber only had access to the first couple of paragraphs.
    However below that they tried to encourage me to subscribe with, and I quote

    “Stay well-informed, get full access now. £8 for 8 weeks
    Get access to quality journalism
    Enjoy a balanced view and in-depth analysis on the stories that matter”

    Perhaps they can tell us what in-depth analysis was carried out preparing that article?
    And should we treat all articles published as being so far from the truth?

  11. “to suggest that incidental observations of raptors which may merely have been flying over an estate indicate a population thriving ….” The Gift of Grouse don’t actually say that these observed birds survived the experience and maybe their research methodology was based on “we have the carcass therefore it was flying here”.

    1. Thanks for the heads up RP.
      What I forgot to mention was that those words I wrote were straight from a Hen Harrier’s beak, a bird I was talking to only yesterday.

  12. The Times! And Conservatives, theres a shock! Murderous bastards are still ripping apart foxes in England and NO ONE is being brought to justice! How about these dickheads go around and shoot themselves?

  13. Yes, this is better from the RSPB. Well done, Ian and James.

    I can’t access The Times or The Courier articles, and there’s not a hope in hell that I’ll be giving them my money, so this is a plea to those that do subscribe to those rags.

    In future, would it be possible to archive pages by using sites such as http://archive.is/

    Not only would it assist non-subscribers, but it would also act as an archive in case stories are altered through time.

  14. I shared this story on my Facebook page.
    The first comment was from a known grouse keeper who I will call keeper1.
    There is also another keeper who I will call keeper2.
    The other comments are from myself or Facebook friends.
    Here is the conversation:

    keeper1… An do you think the only shite talked comes from the shooting side . People talk shite your lot more than them . But there shite fits in with whot you think

    me… strange comment keeper1

    friend1… Dodo syndrome

    keeper1… Dead as

    friend2… There are game keepers and game keepers, my uncle in law was game keeper on an Aberdeenshire estate for many years and they did respect the wildlife, however even he criticises the younger game keepers today who, he says shoot everything in sight

    friend3… If gamekeepers liked wildlife and conservation maybe they’d take a job in that field, not in the killing industry.

    keeper1… It ad be a touble drab do if we all were the same . A world full of hippy loveys

    friend4… English please!

    keeper1… You start talking sense first mi lad

    me… This post is about the fact that the grouse industry likes to believe that what they do on the ground somehow helps with the conservation of raptors and other birds such as breeding waders. Some wildlife will obviously benefit from keepers killing predators but when the sole reason for all that killing is so that the gamebirds can be shot for fun (there is no other reason for shooting gamebirds) then how can the word ‘conservation’ ever be used by the industry? The only reason the Victorian pastime of driven grouse shooting continues is because of the landowners who pour their money into what is basically a fun sport for people with lots of money to waste. If someone’s prepared to pay a wage for a keeper to ‘look after’ a patch of land, with the result being a few grouse to shoot in the autumn, then fair enough, a dream job for some people, but the industry shouldn’t try to make the public think that what they are doing is helping conserve raptors because that’s just a lie. It is the killing of raptors that has brought the grouse industry to the public’s attention and unless they can prove that they aren’t breaking the law (persecuting protected raptors) then there will be more and more pressure to ban the sport. Using words like shite and “hippy loveys” has nowt to do with this post.

    keeper1… In your opinion. The petition was the same old rubbish an that did well didnt it

    me… Only because the Conservatives are in cahoots with the industry. You should be safe as long as they’re in government.

    keeper1… Ya do not realy believe that do ya

    me… Fact

    keeper1… The petition failed because it was based on no facts just opinions an lies

    me… All the lies were from ‘the other side’ – in denial of persecuting raptors.

    friend5…123000 signatures a failure ?

    me… As opposed to the 24,985 signatures on the ‘protect grouse moors and grouse shooting’ petition, which runs until 15th February 2017.

    At this point keeper2 wades in:

    keeper2… 123000 signatures great result. Just a shame that one of those signatures was a man who I spoke to thought a stoat trap was for catching grouse seen as he was walking through a grouse moor. Honestly how many people do you think new what they were really signing???

    keeper1… It was a waste of time the powers that be soon sid it for whot it was an sent um packing

    me… Same old talk from the keepers. They just cannot admit that raptors are a problem to them and that behind the screen of ‘The Gift of Grouse’ raptors are persistently persecuted. The grouse shooting industry has been outed for what it is – a pointless pastime that damages our natural heritage. Keep on with your denial of raptor persecution – it will cost you all dearly in the long run.

    me… keeper2, honestly? Perhaps just that one man you mention, but I doubt even that. The facts were there for the people to read before they signed. The people who signed that petition aren’t stupid, they knew what they were signing for. You don’t mention all the by-catch with those fenn traps; ring ouzels, dippers, leverets and even the odd red grouse.

    keeper2… You doubt that? So I’d waste my time on replying to this comment if I’d made it up! Haha. And if you honestly think that 123000 people new what they were signing I’d get your self checked into the school of common sense. Traps are inspected annually by a neutral organisation to maintain best practise so by catch is a thing of the past. If those fenn traps aren’t used what percentage of those ouzels, dippers etc would even fledge. I think we could debate all day but the whole theory of damaging the natural heritage and wildlife I find it amusing when your taking pictures of 2 to 300 fell runners running up a hill in the middle of Spring. What damage disturbance is happening then?

    me… Way off subject lad. Read the post I shared. You grouse keepers will always be in denial of raptor persecution. I’ll give you one thing – you’re all very good at ‘getting away with it’ but one thing’s for sure, your activities have been outed and it is only a matter of time before grouse shooting will be history. I kill for public health – you kill for fun.

    friend6… Grouse does taste good tho…….

    me… Even better with added lead, plus all the medicated grit they ingest. Don’t have yourself on friend6.

    End of conversation, no doubt there will be add-ons as the days go by.

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