SNH ‘considering the merits’ of adding Ravens to General Licence for unregulated slaughter

This is quite unbelievable, even by the low standards of Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).

SNH is ‘considering the merits’ of adding ravens to General Licence #2, which effectively means that gamekeepers and farmers will be able to kill as many as they like, on the flimsiest of evidence (i.e. nothing more substantial than an old wives tale required), without any accountability or reporting whatsoever.

[Photo by Dieter Schaeffer]

SNH has slipped this news out quietly, probably hoping that nobody would notice.

Yesterday it was announced that SNH was opening up a 12-week consultation on its annual General Licences, a year earlier than planned following the successful legal challenge by Wild Justice of the General Licences in operation in England.

SNH’s press release said nothing about adding ravens to the General Licences, of course. It’s only when you start the consultation ‘survey’ and get a few pages in that you find this:

The Scotsman has picked up on this already and has an article today that includes a damning statement from Andy Wightman MSP:

SNH is meant to protect Scotland’s natural heritage, but once again it has shown it is completely unable to stand up to vested interests. I hope that they will walk away from these ridiculous proposals to kill yet more wildlife and focus on stopping the epidemic of wildlife persecution that continues across Scotland.”

We probably shouldn’t be that surprised by this latest move from SNH, given that the Scottish Gamekeepers Association has lobbied for years to get ravens (and various raptor species) added to the General Licences (e.g. see here). The quality of the so-called ‘evidence’ in support of such slaughter schemes has been exceptionally poor, as you’d expect from those with a vested interest in killing everything that so much as looks at a red grouse. And seeing as SNH is supposed to base its decisions on scientific evidence, claims that ‘the sky is full of ravens’ or ‘a raven stole my baby’ shouldn’t really cut it but then this is SNH we’re talking about, who approved the mass culling of ravens in Strathbraan last year on the ludicrous basis of ‘seeing what happens‘.

We’ll be saying much more about this in due course but in the meantime please consider completing the consultation survey and expressing your views. The survey is available HERE and is open until 9th October 2019.

40 thoughts on “SNH ‘considering the merits’ of adding Ravens to General Licence for unregulated slaughter”

  1. Whilst the Scottish government has as yet taken any action to try to stop the slaughter of our Raptors, likely the same persons who are able to prevent government action are able to influence SNH to influence the wording of this consultation.
    Can we expect the next step to be the addition of Hen Harriers, Eagles and the like to the general licence as SNH already acknowledge that there is o alternative to killing of many birds?

  2. I have taken a look at the consultation forms and it is all set up for the shooting industry to fill in with little regard for anybody else

  3. Oh my gosh….there wont be any wildlife atall before long if these imbeciles get their evil way. SNH’s slogan seems to be ‘connecting people with nature’. Presumably that means via a gun, or trap, or poison. What a despicable, hypocritical, faux organisation.

    1. SNH in cahoots with the animal killers that care for our wildlife, not one little bit!!!!



  4. Just filled in my response but not holding out much hope of SNH paying any attention to ordinary punters

  5. Doesn’t really surprise me, the CEO is an economist and ‘sustained economic growth’ looms large in their aims and objectives. SNH are much more focused on that than on protecting wildlife

  6. As the scottish government are meant to be in control of this “modern” shambles of an SNH, they should be thinking very carefully about what their anti-science stance is doing to turn off tourism and SNP voters…

    1. I suspect that the calculation is that anyone minded to stop voting SNP because of issues like this is most likely to switch to the Scottish Greens, who to all intents and purposes might as well be a wholly owned subsidiary of the SNP, certainly on the only policy that really matters to the SNP, independence.

      So on the basis that it’s no loss what a friend gets the SNP have nothing to lose.

      1. True to an extent, but it would split the SNP vote, and if there is even a small % move from SNP -> Green then the Tories might sneak in.

