BASC Chairman Peter Glenser calls for “honesty” in raptor debate

Have we moved in to a parallel universe? It feels like it today.

First we have BASC’s acting chief executive, Christopher Grafficus, admitting there are “criminals among us” and urging his members to stop killing raptors (see here) before also admitting that the number of convicted gamekeepers “must be the tip of the iceberg” (see here).

And now BASC’s chairman, Peter Glenser, has written a short piece on BASC’s website calling for “honesty in the raptor debate”:

Hmmm. To be honest (as Peter Glenser wants), we’re not as convinced by Peter’s statement of intent as we were this morning with Christopher Graffius’ sincerity. There are a number of reasons for this.

Where was BASC’s ‘honesty’ in the evidence they submitted to last year’s Westminster debate on driven grouse shooting, about the extent of criminal behaviour on driven grouse moors? They claimed it was only undertaken by “a small minority of individuals”.

Where was BASC’s ‘honesty’ in December last year when a senior staff member was telling a Scottish Parliamentary Committee there was no need for game shoot licensing because

“Shotgun certificate holders are among the most law-abiding sector of society and any hint of illegal activity can lead to the right to hold a certificate, and the ability to shoot, being withdrawn”

when on the very same day, Peter Glenser (in his capacity as a barrister) was defending the right of a gamekeeper to have his firearms returned even though it was accepted by the court that this particular gamekeeper had been involved with storing poisons in a secret underground stash on a grouse moor?

Where was the ‘honesty’ last year when BASC’s Director of Northern England, Duncan Thomas, reportedly told a conference that it was ‘an absolute fact’ that disturbance from birdwatchers was the major factor in the losses of hen harriers from grouse moors and it wasn’t much to do with illegal persecution?

There are probably plenty of other examples we could cite if we could be bothered to look for them, and then there’s also BASC’s cynical attempts (e.g. hereherehere) to silence Chris Packham, on the pretence of being concerned about BBC impartiality but in reality probably being more concerned about Packham’s ‘celebrity’ status allowing him to reach a wide audience with his concerns about raptor persecution on driven grouse moors.

We’re also a bit suspicious of Peter Glenser’s use of the phrase “the raptor debate”. There is no ‘raptor debate’. This is about the criminal offence of killing of birds of prey, that’s it. What we suspect Peter might be getting at by the use of this phrase is perhaps he thinks there should be a debate and the focus of that debate would be how many licences gamekeepers can get for legally killing raptors.

That debate, if it ever comes, is a long way away. The immediate issue, as Christopher Graffius recognised, is getting gamekeepers and land owners to stop killing raptors. And while we very much welcome BASC’s apparent commitment to this objective, the immediate and dismal response of the two gamekeeping organisations (NGO and SGA) shows just how difficult that will be.

We don’t know what has sparked these sudden declarations from BASC, although we’d love to know, but it might just be too little, too late. Scotland is already well down the path towards the introduction of a licensing scheme, mainly because the gamebird – shooting industry has comprehensively failed to self-regulate, since 1954! They’ve shown time after time, for decades, they simply can’t be trusted.

Whether BASC can organise the other members of the shooting community (i.e. the non-gamebird shooters) to rally against the criminals within the grouse and pheasant shooters, which is what BASC appears to be trying to do, then maybe, just maybe, they can salvage something from the train wreck that’s thundering their way.

26 thoughts on “BASC Chairman Peter Glenser calls for “honesty” in raptor debate”

  1. The honesty has always come exclusively from the raptor worker side of the equation – we simply report the reality of raptor numbers & are not afraid to point out why they are often missing !

    Have we ever done otherwise ?

    Keep up the pressure !

  2. These are simply pious, cosmetic remarks from the wildlife killing fraternity. The majority he speaks of as “lawful and ethical” may well technically be the former, but how can anyone argue that it is ethical to get pleasure from blasting a life form out of the sky with a lethal weapon, and call it sport? Or participate in an activity which is so harmful to the environment and moorland biodiversity? Weasel words yet again from the nasty brigade. Awful and unethical might be a better description.

  3. Massive back peddling in anticipation of licencing. Never trust these people or let them off the hook.
    They will never disappoint. They cannot help themselves.
    Give them no quarter.

  4. “The raptor debate” seems a lot like Creationists in America arguing “teach the controversy” over evolution. There is no debate, no controversy, this is -like the Americans- just a stalling tactic. They know they can’t win long term, but as long as they keep arguing they can continue doing as they please. Especially since the shooter position is basically best summed up as keeping on killing raptors illegally until they are allowed to do it legally.

