On cue, Scottish landowners’ rep attacks RSPB re: missing hen harrier Calluna

In a move that is fast becoming as predictable as the disappearance of a satellite-tagged raptor on a driven grouse moor, a representative of landowners’ lobby group Scottish Land & Estates (SLE) has launched an attack on the RSPB following yesterday’s news that hen harrier Calluna has ‘disappeared’ after visiting a Deeside grouse moor.

In an article published in today’s Press & Journal (here), David Fyffe, Board Director of SLE and Chairman of SLE’s north-east branch accuses the RSPB of “smearing shooting groups” and ‘not following the agreed protocol’ when the bird went missing.

In comments which echo those that SLE Chairman David Johnstone made in the press yesterday, Mr Fyffe argues that local landowners should have been alerted as soon as the tag stopped transmitting so that estate staff could ‘help with the search’.

Ah yes, it’s always a great idea to ask potential suspects to help search a potential crime scene to secure potential evidence. Genius.

Who remembers what happened the last time estate staff ‘assisted’ in a search for a missing satellite-tagged raptor? Here’s a reminder – the RSPB staff who were working with Police Scotland staff were falsely accused of being ‘Masked intruders‘, ‘Masked RSPB thugs‘ and ‘RSPB representatives conducting themselves like hunt saboteurs wearing intimidating hoods and masks’ (see here).

And as pointed out in a comment made by a blog reader yesterday, in the case of missing hen harrier Calluna, had the RSPB notified the estate on 12th August when the tag stopped transmitting, the grouse-shooting industry would have wailed vociferously that the timing was just a publicity stunt designed to coincide with the opening of the grouse-shooting season.

It’s all part of a very familiar pantomime.

The RSPB was accused earlier this year of ‘openly ignoring’ the agreed PAW protocol for missing satellite-tagged raptors by not immediately informing the local landowner. At the time we showed that this allegation was blatantly untrue. David Fyffe’s allegation is also a complete fabrication. Here’s a copy of the agreed PAW protocol:

In the case of missing hen harrier Calluna, the sudden cessation of her satellite tag signal was suspicious. Usually if a satellite tag is about to have a technical malfunction there will be prior warning signs in the associated engineering data, particularly a drop in battery voltage  – see here.  But Calluna’s tag was reported to be “working perfectly” prior to its abrupt stop.

In addition to this, Calluna’s tag stopped working in an area with a known history of illegal raptor persecution.

So, having established that the circumstances of Calluna’s disappearance were suspicious, what does the PAW protocol flow chart indicate should happen next? Does it say ‘immediately inform the landowner’? No, of course it doesn’t. It says ‘Contact local police’.

David Fyffe owes the RSPB an apology. Getting one will be as unlikely as hen harrier Calluna being found safe and well (it could happen but nobody’s holding their breath).

UPDATE: 5 September 2017: Scottish Land & Estates and their indefensible distortion of the truth (see here).

17 thoughts on “On cue, Scottish landowners’ rep attacks RSPB re: missing hen harrier Calluna”

  1. If they are admitting that indeed crimes are taking place on their land, on their watch….what a shame they dont spend as much energy on policing and preventing them as they do in attempting to defend themselves once someone has else has the audacity to flag these horrible events ! Could it be that they simply dont give a flying **** about wildlife. surely not.

    1. Why should anyone follow any protocol these lawbreakers need to face the law it’s a pity the Police are on the side of lawbreakers if it was an ordinary person breaking the law the Police would so what does that say for justice in UK today

  2. For what it’s worth, I have sent a civil email to SL&E suggesting that Fyffe owes an apology. Well, it made me feel better for 2 minutes.

  3. Glad to see that the RSPB gave a pretty robust and clear rebuff to Fyffe’s claims as reported in the article, the huntin, fishin, shootin set ultimately won’t do itself any favours thinking it can just present the public with a clown show.

