Scottish farmers & landowners join forces with NatureScot to fight judicial review on beaver killing

Beavers are slightly off topic for this blog, although they featured on here earlier this year when Scottish charity Trees for Life was crowdfunding to support an application for judicial review against NatureScot (formerly SNH) for allowing too many beavers to be killed under licence instead of exploring all other non-lethal avenues first (see here).

The Trees for Life crowdfunder was successful (here), helped along by many of this blog’s readers (thank you) and also by a £5K contribution from Wild Justice.

[Photo by Scotland: The Big Picture]

Trees for Life applied to the court for permission to proceed with their judicial review and the Scottish Court of Session granted that permission in February 2021, which means that a judge considered there was a valid legal challenge to be made with every chance of success (see here).

The case is due to be heard this year.

Meanwhile, on a slightly tangential note, the National Farmers Union Scotland (NFUS) has been whipping up hysteria about white-tailed eagles in western Scotland and the apparent ‘need’ to control them (which includes a proposal for ‘problem’ eagles to be shot) but I’ll be blogging about that separately.

The reason I raise that now, in this blog about beavers, is because the NFUS has written to its members about the Trees for Life judicial review on beavers, and it has announced it is joining forces with landowners’ lobby group Scottish Land & Estates (SLE) to help support NatureScot to try and defend the judicial review.

Why? Because according to the NFUS, if Trees for Life wins the judicial review, along with ‘uninformed pressure’ from conservationists, then there may be implications for the ‘control’ (killing) of other species including ‘sea eagles, badgers, geese and ravens’.

Here is a copy of the letter from the NFUS to its members, dated 7 April 2021 (thanks to the blog reader who sent me a copy):

It’ll be fascinating to read the NFUS / SLE legal argument for killing beavers as a first instead of a last resort; a legal argument that they ‘strongly believe is not understood by Trees for Life‘.

We’ll need to wait for court papers to emerge before any of this is made public.

20 thoughts on “Scottish farmers & landowners join forces with NatureScot to fight judicial review on beaver killing”

  1. Nature Scotland, Landowners and Farmers all in it together; well worth a post i would say. Really very,very revealing and in a saner world should require resignations at Nature Scotland? FFS ?

  2. Trees for Life may not approve, but they don’t have to ‘understand’, that is why we have lawyers. Also, as I understand it, they are not saying don’t remove Beavers from where they are not wanted, just relocate, not kill.
    The NFU never bothers to hide the fact that it is anti wildlife, either in Scotland or down here.

    We already have five weeks booked for Scotland this year and we come for the wildlife. Are the NFU going to compensate hoteliers, self catering and restaurants for a downturn in business? Maybe they should have a chat with your tourism minister. Now let’s see that’s……….ah, Fergus. Ok, I’ll think that through again.

    1. I remember hearing this story about fifty years ago. I never knew the origin, nor the accuracy. However it seemed to make sense…

      The Chief Constable of Argyle (or was it Argyle & Sutherland?) instituted a policy for his traffic cops to carry out checks on drivers towing caravans. which said drivers found to be repeated excessively. The word went around (and this was pre-internet, remember) to avoid the county altogether. It didn’t take long for business owners to make their lowered income and increased displeasure known to the Chief Constable. The policy was dropped.

      We now have the internet, if the defense wins, is the River Dee involved?

  3. Are all UK government departments and their funded agencies corrupt? This is the rich and powerful getting hacked off that we uppity oiks have stopped tugging our forelocks and started demanding some appropriate action to save our wildlife and improve the environment.

    We need a revolution – and not just in our approach to nature!

    1. Well said, Paul. May I echo Simon and say that, while the UK Gov. and even the Law continue to bend over to the rich and powerful we’re against a stone wall. Will join you on the barricades if that’s what it takes.

  4. Well I hope that the JR finds in favour of Trees for Life and the NFUS/SLE find themselves out of pocket to the tune of £100,000! However, it is a concern that simply by sending out this letter to its members NFUS is stirring up fear and loathing for beavers, sea eagles, ravens, badgers and geese and increasing pressure for them to be ‘controlled’. The licensed lethal control of protected species should be very much a last resort after a clear case for damage has been demonstrated and after other non-lethal control methods have been shown to be insufficient, impracticable or otherwise not viable and, even then, it should be limited to the minimum necessary. What NFUS is doing with its scaremongering (“…the effects of the decision will spread and in the near future affect farmers and crofters in many areas of Scotland”) is to reverse this and press for a shoot first and ask questions after approach against all perceived animal “pests” across the whole of Scotland.