  5. ‘We must not lose sight of the immense good done by the shooting community’ Is this guy Glenser having a laugh? What good has shooting for ‘sport’ ever done?

  6. BASC must think that having heard half an apology we will give up and go home. There is too much money involved and high-level networking going on at these shoots for any systematic change internally – the pressure to produce the birds is always going to be there. The only way is to change the sport so it does not rely on large bags of birds. That’s a marketing exercise that the industry must undertake by itself. Imposed systems like licensing runs the risk of creating more subterfuge being employed when killing raptors – like retrieving the satellite transmitter from a bird and driving it off-estate for disposal – more expensive and time-consuming but that’s probably a price that will be paid given the nature of the business and the clients’ expectations.

    1. It is difficult to imagine the DGS industry regulating itself to produce lower bags which might be regarded as sustainable. They’ll no doubt have developed their business case as one based on increasing growth and will find it problematical to reverse this process. Whilst a total ban on DGS would be ideal, this is not going to happen in the short-term. The sooner we have some form of regulation, the better.

    2. It depends what is put in the conditions of holding a shooting licence. There could be a requirement for a thriving independently monitored raptor population on the estate in order to get a licence. 🙂

  7. Curious that a hands up statement from BASC,s chief executive is compromised by a statement from the chairman . Surely this indicates a chink in their armour . Hopefully this will filter down to someone who can spill the beans and say it as it is in the Countryside Alliance and Natural England. The tide has turned , and refreshingly the beacon of light from the Glen Tanar estate on their approach-to upland management will be the benchmark of the future .Their approach and philosophy is enlightented and goes against the present entrenched views. Get your surf boards out folks , the tide is in our favour !

    1. How is the chief executive’s message compromised by a statement from the chairman which says it’s time for honesty and plan and open dialogue?

      You people really do twist yourselves inside out looking for conspiracy.

      1. Dialogue! we talked to the game lobby for years and it got us absolutely nowhere. Persecution rates if anything went up Hen Harrier, Goshawk and Peregrine populations in the uplands meantime went through the floor. The is no ” raptor debate” to be had, when the shooting lobby stop killing raptors as measured by improving productivity, site occupancy and population return to our uplands perhaps then we will believe the rhetoric. We have been vilified, insulted and lied to and about for far too long for the trust to suddenly reappear, action speaks louder than words!

  8. Bert Burnut say that BASC should note that the peer pressure has been in force across all of the Scottish shooting bodies for years. I guess this means that we have seen the best that peer pressure can deliver…. not very good then! Thanks for supporting the need for game shoot licensing Bert.

  9. When is Roseanna Cunningham giving us more details about “the good progress being made” into the independent review of grouse moor management practices?
    She used the word “shortly” but that was five weeks ago. Things start winding down for Christmas…

      1. Having a degree of insight to the internal thinking of SNH, I have my worries about what this review is going to reveal, even more so within the hidden agenda which is ever present. Perhaps I’m just an eternal pessimist, and will be pleased at the conclusion. However I don’t see anything short of a declared intention to consign grouse shooting to history being good enough. Our enemies, as I see them, are devious in the extreme.

        1. Well said, Iain. I too feel pessimistic, what with the Scottish Government’s primary aim of promoting and protecting the econony. They’ll only protect wildlife if it brings in some cash!
          Will there be a review of sustainable, upland management practices that could also benefit the economy – wildlife tourism?

  10. I’d love to know the number / location of solicitors (and others in the legal profession) that shoot grouse. If there was any positive policy change for raptors then this information should be made public.
    I think it could give a good insight into why there is such a low conviction rate of those persecuting raptors.

    1. The answer is quite simply ‘lots’. I am fairly certain there was at least one who was an infrequent correspondent on this blog!

      1. What relevance does the number and location of solicitors who shoot grouse have? Why does there always have to be a ridiculous conspiracy theory? Lawyers don’t make laws and they don’t make policy on laws.

        1. Come on Winston, it’s the new “era of honesty” don’t you know? You must know the relevance of solicitors having an interest in grouse shooting.

  11. Whatever the reason, the fact that they are currently the only members of the shooting fraternity to come out and openly admit there is a problem with some of their membership is a bit of sea change, particularly compared to past denials.

    Other organisations will be looking at this; and they may be thinking “Maybe we should be doing the same?”.

    BASC can go further; void insurance cover if you are prosecuted (convicted or not, reasonable evidence); refuse to allow members from estates known to be involved in persecution. They could paint themselves as whiter than white. I hope we see some action from BASC on top of the words.

    Come on BASC – start lobbying for game shoot licensing to help clean up the industry.

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