More half-baked half-truths from Shooting Times

Here’s the third distorted news item from the current edition of Shooting Times (we blogged about the first one here and the second one here).

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).

20 thoughts on “More half-baked half-truths from Shooting Times”

  1. I love the way they claim it was a leak and in the next sentence ‘utter nonsense.’ Both in the same paragraph.
    Trump would be proud.
    You can’t leak something that didn’t happen.
    Later it was proven to be true.
    Wonder why Anderson has never apologised.

    Strange they are so frightened of truth and transparency.

  2. This sort of nonsense really calls into question whether any of these shooting groups should be involved in this process at all. I say all these shooting organizations are disingenuous, and have no genuine wish to end illegal raptor persecution. Their involvement seems to be entirely that of lobby groups trying to prevent the implementation of measures that would impinge on the interests of vested interests.

    The whole process is about preventing the illegal persecution of raptors, which seems to be almost entirely carried out by people who these organizations represent. There is always a case for involving representatives of the social group the crime problem resides in. However, this approach only works if these representative organizations clearly condemn this crime problem and are working to eliminate it. If the organizations involved are really trying to defend this crime problem, and impede effective measures to address it, the involvement of these organizations can never be justified in an attempt to eliminate this problem of crime.

    Superficially, these shooting organizations supposedly oppose the illegal persecution of raptors, because they say they do. However, statements like this require clear evidence that this position is genuine, and not disingenuous so these organizations can involve themselves in this process with the specific aim of hampering it.

    This begs the genuine, objective and neutral position of asking is there any evidence that they organizations are doing anything to help with the detection of raptor crime, and are promoting self-regulation to prevent the problem? I argue not. These organizations seem to do absolutely nothing to provide evidence and intelligence on who is perpetrating raptor crime. Raptor persecution appears to be at an all time high for many decades on grouse moor. Many grouse moors are virtually free of successfully breeding raptors. To me the best example to prove what is going on. Peregrines are generally doing well and are more or less at the peak since their recovery. Except on managed grouse moors, where this is now very little or any breeding success, despite them thriving in the surrounding areas. However, go back over a decade ago, and you find that these very same managed grouse moors had sizeable populations of successfully breeding Peregrines, even at a time when the overall population was lower. This strong circumstantial evidence, suggests that illegal raptor persecution is widespread across managed grouse moors. In other words far from self-regulation by the grouse shooting industry, they seem to have actually elevated illegal raptor persecution to standard practise. To me this means the Moorland Association have got no right to be involved in the RPDG, because the strong circumstantial evidence, says the vast majority of their member’s estates are involved in some way in this illegal behaviour i.e. I mean there is illegal persecution of raptors on this estates, but there is a question mark about exactly who is involved in actively illegally persecuting raptors.

    Overall, when we see clear cut evidence of illegal raptor persecution. When satellite tagged birds disappear over grouse moors, repeatedly, when dead or injured birds are found, when poison baits, traps etc are found, there is a deafening silence from the shooting organizations. In fact these shooting organizations promote very unlikely conspiracy theories, claiming conservationists are trying to set them up, frame them. They promote ideas that it’s the tags stopping working, or claim that the tagged birds have been seen after it was thought they’d been killed, with no evidence at all. This general attitude of denying and disputing the evidence, and failing to acknowledge the scale of the problem, all suggests that these organizations are being utterly disingenuous when they claim to oppose the illegal persecution of raptors.

    1. It is like something out of Kafka. We live in a time when words mean more than deeds. They can say whatever they want and the press and politicians and police members of PAWS and RPPDG swallow it like it is a pheromone. Hopefully Lyall will change all that but as Greta Thunberg said about climate change
      ‘I don’t want you to be hopeful, i want you to panic
      … and then i want you to act
      i want you to act as if you would if you were in a crisis
      i want you to act as if the house that was on fire
      because it is.’

      So if we judge them by what they do not their propaganda. This list is just off the top of my head

