GWCT wants ‘raptor management’ as part of game shoot licensing proposals

In the run up to the Scottish Parliament’s Environment Committee meeting last Tuesday to discuss options for progressing the petition to introduce a game shoot licensing scheme, several organisations from the game shooting industry submitted some last minute ‘evidence’ for consideration. Calling it ‘evidence’ is a bit of a stretch but anyway, we blogged about it (here) and commented that the industry was just calling for the maintenance of the status quo.

It turns out that other last minute ‘evidence’ was also submitted, this time by GWCT, although it seems the GWCT’s submission was too late to be considered during the meeting.

Here is a copy of that submission: GWCT letter to ECCLR Committee May 2017

It’s full of spin, of course, but it also introduces the idea that ‘licensed management methods‘ (of raptors) should be considered as part of any proposed licensing scheme.

The letter starts off by suggesting “The distribution of wildlife, is affected by many factors. In this case, raptors’ food supply (which changes seasonally and annually), habitat quality, weather in both the immediate area and landscape are all known to affect hen harrier , golden eagle and other species.  Ascribing a single cause to a perceived absence of occupancy is likely challenging“.

In relation to how these variables affect hen harrier and golden eagle, GWCT cites two references to support its claims: the Hen Harrier Conservation Framework and the Golden Eagle Conservation Framework. As the GWCT knows very well, both of these substantial and scientifically rigorous reports indicate that illegal persecution is the main single cause of the absence of occupancy in areas of intensively managed driven grouse moors in Scotland (note, it’s not a ‘perceived’ absence, it is an evidence-based, factual absence).

Here are some quotes from these two highly regarded reports:

Hen Harrier Framework:Two main constraints were identified: persecution, and in one Scottish region [North Caithness & Orkney, where there’s no driven grouse shooting], prey shortages“.

Golden Eagle Framework:Current evidence indicates that illegal persecution and low food availability in parts of western Scotland [where there’s no driven grouse shooting] are the two main constraints on the Scottish golden eagle population“.

So the GWCT’s claim that “ascribing a single cause to a perceived absence of occupancy is likely challenging” is utter tosh in relation to the hen harrier and golden eagle (and some other species such as red kite in the north, peregrine in the north east, and merlin in the south east) and the GWCT knows it. Why does the GWCT, and its other mates within the industry, continue to deny this evidence?

The letter then goes on to say that “the regulation of game shooting and its management in Scotland is extensive” and cites regulations such as the restriction on when species may be shot (i.e. open/close seasons), which species may be shot, when and where species may be disturbed, how habitats may be managed, how predatory species can be controlled, veterinary medicines regulation and site specific regulation such as Special Protection Areas.

What the letter fails to acknowledge is the the vast majority of these regulations are repeatedly broken (apart from the bit about open/close seasons), the use of veterinary medicines is barely regulated and if you think this equates to ‘monitoring’ then your brain has died, and many SPAs designated for various raptors are in unfavourable condition. If this ‘extensive’ regulation was working, we wouldn’t now be in the position of calling for state-regulated licensing! Duh!

The letter then goes on to discuss the current legislation, and this is where the proposed ‘licensed management methods‘ (of raptors) is introduced:

GWCT admits that illegal raptor killing goes on and claims that this is because “the drivers of the conflict remain unaddressed“. The letter continues, “Attempting to address this conflict in the absence of licensed management methods has been shown to result in loss of conservation status of birds of prey, loss of increasingly rare moorland wading birds, loss of local economic activity and degradation of protected habitat. Current legislation is enabling a DEFRA hen harrier management plan and brood management scheme that does address the conflict and such adaptive approaches should be given a chance to work in Scotland“.

Now, the GWCT hasn’t specified what it means, exactly, by ‘licensed management methods‘, and it may mean something as harmless as diversionary feeding, in which case, fill your boots. However, knowing this industry only too well, and the fact that the GWCT has already suggested brood meddling as a potential option, we suspect that the phrase ‘licensed management methods‘ has far more serious and sinister undertones. Don’t forget that there are already people within the industry calling for the inclusion of red kites and white-tailed eagles on general licences.

