Scottish Gamekeepers Association on the attack about ‘misleading’ information – oh, the irony

The latest target in the Scottish Gamekeepers Association’s (SGA) rifle sights is the Scottish Green Party.

I say latest, I’m not sure I can remember the SGA ever supporting any policy of the Greens, and some members of this political party have long been targets for personal abuse by some SGA Committee Members and supporters, so this current attack is just more of the same.

It all stems from a short piece in a regional campaign newsletter, currently being distributed by supporters of the Scottish Greens:

Of course, anybody challenging the status quo of grouse shooting is going to be a target for hatred and it will come as no surprise whatsoever to learn that candidate Maggie Chapman has been subjected to disgraceful misogynistic abuse on Facebook by SGA supporters, on the SGA’s own Facebook page. It appears that real women can’t have short hair AND breasts. It’s all too confusing if you still think it’s the 1950s. I’ll bet she was wearing trousers too. Shocking. The misogyny centred on Maggie’s appearance – god help us if they’d realised she was actually standing for election.

The SGA’s reaction to the Scottish Green Party’s campaign newsletter has been astonishing, although actually it shouldn’t be astonishing at all in light of their recent antics in relation to the death threat received by Chris Packham (see here). It seems they’ll complain about anything in their quest to resist progressive modernisation and so this time they’ve threatened to write to the Electoral Commission to complain about what they call ‘misleading information’ about grouse moors.

Here’s what the SGA published on its website earlier this week:

On the face of it, this SGA statement might seem like reasonable comment, especially as it was citing the results of a recent Government-funded study in to the socio-economic and biodiversity impacts of grouse shooting.

The thing is, the SGA isn’t accurately reporting that study’s findings. At all. In fact some might argue it was deliberately mis-reporting the findings.

How so?

Well, in the summary report of that study being cited by the SGA, the authors are quite clear about how the study results should be interpreted. In fact they couldn’t have been clearer (underlining added by me):

Furthermore, the small set of case study samples that the study used are also kind of skewed in favour of grouse shooting. This is not a criticism of the study authors, they have been totally upfront about it, but it just emphasises the caution urged by the authors on how these results should be interpreted; caution which the SGA has ignored:

There were nine case studies that involved some sort of grouse shooting, but only two involving rewilding/conservation. There’s absolutely no way that the study results can be seen as being representative of these land-use differences across Scotland, as the SGA is trying to claim.

I’d encourage the Scottish Green Party to study the summary report closely, and also read some wider research commissioned by REVIVE (especially this one) to rebut any complaint the SGA may make to the Electoral Commission about so-called ‘misleading information’.

The supreme irony of this latest attack is that the SGA is accusing the Scottish Greens of promoting ‘misleading information’ about grouse moors. The SGA are the masters of ‘misleading information’ (i.e. utter rubbish), and here is a small selection from over the years:

‘Professional gamekeepers do not poison raptors’ (May 2011)

‘It is unfair to accuse gamekeepers of wildlife crime’ (June 2011)

‘Will these very large creatures [white-tailed eagles] differentiate between a small child and more natural quarry?’ (September 2011)

‘Raptors are thriving on game-keepered land’ (July 2013)

‘I strongly believe the goshawk was never indigenous to the United Kingdom and there is absolutely no hard evidence to suggest otherwise’ (September 2013)

When asked whether gamekeepers are involved with the poisoning, shooting & trapping of raptors: ‘No they aren’t. We would dispute that’ (March 2014)

‘In the last ten years we have stamped out poisoning. We’ve absolutely finished it’ (October 2014)

‘We kill animals because probably we’re the doctors and nurses of the countryside’ (January 2015)

‘Grouse moors are a birdwatcher’s paradise’ (December 2020)

15 thoughts on “Scottish Gamekeepers Association on the attack about ‘misleading’ information – oh, the irony”

  1. Looking forward to the Electoral Commission’s response to any complaint …. Any submission will surely only draw more attention to the ridiculous assertions that SGA are known for?

    Maybe we should be a tad more charitable and ponder if their ‘aggressive’ approach to being challenged might be as a result of the potential impact of all the lead ingested over the decades of eating and not wasting all the wildlife and game they slaughter for fun, or do they promote it as sport?

