GWCT and its compulsive cherry-picking disorder

GWCT (Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust) is at it again, deliberately publishing information is knows to be misrepresentative and misleading.

And not for the first time.

Back in March we blogged about how Andrew Gilruth, chief spin doctor at GWCT had blatantly and repeatedly misrepresented the RSPB’s position on grouse moor management by cherry-picking a quote, out of date and out of context, to trick the public in to believing the RSPB was supportive of grouse moor management (see here).

GWCT is apparently supportive of this approach to ‘science’ (ahem) as despite making three complaints about what we view as Gilruth’s deceptive behaviour, (two complaints directly to Chief Exec Teresa Dent and one complaint to GWCT’s general email account) all of them went unanswered.

Undeterred, GWCT is at it again, this time cherry-picking a quote that suggests the RSPB is supportive of game bird releases – this is part of GWCT’s response to Wild Justice’s latest legal challenge about the annual release of 50 million non-native game birds and DEFRA’s failure to assess the ecological damage caused. The first part of GWCT’s challenge has already been ripped to shreds here.

So, just how deceptive has GWCT been this time? Let’s have a look at a couple of its recent tweets:

The report being referred to by the GWCT is this: Report (RSPB) (Unpublished) Impacts of non-native gamebird release in the UK-review

Have a look at the General Conclusions and you’ll see from where the GWCT has cherry-picked the quote, but you’ll also see the context of the quote and all the information that GWCT chose not to promote, particularly the line, ‘There is also a significant and growing body of evidence indicating that the negative impacts of non-native gamebird release and related activities are considerable‘:

It’s also worth having a quick glance at the report’s Executive Summary – just ten seconds spent reading this and you’ll have a good idea of just how disingenuous the GWCT is being:

What’s also fascinating to learn is that apparently this research was done by the RSPB in collaboration with GWCT but when it came to publishing the research findings, according to one of the report’s authors the GWCT threw a bit of a wobbler:

The moral of this story? Don’t trust a word the GWCT says.

We’ll be passing on this latest example to the charities regulator.

Meanwhile, the crowdfunder for Wild Justice’s legal challenge, calling on DEFRA to instigate a formal assessment of the ecological damage caused by the unregulated annual release of millions of non-native game birds for shooting, is doing pretty well – it’s just past £23,000.

If you’d like to support the challenge, please visit the crowdfunder page here.

Thank you.

12 thoughts on “GWCT and its compulsive cherry-picking disorder”

  1. I thought that spin doctors were supposed to give clever explanations which defied attempts to unpick them, and not just spout outright falsehoods? The GWCT has zero credibility if it allows this type of dishonest quoting our of context and misrepresentation of the facts, in it’s name – and does nothing to correct it.

    1. I contacted Martin Harper about this years ago – if birds are artificially reared and given supplementary feed while in ‘the wild’ no matter how wonderful things are at the shoot site then the whole system depends upon intensive agriculture for the feed – as this can include soymeal there’s a strong possibility that UK game shooting is helping to drive rainforest loss in South America!! It certainly means large areas of farmland producing what Mark Cocker claims amounts to 236,000 tons of cereal each year. As only a third of the birds get eaten that means the ecological footprint for any pheasant or partridge that actually ends up on a dinner plate is absolutely massive and even the high eco cost of chicken is dwarfed by it. I suspect partridge and pheasant receive feed for a far longer than the typical chicken too. This makes the site of dumped pheasants an ecological crime of the highest order. Until this is looked into then the RSPB should have a moratroium on calling any shoot that depends on reared birds as being good for conservation which is what I said to Martin Harper. The RSPB, love it as I do, is far, far too quick to go out of its way to ingratiate itself with the shooting community. If working with it necessitates the RSPB at times acting as a PR agent for shooting then they’d be better off saying ‘stick your co-operation up your arse’ to them. Then there’s the wee point that the shoot may not be a haven for wildlife, but a death zone for any predator and infested with non native plants like cherry laurel that was put out for game cover and has killed of virtually all the ground flora and is no good for insect life. This is another issue which hasn’t received the attention it deserves.

