SGA reacts angrily to media coverage of Golden Eagle Fred

Last Friday we published an update on golden eagle Fred, who ‘disappeared’ from the Pentlands on the outskirts of Edinburgh in highly suspicious circumstances in January.

There have been some predictable responses from certain quarters who probably expect everyone to believe that this is what happened to Fred (many thanks to @gill_lewis for this brilliant cartoon):

The Scottish Gamekeepers Association’s response to the latest news on Fred was this:

Hmm, where to begin. Let’s start with some facts, a concept the SGA seems to struggle with.

First of all, on the accusation that our media coverage has been “shambolic” and that this case has made a “total mockery” of the investigative process for dealing with wildlife crime. Let’s just be clear. We haven’t published any details of this investigation without the express agreement of Police Scotland.

In the SGA’s original press statement on Fred (see here), we were accused of “walking away after presenting judgement to the media“. We didn’t “walk away” at all – we presented further evidence to the police and were asked not to publish it until the police’s special technical analysts had been given an opportunity to examine it. Although we were obviously eager to publish as soon as possible, we fully adhered to the police request as not to do so could have compromised their investigation. There is still information that has not yet been released.

In the meantime, SGA Director Bert Burnett was busily writing outrageous and borderline libellous commentary on social media. He wrote the following on 22 February 2018:

Which leads us on nicely to another statement in the SGA’s latest press statement:

The SGA has not joined in with theorising on blogs or private social media accounts“.

Really? So how does the SGA explain the following social media posts?

Posted 19th February 2018:

Posted 23rd February 2018:

That seems to be pretty conclusive evidence that the SGA, via its Director, has been quite busy “theorising” about this case, doesn’t it? And not only “theorising”, but also trying to whip up unfounded hysteria by accusing Chris Packham of ‘calling for the wives and children of gamekeepers to become homeless’ and Bert then, ironically, calling for people to lobby the BBC to sack Chris!

Ah, but he’s no longer a Director‘ will argue the SGA. That bit, at least, is true – according to documents lodged at Companies House, Bert resigned his Directorship of the SGA on 26th February 2018. However, his social media comments were published prior to the 26th, when he was still an SGA Director. Perhaps this explains Bert’s ‘resignation’? Whatever, who cares.

So after falsely accusing us of commenting inappropriately on a live investigation, the SGA then argues that “…all the evidence in this case should be presented in the open so the truth can be established…”. A good bit of muddled thinking there.

For us, the most revealing section of the SGA’s press statement is this:

The fact that SNH published a paper on satellite tagged eagles between 2004-2016 has nothing to do with any case happening years later, in 2018.

To suggest otherwise is to institutionalise prejudice against a community of people: Scotland’s gamekeepers. We will not tolerate this and are extremely disappointed and angry that this attitude appears to be at large within some sections of our parliament“.

Sorry, SGA, but the 2017 review on the fate of satellite-tagged golden eagles has EVERYTHING to do with this case. The circumstances of Fred’s disappearance mirror the suspicious circumstances of the other 42+ ‘missing’ golden eagles who have ‘disappeared’ on or near to a grouse moor and whose tags suddenly and inexplicably stopped working despite having a proven reliability rate of 98%. The report demonstrated that tagged golden eagles in Scotland were 25 TIMES more likely to ‘disappear’ in suspicious circumstances than anywhere else in the world where these tags have been deployed on eagles.

It’s no use the SGA now pulling out the victim card and falsely claiming “institutional prejudice”. The facts are clear and have been available for a long, long time to those willing to see.

What’s really interesting is that the SGA’s angry response came just hours after Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing’s damning condemnation of the criminals within the grouse-shooting sector who continue to kill birds of prey, including golden eagles. We suspect the SGA’s furious reaction about Fred is more to do with the embarrassing fact that Fergus, the SGA’s long-time cheerleader and main political ally, has spoken so openly and frankly about the ongoing persecution of raptors on grouse moors. The significance of Fergus Ewing’s statement should not be underestimated.

The walls are crumbling and the SGA knows it. It’s just a matter of time…..

23 thoughts on “SGA reacts angrily to media coverage of Golden Eagle Fred”

  1. It could be argued that the raptor persecution apologists are the ones calling for the wives and children of Gamekeepers to become homeless – they’re the ones who will surely contribute to the end of driven grouse shooting, or indeed, driven shooting.

    1. Indeed – and also that they are overseeing the loss of new business opportunities that would conflict with DGS but create more jobs, because of their strident support of the status quo. These are the same people who publicly stated that sea eagles could be a threat to small children, but casually side step the issue that the ludicrously high, artificially maintained numbers of red deer in Scotland increase the number of people seriously injured and killed on roads in deer stalking areas, a friend in Assynt has had three collisions so far and she is hardly a boy racer. They need to be called out on this as often as possible, it’s a scandal what the ‘sporting’ estates are getting away with. Their crocodile tears are truly puke inducing.

  2. Your link to Companies House appears to be to Amazon Web Services and gives me an xml page

    [Ed: Thanks, Jeff, now amended]

  3. If SGA genuinely cares about the gamekeepers and their families losing their livelihoods, they should at least borrow from BASC and admit that unless illegal persecution ceases, their ‘sport’ is doomed. Instead they act like a toddler and lash out. This is just unbelievably naive. From a basic PR perspective, they should at least use the correct words to make it sound like they care about crimes taking place, rather than spreading lies and trying to blame a small band of ‘activists’. By acting like this they damn themselves, if the SGA can’t admit that a proportion of gamekeepers routinely break the law, they are not fit for purpose as they are not working in their members best interests.

    1. One could draw the conclusion that the criminal element on grouse moors is so rampant that they can’t or don’t want to stop it. These statements only reinforce that possibility.