  2. Hilarious. The Greens are getting my vote. Sooner these moors are phased out the better and the Tory toffs can sod right back home to think again.

  3. Brilliantly written – enjoyed reading that. They really are a bunch of odious, misogynistic scumbags.

    And if they are the self-styled doctors and nurses of the countryside (!), why aren’t all gamekeepers registered with an independent monitoring body with a clear code of ethics?

  4. I find this whole argument that wildlife killing provides employment for gamekeepers and the ilk, not dissimilar to criminals providing employment for the police force.
    We need neither wildlife killers or criminals, though the edges are frequently blurred……

  5. Imagine that conservation working days, weekends or even weeks are run on former grouse moors where businesses can pay for their staff to take part in team building/corporate social responsibility exercises planting trees and creating leaky dams along and in watercourses to A) reduce flooding B) create wildlife habitat and C) lay the groundwork where in a year or two beavers can come along and dramatically amplify points A and B by coppicing riparian trees, produce dead wood and of course build a network of dams – incidentally creating firebreaks to help take the strain off the emergency services as well. That’s one hell of a bang for your buck – helping to keep families in dry homes, bring back a lot of threatened wildlife including aquatic species like the otter and salmon, and aiding a particularly charismatic mammal.

    Not pie in the sky I’ve taken part in two residential week long conservation holidays in the Forest of Bowland, after the much vaunted grouse shooting finished, where we all pumped a fair bit into the local shops, pubs and even the village pantomime (xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx). You could also run camps for improving sites for raptors, putting juniper and other fire intolerant plants back on the moors after muir burn has ended, helping to bring back black grouse etc, etc. I’m positive there’s a massive potential market for this, something that doesn’t quite fit in completely with current definitions and calculations of what constitutes ecotourism. Even without this what potential is there for the expansion of pony trekking on our hills? Certainly there’s infinitely more scope for more people to participate in this than driven grouse shooting with the need for massive bags, even if the season hasn’t been cancelled due to low numbers of grouse. Without shooting taking place and some restoration to make the moors less desolate there could be a very big upsurge in pony trekking on its own. So much potential once you look beyond the SGA smokescreen – and as for their ‘cultural heritage’ of the gibbet, man trap, spring gun, strychnine, pole traps, snares and stink pits thanks, but no thanks.

    1. Les,
      It’s not just pony treking or conservation holidays which the current use of land for grouse moors is curtailing.
      There have been various studies conducted regarding mountain biking, and how this can contribute to tourism and rural economic growth.
      Research on the mountain bike industry in Scotland confirms that the GVA (gross value added) impact of the mountain bike industry amounted to £105 million in 2015, and could potentially grow to £158 million by 2025, an increase of 50%.

      These purpose built trail centres have put Scotland on the international mountain bike circuit, which is now able to host world class events, as well as enable Scottish riders to develop their skills to compete at professional level.
      Since then the sport has grown massively. The new generation of Ebikes have opened the sport to an even wider clientele, many who have high incomes and can afford to stay in hotels and other accommodation, spend money in the cafes, restaurants and shops as well support local bike shops and bike hire businesses.

      A recent announcement about future development of the 7Stanes mountain bike trail network, and in particular Innerleithen, is projected to create more than 400 jobs and contribute £141 million in GVA (gross value added). This is only the Borders and Galloway- what about the rest of Scotland?

      The question the game shooting industry needs to answer is not just what game shooting offers to rural economies now, but what is the potential for growth of the industry?
      If the industry has stagnated, and is not growing- then rural economies will not develop further, and the gulf between urban and rural wealth will only widen.

      The business potential of adventure tourism right across Scotland is huge, and the growth to rural economies is something I suspect would far eclipse what the grouse shooting industry is able to offer both in terms of employment and revenue generation.

      This isn’t to say all game shooting must cease, but any forward looking landowner perhaps needs to scale back the grouse shooting and diversify?

      1. Well said. The reason I stress pony trekking is because without the ‘new’ jobs in ecotourism, just expanding opportunities for existing activities could make a bloody massive difference – even if there was a sudden upsurge in wanting to stand in a butt while grouse are driven towards you, AND you could afford it there just isn’t the scope to meet the demand. They already cancel grouse shooting seasons because bird numbers are too low for seemingly obligatory big bags, as it is predators are slaughtered, the moors rotationally burnt to a crisp and they have to put out medicated grit so an unnaturally bloated population doesn’t succumb to parasite burden. Unless they can literally start producing red grouse in factories they’ve had it, they just can’t grow the business and what they’re already doing is coming under increasing scrutiny.