      1. A few points. I made a number of long and detailed comments on that Guardian article as SteB1. One is linked to below, but I made a number of others. The main problem was at the time the article went live, Martin Harper’s blog was unavailable as the site was offline for maintenance. Only when it became available online, did I realise that the standfirst (the headline) entirely misrepresented the facts.

        All Martin Harper’s points were about some hypothetical ethical shoot. At one point I used to buy the ethical shoot type thing, with the law abiding management which thought long and hard about conservation. However, due to various things I’ve started to seriously reconsider whether any such thing exists.This isn’t the speculation of some anti-shooter. I have been shooting, albeit a very long time ago, I wanted to be a gamekeeper when I left school, and whilst it’s all out of date I know quite a bit about general shooting practise and shoot management, Over the years I’ve also known many people involved in shooting and have lived on a sporting estate. What caused me to start having doubts is that nearly all shooters are aware that many people disapprove of shooting and they’ve developed this way of speaking to fellow shooters, and what are disparagingly called bunny-huggers. They quite deliberately spin fairy stories to those they think disapprove of shooting to smooth over the more unpleasant aspects. As this practise is widespread, to the point of being almost universal, I don’t think those who have never been involved in shooting and have shooters talk to you in an open way, actually realise what goes on. I think many conservationists have mistaken this spin for how things actually are.

        The reason I say the above, is that whilst shooters were often open with me, they were also generally aware I had an interest in conservation. Suddenly in a particular conversation, I’d be shocked, because something would come up, or someone else would say something, which implied that the person doing the ethical shooting act was not being entirely sincere, and for instance their supposed disapproval of raptor persecution was disingenuous. In other words, someone would say something about raptors needing culling, and far from disagreeing, they would apparently endorse what was being said, indicating that they were duplicitous on this subject, depending who they were talking to.

        It’s not nice to consider that someone you know is being disingenuous with you, but it did start to occur to me as to whether any shooters were truly open and sincere about the attitudes in their sport, with anyone who they thought might disapprove of what went on. In particular, as the evidence of the illegal persecution of raptors has become clearer, the real condemnation of this by those in shooting, is noticeable by it’s absence. Sure you get lots of this legalistic type disclaimers, said in a very unconvincing way saying how they condemn illegal persecution. Yet the thing that makes this completely unconvincing is that nearly everyone of these shooters that says this, tries to dishonestly underplay the evidence for the extent of this illegal raptor persecution, constantly trying to cast doubt on every bit of evidence. Most of all though there is a distinct lack of whistle blowing i.e. shooters or those in the shooting industry informing on those involved in illegal raptor persecution, although a huge number of those involved in shooting must be in the know. According to credible people who drink with gamekeepers etc, they often boast about killing raptors.

  2. Aye, when a newspaper published a letter from me quoting research on the relationship and consequences of the introduction of 45 million pheasants per year on the spread of Lymes Disease by Dr. Andrew Hoodless, now Head of Wetland Research, GWCT it was a big surprise to me when a letter replying to it was written by Dr. Rufus Sage, who is Head of Lowland Gamebird Research contesting some of the conclusions.
    Dr. Andrew Hoodless has never retracted his signature on the research I quoted to my knowledge.
    Now is Dr. Hoodless’ opportunity to withdraw his support for the statement that,
    “We conclude that pheasants are reservoir competent for Lyme borreliosis spirochetes and potentially play an important role in the maintenance of B. burgdorferi s.l. in England and Wales.”
    when he can then explain to us why that no longer holds? I find it highly unusual, and extremely suspicious, that one Head of Dept., would reply to a letter regarding research completed by another Head of Department when both work of the GWCT.
    An attempt to protect the pheasant shooting industry perhaps.
    Indeed, circumstances since the report was published has led me to strongly believe that the annual release of 45 million pheasants countrywide is central to the greatly increased incidence of Lymes Disease infections throughout our country.
    This is not only an ecological issue and now concerns public health.

  3. The problem with this cherry picking is that not only does it keep Gilruth’s reputation in the mire but also means that most of what GWCT says has to be taken with a large pinch of salt, because is it or is it not the whole truth etc. One has to go back to original paper’s to decide for yourself and even then all the truth may not be revealed as even that depends on what question was originally asked that inspired the research. The end result of all this is that whatever GWCT research and say in public must always be questioned, can their actually reputation get any lower? Some of the scientists that work for them must know this and be exasperated by it surely.

  4. A proper EIA will look at the entire ecosystem impacts….not just the birds or mammals. GWCT KNOW that they need to avoid this a all costs.

    Pheasant release pens load nitrogen and phosphates into a naturally nutrient poor ecosystems. The bored birds physically pluck and trample the habitats into the ground . Planted non-naive cover….shade and out-compete the native flora.
    Nettles and docks can survive, but they shouldnt be there!

    Game management is all about maximising output and minimising effort, environmental impact is not a consideration.

    An after thought. Currently, where game release is a regular ongoing thing, it is the normal land-management. What circumstances come into play if a landowner decides to start releasing game?
    Would the new land management practice, involving livestock, get caught by the Environmental Impact regs?

  5. A problem i have spent time pondering is, ‘is Andrew Gilruth really dumb or a really intelligent person pretending be to be dumb?’. I really would like to know. Previously i have tended towards the former. Who else could argue that ‘other factors’ influence Hen Harrier distribution other than persecution and then use a obscure paper on the adverse effects of sheep on Hen Harriers on Mull which has both high Hen Harriers, high sheep and no persecution.
    But a third possibility has occurred and it is the only one which makes sense. Andrew Gilruth is a secret rogue double-agent and is actually pro-raptors and anti-driven grouse shooting. Our secret weapon that only he knows about. How else can you explain someone whose every statement makes GWCT look not only like utter morons but undemocratic, anti-social, anti-law and order, anti-justice and ant-truth, anti-honesty and anti-science.
    We should give Gilruth a medal when he comes out of cover.

    1. Problem is it does not help us, because it wastes our time! After a couple of quite upsetting encounters with that man I concluded that his main purpose is to be deliberately provocative, such that those with genuine interests in conservation are dissuaded from their important tasks, and by some twisted logic the game interests end up with more birds to shoot; he nor allies never responded to any of my points of discussion and apparently dissenting opinions are filtered out from their blog posts – so I resolved never to engage with him directly again, so that he could not have the satisfaction of further wasting my time – I would advise others to do the same…

      1. [Ed: the first part of this comment has been deleted. Some of it is libellous and some of it is personal abuse]

        Sorry lothianrecorder but i just find denial incredibly interesting.
        There was something i read recently about denial. To avoid a point denialists will zoom out to avoid a specific issue, and when the point being made is general they zoom in to a specific example and of course they deflect.
        We saw all those strategies used in that video of Mark [on fieldsports tv]

        When Mark mentioned the NE report on sat-tagged HH, he talked about the 1930s and ‘long time’ (zooming out).
        When Mark mentioned the extent of raptor crime the interviewer mentioned a gamekeeper who had road kill in his car (zooming in).
        When they were talking about ecosystems the interviewer talks about someone seeing a Magpie take his Long-tailed Tits in his garden (zooming in).
        When Mark mentioned the NE HH report on sat-tagged HH the interviewer tried to change the subject twice (deflection).
        It was fantastic to see an unedited clip because we could see these strategies very clearly along with other logical fallacies.
        Which reminds me of the trial by association that was thrown at Wild Justice that they may actually have a connection with the League Against Cruel Sports. Heaven forbid i once knew a communist.
        Desperate stuff.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s