  4. This is the usual attempt at a smoke screen and deflection from the real problem, a disappeared harrier in circumstances we are familiar with sudden tag failure almost certainly due to persecution. RSPB did follow the protocol Mr Fyffe does indeed owe them an apology. All he has done is deflect the stupid into believing there is an issue here, well actually there is by his action Mr Fyffe has shown himself to be an apologist for any criminality involved in the disappearance of this bird.

  5. There is an inherent contradiction at the heart of the grouse shooting industry’s claims that suggests an incompetent ignorance, a Nelsonian response malfeasance or something far more sinister. They voice condemnation of illegal persecution (they have little choice but to do so) and claim, with wearying regularity, that gamekeepers are the ‘real conservationists’ who know their ‘patch’ & subject so intimately that they feel able to scoff at scientific findings (often dismissed as the work of ‘armchair conservationists’). Yet these lauded ‘experts’ and caring ‘conservationists’ are astonishingly inept when it comes to discovering and reporting wildlife crime, even on their own beat. Worse, their profession accounts for the overwhelming majority of convictions for wildlife crime. This apparent anomaly goes to the root of the inherent dishonesty and rampant hypocrisy within the industry which will fool nobody but themselves. Ultimately, it’s a self-defeating attitude that plays into the hands of their critics.

  6. Until representatives of the shooting industry acknowledge incidents like this are extremely suspicious, to say the least and desist from the predictable, spurious deflective statements, it’s quite clear they have no intention of reforming from their criminal activities.
    In fact, I can’t foresee a change in their methods until they are forced to do so by licensing or indeed an end to driven grouse shooting.

  7. How many more harriers need to die to convince society that grouse shooting spawns criminality? A deep hatred of any bird with a hooked beak pervades the shooting culture, and any amount of sham upset or condemnation by the pseudo-respectable officials of bodies like SLE are entirely unconvincing. Weasel words. That is one reason why I’m so disheartened by the RSPB’s policy of not wishing to ban driven grouse shooting, which is seized upon by the Game & Wildlife Conservation [sic] Trust in the opening passages to their recently publication “The Moorland Balance.” As expected, this over-priced booklet is little more than propaganda disguised as science. Until we rid ourselves of grouse shooting, as a start to the creation of a more compassionate and eco-friendly society, I fear that this persecution of harriers and other raptors will continue for the foreseeable future. I cannot for the life of me see how licencing game shooting estates will make a significant difference, apart from perhaps delaying the inevitable.

    1. Whatever they would have us believe, There’s no doubt that the real, underlying, attitude of these people is that which was unwittingly portrayed in the recently released video of the persecution of Marsh Harriers on a North Yorkshire Moor – see: https://raptorpersecutionscotland.wordpress.com/2017/08/10/video-of-marsh-harrier-persecution-on-north-yorkshire-grouse-moor/
      I’ve not yet seen any response to that video from the MA, CA, NGO, BASC etc.. I’ve no doubt that they read this blog and must realise that they are condemned by their continued silence. Whether or their members were involved in this shoot and the actual incident, their continued silence does them no favours.

    2. But how to get it banned…remember last year, despite a huge amount of support for a ban got it ‘debated’ and the most articulate supporters of the ‘sport’ were sent along to play the victim and speak of loss of jobs etc…and it seemed to me that the outcome had already been decided even before the first person got up to speak. !. So what do you do up against people who display this kind of disinterest, vested interests and not wishing to harm the livlihood of friends and colleagues. What next, sabotage, protest, disruption of shoots. Seriously, these people wont ever give up without serious pressure…clearly appealing to the better nature of people who dont possess such a thing is a waste of breath.

      1. That was a Westminster stitch up in the home of democracy Ha Ha . It will happen in Scotland only when we get Independence !! Oh dear, I am coming over all political again, this will cause a stouchie.

    1. Because the SNP are in power and they are positioned somewhere between the nasty party and the lib dems , only when we are an Independent republic can we effect real land ownership and consequently conservation changes and show the rump of the UK the way ahead in these respects.

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