  7. Responded; comments added such as automatic suspension of GL if police believe a wildlife crime has been committed (no conviction necessary), individuals with wildlife crime convictions excluded from use, users of the licenses need to send in annual returns, etc.

  8. I’ve arrived at the conclusion that any consultations or joint initiatives proposed by SNH are merely window dressing ; they are attempts to give decisions taken well before the consultations or initiatives are in progress some sort of justification. Those who represent Conservationists are being both used and patronised and their hard earned knowledge and experience used against what they stand for.
    It’s time to take a leaf out of Extinction Rebellion’s book and initiate a campaign of direct action if views which oppose the continuing destruction of our birds of prey.
    Continuing on the same path as we are now will simply produce the same results. Encouraging those who sit on these bodies in good faith to resign is also an option due to the manner in which they are being used. If they remain on these bodies then that can then be seen as a statement of where their sympathies lie.
    Enough is enough,

  9. This is of course the thin end of a calculated wedge. The SGA will argue for “reasonable control culling of ravens”. Which SNH will consider and grant – then SGA will use the argue for “reasonable control” of Common Buzzards under the same arrangement, then after sufficient time it will of course be another species. This process needs to be stopped dead in its tracks and hopefully SNH can be forced to justify every General Licence it grants but certainly NOT to include ravens.

  10. My comment has been submitted, I will not expect a meaningful response, But I had to “see what happens”.

    Here’s my comment: The game shooting industry is out of control and General Licensing merely adds to the freedom to kill all predators. Protected species are continually persecuted and the criminals are rarely caught and few reach prosecution. SNH should be controlling this shooting industry not giving them the opportunity to have yet more killing sprees. The SNH seem to have little concern, when it can publish reasons like, “to see what happens” completely non-scientific. Why?


  11. 50 acres of Kale for sheep keep just re-drilled due to being pecked, eaten and pulled out the ground by crows, pigeons, Brown hates and flea beetle.
    Whilst plants will get away from an episode of flea beetle, the other pests are constant and relentless.
    Don’t have any ravens here but I’m sure they have the same impact as the crows.
    The same happened in the spring when sowing the barley.
    Farmers up the glens who are growing winter fodder crops on improved land, face real challenges with climate which is outwith their control.
    A year with unfavourable growing conditions followed by a pest attack can lead to a failed crop and real financial penalties, and remember, these hill farms are doing well if they break even without any of the pitfalls.

      1. Your wee plot of garden kale is hardly comparable to a 10-20acre field crop and the challenges you would face growing it!!

        Out of interest, have you studied a freshly established FIELD of kale up the glens to see if ravens pose a problem?

        I haven’t so can’t comment with conviction. I said ‘I’d imagine’. If I’m wrong then so be it but I have saw plenty of ravens on grass fields picking away and since they are omnivores, then I don’t see it being outwith the realms of possibility.

    1. Surely there are things you can do to rpotect your plants other than shooting so-called ‘pests’? Or is that the easy option?

      1. Suggestions please?

        Become wise to scarecrows within a day or two.

        Gas guns, yes. But they will keep coming back so it then begs the question how often you have the gas gun programmed for.
        You stay out in the countryside with this going off every hour, then people become pissed off with it very quickly.

        If the crop warrants it, spray with herbicide and insecticide. Smell deters them but it’s costly.
        Personally, I don’t like using insecticide and as I say, pesticides makes the cost of winter feed for sheep expensive and an already negative gross margin just becomes larger.

        For me, the license is a way of crop protection controlling numbers.

        I can stomach losing a bit/part of a field to wildlife. Just increase seed rates/plant populations to account for it but when you start losing whole fields then that’s an issue and it’s
        Purely down to large numbers.

    2. Question for you, Ghamey. Do you hold shoots on the areas sown with kale? Sheep feeding on the kale after the shoots have finished in January? Good subsidies for that. Gas guns to protect your ‘crops’, aye? It wouldn’t cross your mind to use the gas guns for scaring off raptors? Thought not.
      I assume you are a gamekeeper and not a proper farmer given your ignorance on agricultural crops and care.

