Poisoned sea eagle: Chris Packham’s letter to Scottish Ministers

Public anger over the news that yet another bird of prey has been found illegally killed on a Scottish grouse moor – this time a white-tailed eagle found poisoned in the Cairngorms National Park – is showing no sign of subsiding (see here and click on the links to read some of the letters that have been sent to Scottish Ministers urging immediate action).

Chris Packham has now added his voice and has written to the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham, as follows:

It’s not the first time Chris has spoken with Ministers about the ongoing persecution of eagles and other birds of prey on Scottish grouse moors.

In 2018 he had a long conversation with Roseanna Cunningham following the suspicious disappearance of one of our satellite-tagged golden eagles, ‘Fred’, who vanished just seven miles from the Scottish Parliament building in Edinburgh. You can watch the extended version of that conversation here:

Here we are, two years later, and what’s changed?

Absolutely nothing.

Except public anger has surged.

Thank you to everyone who has written to the First Minister and Environment Cabinet Secretary expressing your disgust and urging immediate action following this latest poisoning incident. The public’s reaction has been phenomenal.

Here are their email addresses for those who would still like to comment:

To email Nicola Sturgeon, please use this address: firstminister@gov.scot

To email Roseanna Cunningham, please use this address: CabSecECCLR@gov.scot

Thank you.

26 thoughts on “Poisoned sea eagle: Chris Packham’s letter to Scottish Ministers”

  1. How can we get this out to the wider public? Most birders are aware of the terrible slaughter of raptors, but are the wider public? We need to get this onto national TV – how do we do that? Chris Packham has, I suggest, the ‘TV clout’, and this Sea Eagle case would be an ideal example. How do we achieve that?

    1. Unfortunately that would only feed into the lies and distortions of the shooting industry. I would love to see Panorama do an investigation into it. I mean, if they can paint a pacifist, peace prize winning, honest politician as a rabid anti-Semite, imagine what they could do with real crimes and real proof?

    2. Maybe Channel 4 could be encouraged to take this on. They did a good piece a few weeks ago about the North Yorkshire situation. I’ve little doubt that Thomo would relish pursuing this further.

  2. This is our iconic heritage being slaughtered,this should be fully covered by the media and it just isn’t. Are we really so complacent about our precious wildlife or is it the bias of a very urbane slant shown by so many journalists . Come on,this is a national scandal and should be treated as such.

  3. Surely it’s time for direct action? Extinction Rebellion got their name up and out there in the public realm because they organised public demonstration and disruption. It would take similar actions by saboteurs and the like to physically go out onto the moors when the shooting season is in full swing and cause some chaos. This is perhaps the quickest way to get noticed by the mainstream. I’m sure some groups do this already but they don’t quite make the breakthrough necessary for real change. OK, ER go for the city usually where they can easily cause mayhem and frustration but they are very effective. Letters and protests from individuals and celebrities have mild positive effects here and there but these soon fade. The criminals carry on with impunity because they’re secure in their obscene conventions and traditions. Politicians are wily beasts; they’ll only act when circumstances allow them or when they become desperate. Vested interests and elitism are so engrained in these issues. Feudal law is alive and well in Scotland in certain places, which is ludicrous. It would be good to know the names and addresses of the land owners and anyone else employed by these despicable people – is it a crime to publish these with any article published on raptor persecution?

    [Ed: Names and addresses are publicised by the courts on conviction]

    1. Seems that there are no convictions – so the names and addresses are not made public. Why not publish the names and addresses on this site, on a regular basis, so at least those interested have the information? Or even better, organise a day out to one of the big feudal estates? I’d happily go up there for a weekend, stand with my protest banner at the estate entrance, and make a noise. Bring someone from the Scotsman with you, or an SNP wildlife enthusiast.

      [Ed: Andrew, we won’t be publishing anybody’s name and address on this site unless those details have been cited in open court. To do otherwise is tantamount to intimidation. Anybody is free to visit estates as long as their activity meets the terms of the Scottish Outdoor Access Code or CROW Act in England]

    2. While I agree with everything you say, I fear that during a ‘direct action’ invasion of a grouse moor during a shoot, it is not inconceivable that someone will be “accidentally” shot – plenty of witnesses to swear blind that it was “accidental”. Also gamekeepers have physically assaulted ‘trespassers’ in the past – so expect any people involved in disrupting a grouse shoot to be physically assaulted by keepers and beaters.