      Refuse to allow video surveillance and fight it in court
      Refuse to use diversionary feeding of Hen Harriers
      Support only legalized brood persecution and push for the lowest densities and abandon the original population threshold
      Then slur the RSPB for sticking to original principals of above
      Use expensive lawyers to defend the alleged criminals
      Hire full time spin doctors
      Give convicted gamekeepers’ jobs to their wives in order to keep man in the same job
      Complain when the police raid their estates
      Complain to be a persecuted minority
      Claim they are being framed
      Claim the persecution is a few bad apples or rogues or wind turbines
      Claim that population declines are nothing to do with persecution
      Give false statistics on satellite tag failures
      Occasionally accidentally reveal their true intentions with ‘if we let them [Hen Harriers] in’
      Make ridiculous claims of Hen Harriers from my window in the worst raptor areas in the UK
      Claim to be concerned about raptors but actually call for licenced killing
      Commission surveys without revealing the raw data but giving highly unlikely results and wrong spelling of species
      Claim the BTO are involved in their surveys which the BTO denied
      Spend a fortune on propaganda videos for the worst raptor areas in the UK
      Refuse to endorse the petition asking for a review of the true financial benefits of DGS
      Smear Chris Packham, Charlie Moores, Mark Avery, Ruth and even Adam Watson
      Call anyone who wants the law to be obeyed as eco-zealot or worse
      Claim that missing tagged raptors have been resurrected with no evidence
      Defend crimes as being a debatable issue
      Lobby MPs to repeat false claims on your behalf in westminster debate
      Object to the increased powers to the SSPCA
      Refuse to acknowledge the results of the review of the Scottish Golden Eagle satellite tags data
      Refuse to acknowledge the scientific reviews of Hen Harriers and Golden Eagles populations etc.
      Refuse to fully acknowledge any scientific paper which highlights the extent of raptor crime
      Oppose stricter penalties for raptor crime
      In Holyrood raptor debate claim that no change to the status quo was needed because everything was working fine
      Refusal to expel members with raptor crime convictions or refuse to reveal if criminals are members
      Use of gas-guns, fire-works and inflatable moving men to scare raptors
      Objecting to transparency in RPPGD meetings
      Objecting to new members to RPPGD who might actually protect raptors and expose the falsity of the shooting interest
      Object to a police chair of RPPGD who threatens to shake things up. How is that actually something to object to?
      Make false claims about it being town verses country.
      Trying to polarise a criminal activity thereby normalising crime.
      Trying to make raptor crime a human conflict issue thereby legitimising crime
      Demand to be informed at the time when a raptor crime has occurred
      Demand access to all satellite tagged data and nesting data
      Act like a victim when neither of the two above are forthcoming
      Oppose RSPB involvement in police procedures
      [This is a long piece of string]

      1. I realise that i am lumping many organizations, professions under one umbrella but since i have never once heard one of this cabal contradict or complain about the actions of another or any of the activities on that list i consider them one monster with many heads and think it fair game to treat them as such.

        1. An incredible list, but a list that can be fully supported with evidence. Although what you highlight here is to me the critical fact. That no one from the shooting fraternity, speaks out about this, contradicts any of these claims etc. They are as thick as thieves. The most we get, as this gets praised, is when the odd person in these organizations makes some limp statement that they might be “some” wildlife criminals in their midst, giving them a bad name, which is the height of understatement. Given that it is so easy to compile a list like this and to be able to ask what have these shooting organizations ever contributed to the RPPDG in helping the fight against illegal raptor persecution, knowing very well they couldn’t answer this question – you do have to ask why these organizations were ever involved in the RPPDG?

          Surely the most important criteria for an organization to have a place on a panel like the RPPDG is that it should make some useful contribution to tackling illegal raptor persecution. All they do is pay lip-service, by parroting wishy-washy disingenuous assertions like they’re against the illegal persecution of raptors, whilst having done zero to back this up, and through their actions give the impression that they are doing all they can to obstruct attempts to detect and prosecute those involved in illegal raptor persecution. Their seats on the RPPDG seems to be based on the premise that it is a good idea to work with shooting interests to tackle the problem. This may be so if these organizations show the slightest willingness to cooperate.

          Surely if these organizations were the slightest bit sincere about wanting to tackle illegal raptor persecution, then they would insist that their members cooperated fully with the police, the RSPB etc, in giving them full access to shooting estates at any time to monitor what was happening. Why worry if they’ve got nothing to hide? This rubbish about them being framed, is not backed up by one iota of evidence.

          Overall, the only thing we’re really asking for is some acknowledgement of the scale of the problem. After all you can’t resolve a problem unless their is some acknowledgement the problem exists, and all we get from these shooting organizations is continuous denial of the evidence, hard facts, and a ridiculous minimization of the problem, where they absurdly claim it is just one or two bad apples, and that raptor persecution is at an all time low. Given this, what can they possibly contribute towards resolving the problem?

      2. I knew many others would come to mind later as it was off the top of my head but i missed one of the most important:
        Their fight against, licensing.
        That is one of the most telling, a dead give away (dead raptors).
        If they are obeying the law and if they actively want to do something about raptor persecution, licensing is the most obvious thing to support and if they are law abiding they would have nothing to fear.
        In turn if those who go shooting wanted to be sure of the legality of the estates which they pay such high amounts to, you would think licensing would give them an assurance that an estate actually means what it says. It seems neither the estates or their clients give a toss.
        Driven grouse shooting is just an obscure and elite part of the tourist business.
        It isn’t a perfect analogy but other tourist businesses actually voluntarily pay to get accredited with stars and green credentials.
        I wonder why the grousers don’t?