        Now compare that with pony trekking. How many more people in Scotland could be accommodated if they suddenly decided they’d like to try or take it up? Hundreds and hundreds of thousands potentially, certainly there are enough people in the equestrian field to look at setting that up as a business and employing locals too. As long as they kept to specified trails (as with mountain biking) they should cause no problems for wildlife and I imagine could still keep lower level routes open throughout the winter as long as the weather is OK. Yet how many ‘sporting’ estates have ever looked into how much they might be able to incorporate pony trekking within their current business activities to diversify income streams or at the very least create employment opportunities for locals? Many of them don’t even welcome walkers and the shites have even on occasion tried to blame them for disturbance that’s driven away hen harriers and other raptors. It would be very revealing how many have looked into this, I suspect the number is very close to 0.

        Adventure activities come with problems of their own conservation wise, but these are manageable and it’s always made me laugh how the estates moan about the supposed environmental impact of general recreational users when they’ve wrecked an entire landscape. I do like the idea of people going to do adventure holiday type activities, but getting an opportunity to watch wildlife and do practical conservation work too, and broadening their perspectives in the process. One way or another practically everyone who lives in Scotland or visits has suffered from greatly reduced opportunities that most tragically of all they haven’t even realised – it’s only starting to hit me and I’ve known how bad the estates are for more than forty years. I suspect that even many of our current field sport addicts, would have had better lives if they had been given alternatives when younger.

  6. A key aspect to this whole complicated argument is ‘jobs in the rural economy’. Effectively – and once again – wildlife and the environment are paying the price here but if you’re on the side of the shooters that’s how it has to be. So, in the light of the Greens pitch here I wonder how much promotion the recent report by the Scottish Wildlife Trust, WWF Scotland and RSPB Scotland entitled Nature Recovery Plan is going to get as it predicts a gain of 7000 jobs for the rural economy.

    If a meaningful take on the effect of a ‘green – and compassionate – change’ to the rural economy is needed then surely this is the one for both sides to consider if we are ever to succeed in taking enough heat out of this conflict to have a proper debate.

    1. You are not wrong – but it is also about quality of jobs: how many keepers are full time employed and paid a reasonable wage? Many keepers are only part0-time employees. Beaters are certainly not full-time employees and are expected to be grateful for the chance to work for peanuts.

      How much of the money coming from DGS actually goes back into the local economy when so many grouse moors are owned / managed by shell companies with offshore tax arrangements, so the profits are siphoned off into the tax avoiding pockets of the already rich ultimate owners hidden behind the obfuscation.

      This latter is one of the key lies of the shooting industry: the money does not go into the local community in any meaningful way – the bulk of it goes into the pockets of the least deserving members of that community: the people behind the organised crimes.

      1. I totally agree with you, Simon, regarding the amount of money which actually stays in the country as a proportion of the revenue from people who pay obscene amounts to come and kill our wildlife and help pay for Gamekeepers etc. to kill off raptors, mountain hares, stoats, weasels, hedgehogs etc.etc. I know of at least one estate which flew in cheap labour from abroad, during the Covid crisis, to use as beaters. How does that benefit the economy or the local community?

        1. I spoke to someone who spent a week beating in the Lammermuirs when a teenager (once and never again), and he did it alongside beaters who’d been bused in from the north east of England. Really puts the boot into their supposed conscientiousness about local jobs and people. This is also apparent in the glaring absence of any scheme or charter set up by their own industry for ensuring estates are supporting local businesses as best they can by for instance buying from local producers rather than shipping in fancy labels from London. The RSPB has always had a policy of using local suppliers for its cafes as much as possible, and an official policy of trying to give preferential treatment to local contractors. And what acknowledgement/thanks have they received for this – sweet FA. Meanwhile the estates make bloated claims that rarely get challenged.

  7. “The majority of gamekeepers are also providing unsubsidised…predator management as part of their roles on grouse moors”.

    How Kind! We don’t want those pesky eagles darkening our skies, now, do we?

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