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society and any hint of illegal activity can lead to the right to hold a certificate, and the ability to shoot, being withdrawn”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. here, here, here) 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.