      Your opening sentence is utter crap and simply doesn’t happen.

      1. Once again, such a pathetic response.

        What’s your experience of growing FIELD crops tell me?

        If you read my responses and actually wanted to enter into a debate without posting a laughable response, then you would’ve clicked tonthe fact I’m talking about FIELDS of kale 10-20acres/FIELD.

        What game crop is 20 acres in size of dense kale??? Im upping my seed rate to combat loses and trying to maximise dry matter in the field. I’m sure a game keeper wouldn’t appreciate a well grown thick dense field of Kale that size. You absolute fool!!

        Subsidies? What subsidies for growing kale? You absolute fool!!

        Gas guns for raptors? Who’s discussing raptors?? Raptors are not an issue on kale or for me full stop!!! You absolute fool!!

        As for my first statement, and your experience is……..??????? So why does the pea growers in Fife, Perthshire, Angus and Aberdeenshire put scarecrows and gas guns in the fields?
        If scarecrows were effective on their own, why the need for gas guns??? Absolute fool!!!

        Farm manager of 3,000 acres of arable, beef and sheep. And you job is???

  12. What on earth is going on with SNH?
    They authorise indiscriminate killing of ravens, simply because they were asked to do so and without any science to ‘justify’ it.
    Then, they say, ‘Oops!’ and imply they may have been unscientific in allowing the killing.
    Now, they say, ‘What do you think?’
    Did they get no data whatsoever, from their authorised killing? If not; why not? After all they know who did it and should have made, at least token assessment, based on the scientific information provided by the raven shooters.
    Or did they not ask? Or maybe forgot to ask? Or just maybe, there is no scientific information.
    Maybe, they do not want to ask, as they can be certain no scientific basis was ever available, before, or after the recent shootings.
    As a simple taxpayer, who believed it was scientists who were/are making these decisions, can I be assured of the qualifications for authorising unscientific shooting of a species. Does it require any qualifications at all, or are they using the well-tried old-fashioned system of wetting a finger and holding it up to the wind?

    1. Exactly, the fact that they had to row back on their decisions before, clearly illustrates that there decision was not motivated by evidence and science, but the behind the scenes lobbying of powerful and vested interests, which was why they were completely unable to rationalise or explain their decisions.

  13. How about an FOI to find out what lobbying has taken place to lead to this betrayal of its purpose?
    What meetings have there been…minutes? What un-minuted meetings have there been between senior SNH staff/board members and SLE, SGA, BASC, MF members, GWCT?
    What research have they undertaken? Surely they wouldn’t float such a ridiculous suggestion without something behind it…..? Questions?

  14. Have been working on Orkney doing bird surveys for the last two & years. The burgeoning local population, as opposed to the Icelandic winter visitors, are completely out of control despite all the shooting in the winter months. They have no predators and numbers are increasing exponentially – it’s astonishing how many fields have flocks as you drive around. They are on all the islands and are a collision risk, especially on the northern Isles where they have to drive a Land rover with flashing lights at them before the tiny Islaner planes can take off. They are wrecking havoc on the grazing & barley fields so, sadly, I they do need to be culled.

    1. I can see that Douglas Kerr, might have a point, but have all other methods been tried? I believe that is the criteria applied when threat to human life is a problem.
      However,no one has raised that one before and I have not heard of a proliferation of Ravens in Strathbaan, which is where the original extermination trial took place and I’d be surprised (but open to correction) if this application originated in the Orkneys and not somewhere further south, which just (coincidentally of course) runs a Red Grouse shooting business.