      1. Stephen, thanks for the reply. I understand your viewpoint, it is a logical one, and I wouldn’t want any innocent soul to get injured during a peaceful protest, no way. I’m fully aware of the feudal mindset and the possible consequences of peacefully protesting, with banners and placards, in public, close to a certain estate’s public entrance, at certain sensitive times of year. It is so sad and exasperating having to read these forum comments after yet another vile killing of an eagle. An eagle for God’s sake. Just wilfully poisoned by those who know they can break the law and get away with it. Again and again.

    3. More than likely protesters might get shot by mistake. Martyrdom to protect birds? I wouldn’t recommend it.

      1. Jill, thanks for the reply. I put forward my ideas, which are based on strong feelings of exasperation over a number of years, just to test the water really. After all, what is a forum for but to run ideas and feelings past people? Yes I realise there would be potential dangers involved in physically approaching a shoot. I’m not suggesting folk do this on private land but I would advocate initial protest at the public entrances to certain estates at certain sensitive times.

        1. lets face it, no protest ever got anywhere without people putting themselves in some risk. How much do we care…we say ‘alot’, but if no one goes anywhere near a GK thug protesting at the endless killing, because not enough people have been aware of it, and we want to reach a wider ‘audience’, generate more public outrage, its only then the criminals can foresee an end to their actions without impunity, and only then the politicians can see that what they know is right, needs to be enforced, laws to change, policing to be stepped up…not just by the police.

          1. All forms of protest are a reflection of concern, and all of some worth, whatever the issue, but in this specific case we’re talking about law and order, the lawlessness of, the criminal acts that go on year after year without any conviction. None. Little wonder the estate mindset is rigid and arrogant – they are the few who say to the many **** you, we’re above the laws that you all have to abide by.

            Hence public showing is the next logical step, standing at the estate entrances with placards, physically turning up. I’m sure some have already done this, brave souls in the past, small groups. When the pandemic is truly out of the way and restrictions lifted, and nothing has changed with regards to the law, then a law-abiding ‘picket’ might be in the pipeline. When the next raptor is killed perhaps then would be a good time.

  4. An excellent letter from Chris.

    Mike Betts, above, has alluded to a very relevant tactic.
    The generality of the public do not harbour much support for most large landowners.
    The very idea of any one person owning vast tracts of land and lording it over the manner rankles with many people. Add to that the apparent ease with which endless crime is committed with the perpetrators being able to act with impunity.
    We are being forced to witness the legacy of our flora and fauna heritage being destroyed by parasites whilst the SG presides over unbounded failure to muster as much as a token defence.
    If the government cannot find the strength to take the necessary measures then it should go now and hand over to people who do not lack moral fibre.

  5. Slightly tangential, sorry…

    [Ed: Thanks Coop – will blog about that another time. Today’s not the day]

    1. Sorry Doc, didn’t mean to jump the gun.

      [Ed: no problem, thanks for the heads up. Sure you understand the reasoning!]

  6. We need a “Cook Report” type sting on these hunting estates – shouldn’t be too hard to expose what they are at given the industry’s level of arrogance and contempt for the law

  7. I wish my effort was 1/2 as good as t’other Chris. Now we are starting to break into the mainstream, it’s become a numbers game. Big money has a very loud voice, we need millions of us for the same effect.

  8. Totally agree with Andrew Spaceys comment which I have banged on about before. Disrupt a few high profile shooting days and see the reaction then. We have been trying all other routes for years and the situation is getting worse not better. Act now before it is to late,because nobody in government is going to do anything,to many vested interests.

  9. I’ve got the solution, get rid of driven grouse shoots, problem solved! Just a minute though, that’s never going to happen is it? Far too much money involved. Stuff the birds, think the powers that be, we’ve got to keep the scrum happy, who once or twice a year like to parade around the moors with the thoughts of, ” Oo! look at me. I’m big and strong and tough because I’ve got a gun and I can kill things with it! ” A ban on guns would be another solution but that’s a whole other touchy subject. Come on Scotland, plough the money that’s spent on these shoots, that only a few sickos enjoy and put it into tourism where many decent folk would love seeing these majestic birds flying free.

  10. My letter to the Scottish Ministers for what it’s worth!

    Dear First Minister and Cabinet Secretary,

    As a half-Scot who regularly visits my father’s homeland I’d like you to know that this latest killing of a magnificent bird of prey, the Sea Eagle found poisoned in the Cairngorms National Park, has broken something in me. Something of the idea of Scotland has died within my mind. I know that sounds a bit melodramatic but for me it’s true.

    I’ve been aware of raptor persecution for many years and it is a terrible stain on the shooting industry. However, the lack of any meaningful government action to tackle the problem means it has become a stain on you, too. And a stain on Scotland, as it is in England where I live. For me and perhaps many others, the killing of this bird is a moment, a turning point, much like the killing of Cecil the lion in Africa. This is much more about what the killing means than the actual death of a rare bird. It is symbolic and symptomatic of two different but equally debilitating malaises within our society. 