  4. Assuming, probably, that gamekeepers have been involved in criminal activities against protected predatory animals. Can we see any evidence of gamekeepers being removed from the SGA organisation. I’ve seen a few retiree’s and changed career after proven criminal activity but no named, shamed and removed from SGA. I may be wrong in my assumption but let us see.

    The SGA must be a very close society where everyone knows each other. They no doubt talk and brag and xxxxxx xxxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx The SGA must know who commits these crimes or have very strong suspicions. So, why not stop them, expel them or even turn them over to the law. It would protect the SGA’s sad little organisation.

    The only conclusion I can come up with is that criminal activity against anything that upsets the Victorian attitudes of todays lords, masters and gamekeepers is xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxxxx

    Let us hope to see the day when the crimes xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx are brought to justice without loopholes. When tags can record the moment of death, place and time the criminals will have nowhere to escape. It is not beyond the realms of current electronics to record sound for sometime after loss of life, providing yet more evidence to capture the sad corrupt criminals destroying our natural heritage. Unlike SNH who don’t mind handing out “licence to kill” for the most pathetic of excuses.

    Less than quietly fuming about these criminal saviours of the countryside!!!!!!!


  5. Where is it all going, birds of prey trapped, shot and poisoned and nothing is done and there is a wall of silence to protect wealthy landowners. If vicarious liability was introduced this wou;ld stop very swiftly.

        1. As Andrew Gilruth has pointed out to me, Vicarious Liability exists everywhere in the UK but this is him being a bit tricky as usual, From what i understand, the vicarious liability he is referring to, applies only in the relationship between a employee and their boss. You would think that could also be applied in wildlife crime but, as far as i am aware, it never is. I am sure a legal expert will correct me if i am way off.

          1. I’d be really interested if this law was used. The landowner could be regarded as the employer of the gamekeeper, so I see no reason why this should not be tested in court. A prison sentence for the Lord of the manor, even if suspended, would show clear intent to tackle the issue.

          2. Vicarious liability in Enlgland and Wales (and presumably in Norheen Ireland as well) is a doctrine of tort law. As you suggest, in most cases, this generally means that employers can be held liable for the negligence of their employees as long as they act in the scope of their employment. It has nothing to do with criminal liability.

            1. The Houses of Parliament are said to be watching the Scottish use of “vicarious Liability” and don’t think its value is sufficient to warrant inclusion over this side of the border. This is the gist of wording from 2 letters I received through my MP. The first letter was when R Benyon was a DEFRA minister and second letter was last year.

              If Scotland managed to get some effective results with vicarious liability then perhaps we (south of the border) could push our government to include it in statute. But that would upset many MPs and their wealthy friends that they are so keen to protect from prosecution and loss of income.

              We may even have the banned pesticides, so often used by raptor killers, made illegal to hold.


  6. If gamekeepers are being pressured into killing raptors by rich landowners then I believe Asda and McDonald’s are always looking to employ, that way your wives and kids will be safe. Drug dealers often have wives and kids and they go to jail because they are criminals, nobody sticks up for them , crime is crime and these people have been taking the piss for ages, perhaps the wives and kids should ask them to stop breaking the law if they are worried

    1. According to the Daily Mail and Telegraph, the Grouse Shooting supporting papers, then if the Keepers become unemployed their take home money will vastly increase and they’ll be given a luxury council villa to live in. What have they to worry about, unless they and their media friends are all utterly full of shite.

  7. Auld Bert tries to switch the focus to Chris Packham. By doing that creates a following of people who hold Chris Packham to blame for all the pressure that is now on the Driven Grouse Moor industry. This ignores the many others who play a meangful part in the push for justice for our raptors. Bert thus introduces these folk to the state of denial he inhabits in regards to the part of gamekeepers in the illegal persecution of raptors. As science progresses and tightens the noose around these criminals the stories they provide will become more and more outrageous. This simply encourages ridicule in the eyes of the majority who are overwhelmingly not in denial. Indeed, all he is achieving is to further undermine driven grouse shoots by his fantasies. This will end in his number of followers shrinking rapidly. Martyrdom will escape him as he becomes anonymous. His exit from the position of Director confirms the process has begun.
    So, come on Bert, the louder you shout the quicker driven grouse shoots will end and the faster the recovery of hen harriers, peregrine falcons and golden eagles will be.
    P.S. It is hardly surprising that the SGA want no official connection with someone as addicted to conspiracy theories he appears to be. However they cannot erase his long history and positions of power within the organisation where his role was very much the same, but with less accompanying publicity.

    1. Quite simply, Bert Burnett wants Chris’s head. I cannot recall one instance of Chris pursuing ‘his agenda’ on television, but perhaps I am wrong. However, if I am wrong, this doesn’t change anything. It is the duty of the BBC to present the facts, however unpalatable they might be to the SGA. I believe that the BBC have, thus far, failed to ‘grasp the nettle’ and report objectively about DGS and wildlife crime. The nearest we got to some sort of objectivity was a few weeks ago about the slaughter of Mountain Hares. But this was fairly diluted. I appreciate that the BBC are scared shitless of their paymasters, the Tory Government, but what has happened to good old investigative journalism?

  8. Hmmm, If most people lose their job or made redundant (if perhaps the industry they work in is no longer viable) they look for other employment and perhaps take a lower paid position and cut back on their lifestyle, so that they can keep their rent/mortgage payments and keep a ‘roof over their families head’.

    However with gamekeepers the home is tied to the job

    So if the gamekeepers are made redundant, due to DGS being no longer viable, it will be the Lairds that will be forcing them out of their homes. This also stops any conscientious ‘guardian of the countryside’ from speaking out.

    The mafia could learn a few things from these people

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