      1. Hi Harry

        I was just commenting on the Greylags. Interestingly ravens are very common in Orkney and, although the farmers don’t like the bonxied and ravens, there is very little persecution. They don’t like SNH much either, as the have designated chunks of moorland. I was told they would allow any fencing, which mean’t the farmers can’t claim subsidies. The Greylags are chased off the airfields, but I can say from personal experience seeing Greylags in the air nearby when you are in an 8 seater Islander turboprop is a bit nevre racking. I worry if everyone says no, no, no to culling them then the tolerance shown to all the avian predators, birds in general and the shaky current co-operation in the planned stoat eradication may disappear.

    2. Out of control, in who’s opinion? You mean recovering after decades and centuries of persecution. You say they have no predators. True, Ravens don’t really have many natural predators, but then predation is not the main factor controlling population, as that is usually the availability of food.

      1. There weren’t any locally breeding Greylags on Orkney. Approx 60,000 Icelandic Greylags have always overwintered. Opinion is divided as to where the local breeders came from – the local landowner who imported some in to shoot on Shapinsay or some of the relatively small Caithness population made it over and stayed. You have to see the numbers to believe it. Imagine driving Edinburgh to Glasgow in winter and almost every field having Greylags. You then visit the Firth of Clyde Islands and they have greylags everywhere to.

  15. Some fairly ridiculous attacks on SNH here, they are duty bound to consider this given known problems with ravens and livestock, and expanded populations, not least large non-breeding flocks that cause some farmers bother. And they should consider it, doesn’t mean they will do it though. They are just consulting on it. So what is the problem?

    Reply to the consultation, be polite and coherent, provide evidence where appropriate to back up your statements and encourage others to do likewise. Because plenty of pro-shooting lobby groups will. Angry name calling and spurious accusations will get you treated as a crank.

    1. Essentially Scottish Natural Heritage is the statutory conservation body, and is the successor of the Nature Conservancy Council. Their role should primarily be to protect our native biodiversity and habitat, and not to facilitate the interests of vested interests.

      Any pretence that these consultations give equal weight to all representations is naive in the extreme. Time and time again, with no proper explanation, the decisions always go in favour of powerful shooting interests, and the submissions of expert ecologists, conservationists and naturalists are simply ignored.

  16. I think what this illustrates is the malign and corrupt influence of tiny minority of very wealthy and powerful people in our society. Not all very wealthy and powerful people own great big shooting estates, although a sizeable proportion of these people do. However, all owners of large shooting estates are very wealthy and powerful people. Essentially what these powerful and wealthy people want, they get. They get this even if it is contrary to public opinion and the public interest. This is why I say it is corrupt, that politicians kowtow to the demands of this wealthy and powerful clique, even though what they demand is contrary to the public interest, public opinion and seriously impacts our native biodiversity. By going against all this, politicians in political office are acting corruptly, because they are essentially doing favours for powerful and wealthy people for no valid reason, other than what these powerful and wealthy people may do personally for them in return. Sure it’s got more sophisticated that old fashioned baksheesh and money in brown envelopes, so these favours are rewarded in more convoluted and sophisticated ways,. If this isn’t the case, then why do so many politicians in power, act against the interests and opinions who elected them, and apparently neglect their duties to protect our native biodiversity?

  17. I can definitely understand ‘our’ folks’ impatience about ‘something being done’ about persecution of raptors and solutions to that.
    However, the SNP which is a political party have a great strength of support for ‘our’ position, but the Scottish Government, can not have the luxury of making a comment and taking action, until a full consultation has taken place. They were in exactly the same position, over fracking, but had to jump through all the hoops of consultation, before having to use planning laws, to prevent it, as the Central Government had approved it (without meaningful consultation) and other devices had to be found to ‘ban’ it. I’m as impatient as the next person, to get full protection for our raptors, but the case is not helped, by ‘friends’ sniping away, before a statutory consultation is concluded. If it is not done properly, you can be sure, that the rich and vested interests, will take it to court and the basis of their appeal, will be, ‘That a full consultation has not taken place’. I know our wildlife is being slaughtered, but we have to get this legislation right, or it will continue even longer.

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