This article is about the coordinated boycotting of last month’s Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG) meeting by the Moorland Association, National Gamekeepers Organisation, BASC and Countryside Alliance. Mark Avery blogged about it (here) and so did we (here, here, here and here) when the gamekeepers formally resigned from the group with the jaw-dropping suggestion that Supt Nick Lyall (the new RPPDG Chair) lacked integrity. The supreme irony of that claim kept us amused for days.
Anyway, back to the Shooting Times and its selective portrayal of events:
Gosh, where to start.
It’s fair enough to include the quote from the Countryside Alliance, although the shooting lobby’s claims about the workings of the RPPDG have previously been found to be misleading, at best:
The RPPDG meetings are not confidential; meeting minutes are subject to disclosure via FoI requests (we have copies of every meeting report except one, so far) and those member organisations supposedly “condemning outcomes to which they agreed in meetings” presumably refers to comments made by RSPB and NERF about the discredited RPPDG raptor persecution maps that were published in 2017. However, NERF has argued that it consistently objected during meetings to how the map data were being presented but that those concerns were consistently ignored by other RPPDG ‘partners’ (e.g. see here) while the RSPB has stated that changes to the pre-agreed press releases were made without the RSPB’s knowledge or consent (see here).
The Shooting Times then goes on to discuss the ‘dispute’ about whether the Moorland Association asked, during an RPPDG meeting, about licenses to kill Marsh harriers (which, incidentally, wasn’t “leaked” at all but became known when RPPDG members were reporting to their members, quite legitimately, on the RPPDG meeting). The Shooting Times article includes Amanda Anderson’s (Moorland Assoc) response of “complete nonsense” but then completely fails to mention that further scrutiny of wider RPPDG correspondence, via a series of FoIs, has revealed that yes, this topic was indeed raised during that RPPDG meeting but every member except two (RSPB & NERF) had apparently ‘forgotten’ about it and subsequent meeting minutes, inaccurate and contested, were still approved by the RPPDG (see here)!!
Half-truths won’t do, Shooting Times, and they certainly don’t fit with the editor’s recent emphasis on “communicating the truth and demanding high standards”.
Still on the subject of alleged ‘leaks’, Shooting Times then suggests that news of the recent boycotted meeting had ‘appeared to have been leaked to a prominent anti-shooting blogger [that’ll be Mark Avery] before being picked up by The Times’. This allegation of leaking is again clearly aimed at the non-shooting RPPDG members, but had the Shooting Times done its homework it would have known that actually, a journalist from The Times knew about this boycott story and was on the phone to lots of people about it BEFORE Mark Avery blogged! Also, it’s worth noting that a copy of the National Gamekeepers Organisation’s formal resignation letter made its way in to the hands of The Times journalist. Now, who do you think sent (‘leaked’) that?!!
This Shooting Times article is looking more and more like an attempted hatchet job but the claims, when scrutinised, simply don’t stack up.
The final part of the Shooting Times article is perhaps the funniest, and is associated with the editor’s bizarre decision to use a photo of Charlie Moores to illustate this piece. Obviously being used as a poster child to represent ‘animal rights activists’ (and all the associated negative imagery of that terminology) and thus to somehow justify the game shooting lobby’s decision to boycott the meeting (or in the NGO’s case, resign), the Shooting Times couldn’t have picked a more inappropriate subject or photo.
Mild-mannered, softly-spoken, considerately thoughtful, naturally reserved and always a gentleman, Charlie Moores is about as far away as possible from being the stereotypical ‘animal rights activist’ many in the shooting lobby like to portray (i.e. ‘masked, violent thugs willing to break the law’)! NB, for the record, this isn’t our definition of an animal rights activist!
Not only that, but the photograph they’ve used was taken at BAWC’s Hen Harrier Day in 2015, shortly after Amanda Anderson (Moorland Assoc) and Andrew Gilruth (GWCT) were warmly welcomed to the event by Chris Packham who encouraged the audience to give them both a round of applause, which we did. Not quite the image of BAWC that would help justify the NGO’s decision to resign from the RPPDG, eh?!
But best and funniest of all, Charlie hasn’t been involved with BAWC since spring 2016 and so had absolutely nothing to do with the RPPDG meeting that was boycotted last month!
The Shooting Times was accurate to state that Charlie had helped set up BAWC way back in the day, but BAWC was NEVER an animal rights campaigning group – it’s mission was then, and still is now, to campaign against wildlife crime. The clue’s in the name, really.
Piss-taking of the Shooting Times’ crap journalism aside, you do have to wonder then, why the game shooting lobby really objects so strongly to BAWC’s involvement with the RPPDG (whose objective is also to, er, tackle illegal raptor persecution) as well as the other newly-added RPPDG members (Wildlife Trusts and the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty).