Scottish Raptor Study Group responds to hysteria over proposed grouse moor licensing

At the weekend The Scotsman published a letter from Tim (Kim) Baynes, Director of Scottish Land & Estates’ Moorland Group, which was basically an hysterical scaremongering piece about how grouse moor licensing would signal rural Armageddon (see here).

Today The Scotsman has published a letter of response from Logan Steele, Communications Secretary of the Scottish Raptor Study Group.

[Logan Steele from the Scottish Raptor Study Group at a parliamentary reception with Andy Wightman MSP. Photo by Ruth Tingay]

Logan’s letter is everything that Tim (Kim) Bayne’s letter is not (i.e. measured and factual):

Tim Bayne’s article, (25th July), contends that the licensing of grouse shooting is not justified and that ‘it would make it the most heavily regulated land use in the UK,’. This statement is laughable as it is in fact one of the least regulated and is why we are seeing issues such as the unregulated mass culling of mountain hares, the burning of heather over deep peat, the draining of moors and the widespread and systematic killing of birds of prey.

As justification he quoted Prof Werritty’s report when instead he should have quoted from the report’s preface, “When, as Chair, I sought to exercise a casting vote in favour of the immediate introduction of licensing, this was contested by two members of the Group.”  One can only speculate as to whose interests they might have been championing and whether the five-year moratorium was simply a sop to the grouse industry to achieve a unanimous report.

Tim Baynes also stated that recorded raptor persecution is at an all-time low, this is based on the number of incidents discovered by chance which by its very nature will fluctuate from year to year. A more accurate measure is the continued absence of birds of prey on land managed primarily for grouse shooting.

He talks of licensing undermining the progress made with SNH and conservation charities, a statement which we absolutely refute as we too have been party to these discussions. It is precisely because of this lack of progress and the inability to self-regulate that has brought about the public clamour for licensing. 

If evidence was ever required just look at the incidents of birds of prey trapped, shot, and poisoned, the species which figure most prominently are eagles and hen harriers.

Logan Steele, Communications Secretary, Scottish Raptor Study Group


5 thoughts on “Scottish Raptor Study Group responds to hysteria over proposed grouse moor licensing”

  1. I always find it funny how the representatives of the shooting industry use hysterical language to describe conservationists, trying to paint them as “animal rights extremists” when, almost without exception, the extremists represent the shooting industry.

    I am afraid I do not, and never will, include gamekeepers in the “conservationist” group, until they stop gratuitously killing our wildlife as a first resort of control and as an illegal method of maximising the kill of grouse, pheasants and partridge,

    In fact, whilst I am not advocating criminal behaviour (okay, I am cool with destroying traps) I think it quite remarkable that this ongoing war against our wildlife has not spawned an army of militant participants attacking gamekeepers, landowners and their property. Has there ever been a single case of a gamekeeper being beaten up by a conservationist because of the criminality of their job? We are well aware of the thuggish nature of gamekeepers involved in criminal activities, but the reverse? No evidence, no case to answer.

    1. Well said Simon,the real vermin in the countryside are the “guardians” with their traps,poison and lead shot.

  2. Still he persists “Licensing is also unnecessary given that recorded raptor persecution is at an all-time low”; but he certainly knows:

    1. “Recorded raptor persecution” by definition excludes the **bulk of the actually known cases of likely persecution***, as he is referring to the Birdcrime report which reports only confirmed cases, i.e. known poisoning, shooting and trapping*

    2. The actuallly known cases of likely persecution are a ***small tip of the iceberg of the actual persecution***, as we typically only know about them through the deployment of sat tags on a subset of the population.

    3. Recording persecution is be definition dificult, and can be defeated by clever tactics of those undertaking crimes, e.g. not using poison, as referred to both in SNH report 982 and Werrity, both commissioned by and accepted by government:

    “It was apparent that satellite tagging of young golden eagles revealed that many young birds have probably been illegally killed in some parts of Scotland between 2004 and 2016, largely in the central and eastern Highlands. Such illegal killing potentially has consequences for the future golden eagle population’s trajectory within mainland Scotland. This is especially so in those regions where such killing continues to occur; many decades after such acts became illegal.”

    “During this century, reports of poisoned or shot raptors have declined in numbers. However, this cannot be taken as evidence of adecline in raptor killing. It may be associated with a reported (but not proven) increase in the use of night-viewing equipment to shoot raptors on their roosting sites. Night-killing can be practised at any time of year, and carcasses removed, making legally robust evidence of illegal killing practically impossible to obtain. Likewise, the repeated disappearance of satellite-tracked birds on particular moors is not sufficient to obtain a prosecution in a criminal court, because the disappearance cannotbe assigned to a particular individual, and no carcass is normally available. These changes over the last two decades have made it increasingly difficult to prosecute anyone for killing raptors.”

    So, by brazzenly repeating the same tired and misleading words about “recorded persecution”, which everyone who actually cares about conservation knows are entirely misrepresentative of the true situation, and that certainly now includes government, he may as well be saying “My organisation would be delighted if the criminality would continue, and escalate, as long as we can improve methods for concealing the crimes”.

    When, if ever, is he going to acknowledge that there is a problem? Until people like him and other apologists start to acknowledge that there is a problem they are only making theiir own position look increasingly ridiculous…


  3. Speaking as an EX Pheasant and game shot, it is precisely as a consequence of of money driven (forgive the pun) scum like this that I sold my guns. From having a head keeper and three others enter a wood mob handed and blow a long eared owl to kingdom come, to having a member of the arostocracyask me of “I’d shot that damned Sparrowhawk yet”… then weeks later to find a dead Common Buzzard poisoned on the same land, I detest this murdering arrogant, elitist filth.
    Until shoot owners are prosecuted alongside their disgusting, murdering keepers, fines replaced with custodial sentences and the removal for life of section one and shotgun certificates, these criminal practices shall NOT cease and many BOP shall return or stay on the endangered list.
    God help any keeper that I ever encounter murdering these beautiful birds.

  4. Absolute shame on the Scottish government for virtually ignoring the continued persecution of these wonderful Raptors.

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