No doubt the GWCT’s plans for ‘licensed management methods‘ will be assessed during the Scottish Government’s inquiry in to game shoot licensing (assuming the Cabinet Secretary agrees to the Environment Committee’s recommendations) so hopefully we’ll find out whether the GWCT is proposing diversionary feeding, brood meddling, trapping and relocating, or killing, or something else.

We’ll be paying close attention to what the GWCT has to say at any inquiry, especially as its Director of Research is on record as saying GWCT wants to keep a lot of its management methods “under the radar” for fear of scrutiny and how the authorities might respond if they found out what was actually going on.

10 thoughts on “GWCT wants ‘raptor management’ as part of game shoot licensing proposals”

  1. Not for the first time:

    Also have not seen any credible response about their offering of a prize of “an evening farm walk (to be followed by a BBQ) coming up shortly on 14 June” at Corsehope Estate, notorious persecution hot spot here in SE Scotland. Far from condemning persecution of our native wildlife they do the exact opposite and reward those engaged in it! [Ed: To be clear, and for legal reasons, nobody from Corsehope Farm has been found guilty of ‘engaging in’ wildlife persecution. Part of the estate is, though, currently subject to a General Licence restriction order due to police evidence of wildlife crime taking place there].

    Thinking there must be some good conservationists working for them I did make efforts to reach out to them but they refused to acknowledge any communication and would not post my comments on their blog. Immensely frustrating from an organisation that we should have a lot in common with – e.g. on our efforts to document bird population changes through our local atlas (c. 450k records for SE Scotland), the Woodcock surveys (currently being repeated here in Lothian), etc etc.

    1. Absolutely fully agree that no-one has been found guilty of anything, this is the essence of the problem, rather than clinging to that fact and promoting that kind of place change would start if their peers were no longer prepared to support them in this manner…

  2. I’m really concerned that all these organisations have shown that they think that must kill raptors to survive, whilst at the same time denying that the killing is rampant.
    Are there enough “tartan Tories” (don’ t like the phrase but it’s out there) in the SNP to allow the licencing proposal to be superceded?
    I feel that those of us in Scotland must continue to press our MSPs on this matter.
    Please write to your MSPs so that they are aware of the strength of feeling on this matter.

  3. It looks suspiciously like their solution for widespread criminality in their industry is to effectively decriminalise the persecution of raptors but if they think that by doing so “the drivers of the conflict” will be addressed then they must be consuming more lead-laced game than anyone realised.

  4. Oh dear, yet another organisation that had held on to a thin veneer of respectability shows their true current colours.
    The requirement to manage raptors i.e. kill them, on driven game shoots simply lays bare once again the unsustainability of the industry.
    Yes, if you want to maximise game numbers from wild stock in the driven game shooting season then you must illegally destroy raptors.
    It was always the case, which is why the keepers were employed.
    That is why the industry must be heavily regulated which will ultimately lead to the end of it.
    Take away the public subsidy & massively reduce the bag numbers & the game is up.
    My sides ache with laughter at the idea of the guns at driven grouse shoots doing it in walked – up style!
    Thankfully the apologists for the industry are not the brightest bunch !
    If game shooting is to continue in any form, just like rough shooting, ferreting & deer culling, it must be proved sustainable.
    Many are opposed to any form of sport hunting so the future existence of game shooting is in the balance.
    The industry is well aware of these facts & is becoming increasingly worried & increasingly willing to lash out.
    The writing is on the wall !

    Keep up the pressure !

  5. How are they even allowed to have the words ‘wildlife’ and ‘conservation’ in their title? What an oxymoron!
    It needs shortened to the ‘game conservation trust’ or ‘game trust.’
    They must think we all fell off last year’s Xmas tree if they think we believe their bullshit that they give a damn about wildlife or conservation (other than conservation or their own self-interest).

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