        1. The answer to what I suspect is a rhetorical question is self-evidently that shooters are not concerned about the ethics or whether the estate they shoot on is involved in raptor crime. If they were concerned, at the very least there’d be genuine evidence of self-regulation.

  3. You have to laugh when the likes of the Shooting Times wants to lecture us on “the truth” when it comes to the criminal activities of gamekeepers

  4. Charlie Moores is one of those people you can’t help but to like enormously after listening to one of his brilliant Talking Naturally podcasts for only five minutes. You just know what a fantastically nice bloke he is, no question about it. The way the very best people like Charlie and Chris Packham are maligned by this lot is contemptible, but it’s just going to keep stoking the anger and determination of the rest of us to fight back and win.

  5. It’s difficult for me to understand how educated people, such as those involved in maintaining the shooting groups are, can actually pretend that raptor persecution doesn’t exist in their world, at least that’s the impression they give to me.
    Or are those educated people actually working hard behind their screens to stop some of their members from committing crimes such as killing protected raptors?
    Because surely, with the use of satellite tagging, a pattern of persecution is steadily building to a point where their sport will be outed for what it is; a wholesale destruction of the UK’s birds of prey in our upland environments, amongst many other species of mammals that are destroyed in the name of grouse.
    Those educated people ought to realise that now is the time time for a massive change in attitude to the way our upland moors are managed.

    1. But if they only read the Shooting Times, The Telegraph and The Times they won’t know.
      The BBC is very much to blame for this (i have come to expect little more from them) but why aren’t other TV channels exposing this issue. An environmental, criminal and social justice issue all in one!
      If University Challenge students failed to know that Hen Harriers were the most persecuted bird in the UK even when the scientific name was given as a ‘clue’ how can we expect shooters, who only read stuff which protects their hobby, to know.
      I know someone who goes shooting in the lowlands. He is very concerned about environmental issues; his work is involved with the environment. His shoot does conservation work in their patch. He doesn’t believe raptor persecution is as bad as we portray it. He just isn’t informed.

      1. A few years ago there was a cracking wildlife series about Loch Lomond on Channel 5. What amazed me about it that there was absolutely no attempt what so ever to dilute, marginalise or in anyway sweep the obvious effects of BoP persecution under the carpet. They featured the hen harrier and underlined how it was being ruthlessly killed on grouse moors, how a chick from an abandoned nest where the parents had ‘disappeared’ was transferred to another nest to see if would be taken in by the ‘foster parents’. They did. They also spoke about golden eagles and the estimated 50 a year in Scotland lost to illegal killing! Not a dam thing said was untrue, it only reported what the evidence clearly pointed to. But after years of Countryfile and Dougie Vipond sooking up to Tim Baynes and the rather saccharin ‘Highland’ series narrated by Ewan McGregor it was a bloody revelation. The SGA, SLE, CA etc would be absolutely apoplectic if it had been aired on the BBC – which sadly is why this little gem could only be seen on Channel 5.

  6. My response as the author of this article

    [Ed: thanks for your comment, wildmattcross. Unfortunately I have no idea who you are so your accusations that the blog was a personal attack on you are, I’m afraid, a product of your ego. If I’ve blocked you on social media it’ll be because either (a) you’ve been abusive or a mysogynist or (b) you’ve trolled me directly or (c) you’ve trolled me indirectly by sharing another troll’s abuse. I get a lot of it so lose track of how many have been blocked. If I’ve called you a ‘self-entitled prat’ I’ll have done it for good reason and judging by your reaction here, I was probably right. Cheers]

  7. I assume that you have seen Nick Lyall’s excellent blog which he started on being appointed to the Chair of the National Raptor Persecution PDG.
    In his latest blog he makes clear that the people he invited as guests may well become regular members but have not so far.
    Perhaps if the major shooting groups had not shunned the meeting they would have discovered that the ‘guests’ had not been appointed in their place – yet!
    I wonder what the discussions will be when the next meeting occurs in April. I assume that the minutes of this meeting will not be kept secret from the members who decided to ‘shun’ the meeting, apparently because of the presence of ‘guests’ who were interested in stopping the persecution of raptors.
    Nick said he has an aim of making raptor persecution a thing of the past. It seems not to have gone down well, doesn’t it, with those who protested by not attending?

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