    The first being that this kind of thing happens at all. Shooting is presented by its proponents as ‘noble’ and ‘exclusive’, a vital, timeless and necessary part of ‘country life’ and culture. In reality it is an industrialised slaughter of living creatures for no other purpose than the amusement of a very narrow minority of individuals who are either wealthy enough to indulge their hobby or their proclivity for killing. In order to provide this amusement – and it is nothing more than that – huge numbers of other living creatures are shot, trapped and poisoned. The landscape is scarred by burning and maintained as a treeless wasteland, devoid of wildlife and biodiversity, crisscrossed by ugly access roads and showered with billions of tiny lead balls which remain in the environment polluting the ground and water indefinitely. The land is also devoid of visitors who are necessarily excluded (cleared?) in order to keep this amusement ‘exclusive’. 

    The second malaise is our tolerance of this appalling, gratuitous slaughter. Tradition and a certain amount of deceitful propaganda has not only made us indifferent to it but created the conditions to actively support it. This is particularly so in the failure of government to properly regulate activities that go on in the countryside. Very few conditions are imposed to prevent harm (as all legislation is intended to) and even less is done to monitor, police and prosecute such transgressions of the few laws and regulations that do exist.

    And this is the purpose of my letter to you. The time has long since passed for you as a government to act. I feel you are letting us all down. We all know the power and influence of the landowning lobby but your reluctance to act is now an indictment of you not them. We all know what they are like and what they are prepared to do to maintain their privileges. This land is our land, the wildlife belongs to us not them. Their actions affect us all one way or another. As a government you are supposed to represent all of the people and the general interest of all not the few.

    And please don’t cite in their defence the ‘economic benefit’ of shooting because there is very little of that compared to what could be generated if these areas were managed for wildlife tourism and other rural industries and pursuits. Nor is there any meaningful ‘conservation’ being conducted by these estates. Any conservation they undertake is directly and solely for the maintenance of a landscape specifically intended to produce an overabundance of living creatures for them to kill. All other lifeforms are killed, controlled, burned or dug up to facilitate their ‘fun’.

    I would dearly like to see the end of all recreational killing but in the mean time the least you could do as a government is regulate the industry more effectively. This must include licencing with stiff sanctions and penalties for non-compliance or criminal transgressions such as the appalling killing of rare species. Fines are not enough, they are easily afforded by the rich. Sanctions need to have the effect of stopping all activities until they learn to comply. They should be punitive to act as a deterrent.

    I am aware that the Scottish government is making noises in the right direction with many of these issues but they all seem to be intentions for some future date rather than action now. You have had years to get a grip of this. All the problems this industry creates for Scotland have been known to you for decades. The time for prevarication is over. This is a very public test for you as a government. Will you act now or will you continue procrastinating, bending the knee to the inheritors of the ‘benefit’ of the clearances?

    I’m part of the large mass of people who seasonally migrate to Scotland (with our money) for the beauty, the culture and the sense of adventure, so I feel I ought to say what I feel. You can of course ignore me and I of course can ignore Scotland, but I don’t think either of us really want to do that.

    Best regards,

    Peter Martin

  11. Once again, the same few, are spoiling it for the vast majority. When will the spineles politicians start doing something about this wanton slaughter of everybody’s flora and fauna.

  12. Dear Ms Cunningham,

    When are you, as Environment Cabinet Secretary, going to do something to stop the killing of our birds of prey?

    I write regarding yet another poisoned eagle, poisoned in a National Park of all places!

    Current measures to resolve raptor persecution are failing these birds.
    We are fed up of government condemnations. We want action.

    Let’s face it, why is the SNP vying for an independent Scotland when the Scottish Government cannot even tackle landed interests destroying its natural heritage?

    Please act swiftly and decisively and be remembered as someone that stood up against landed interests and protected our iconic wildlife.

    I urge you not to follow the majority of your predecessors’ inaction.

    Yours sincerely

  13. i have also written to Nicola Sturgeon & Roseanna Cunningham, for what its worth.

    I agree that we have now reached the point where direct action needs to be developed. It would be relatively easy to xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx…these driven Grouse shooters don’t like to have to walk far! No-one would have any reason to discharge a gun in that situation.

    Perhaps Extinction Rebellion would consider getting involved to boost turn out & increase media coverage. While yes, XR concentrates on city disruption, they also operate in rural areas, like very effectively targetting ancient woodlands facing destruction in the path of HS2. There is also a network of established local action groups here in Scotland – & would assume south of the border too.

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