    1. Absolutely on the nail; my point is that for Nature Scotland (SNH) to collude with this approach that so vividly has landowner approval and to thwart a beneficial judgement to wildlife is a dereliction of its statutory duty and the responsible Officers should resign; at the very least there has to be questions to Ms Cunningham as to where she stands on this “agricultural” approach by the statutory body for nature conservation ?

      1. I think we need to be careful about accusing NatureScot of ‘colluding’ with the landowners and farmers on this case.

        It’s not clear from the NFUS letter but I’m assuming that NFUS and SLE will be applying to join the case as interested parties, which wouldn’t require any ‘collusion’ from NatureScot to occur, although in the English legal system both the complainant (in this case Trees for Life) and the defendant (NatureScot) would be asked for their consent/refusal for others to join the case and the judge can also limit the level of input in to the actual case, e.g. the judge could say that the NFUS/SLE can submit a brief statement not exceeding x number of pages but wouldn’t be permitted to present evidence live. I don’t know whether this process also applies in the Scottish legal system.

        I’m not suggesting that NatureScot are absolved of criticism here, just that the legal situation, especially the active status of NFUS and SLE in this case, has not been made clear.

        1. Hi, Words of course have breadths of meaning that might not be intended. I did not mean that they were sitting on the phone aligning themselves in an active collusion but that the similarity of their position was so adjacent to be in effect one of a collusive perspective; if unconsciously or indeed consciously, the result is the same and the question as to the end result re statutory duty for nature is a beggared vision at best; I think that is fair to say ?

  5. I know a farmer, a genuine conservationist, who is planning to do some very positive work with beavers on their land pending official go ahead. He went to speak to a local community group formed to work on climate issues when he discovered that several of his fellow farmers had somehow wangled their way into the meeting and from what he said it seems they went about being rather disruptive. That’s not the beginning or end of the hassle he’s had – an incredibly nice bloke with tremendous public spirit and love of wildlife – no surprise he doesn’t fit in with the farming community eh? Otherwise he’s received tremendous support. I had to laugh recently when someone said the Tayside farmers moaning about beavers all seem to be driving spanking new land rovers. Apparently one who claimed he had to spend £5,000 clearing beaver dams (receipts please?) from his farm failed to mention in the same year he got £145,000 from the taxpayer in agricultural subsidies, £25,000 of which was for ‘environmental improvement’.

    I’m not sure how they can say mitigation measures rarely work as I’m well informed by people who’ve been promoting and offering free assistance to apply them have said very few farmers have taken them up on it. Of course if they were co-operative that would rather take the wind out of the sails of the beaver hating band wagon, clearly the daggers are out for an animal that could and should be helping to keep homes dry. I wish I had the resources and skills to put together a film about what’s the real story behind beavers in Scotland, the nitty gritty has been left out of the public discussion and it’s everything.

    1. I too know the farmer of whom you speak.
      The work he has done for wildlife and indeed ecological habitat of all kinds on his farm is to be commended, nay supported and encouraged as an example of positive productive conservation.

  6. “Other species such as Sea Eagles, Badgers, Geese, and Ravens are increasingly problematic and we must have some form of managed balance in place.” That nonsense strikes me as the real reason for this dreadful letter. Note the time-honored classic “managed balance” which, of course, means ‘kill’ with impunity. Let’s hope Trees for Life beats NFU for death.

  7. Why is it when someone mentions the word NFU – I always think about environmental and nature destruction?
    If its not lobbying for the use of banned neonicotinoids, badger culling, and now licences to kill beavers, its some other shenanigan which depletes nature.
    The recent State of Nature reports highlight what years of poor farming practices, and greed have done to our countryside, wildlife and environment.
    I can only hope that as we become more environmentally aware, more farmers put conservation at the heart of their businesses; and support for the NFU diminishes, with farmers choosing to be represented by organisations which better represent environmentally sustainable farming.

    1. You’re absolutely right there’s a desperate need for farmers to have an alternative to the NFU. It’s a vile organisation that as far as I’m concerned acts on behalf of those wanting to screw every single penny from the land, consumer, taxpayer and the non greedy element of the farming community – a part of the push against small farms is from the large ones that want to get bigger. ‘The Peoples’ Manifesto for Wildlife’ a few years ago stressed how bad the NFU is and the need to get shot of it, it required specific mention. It pushes the line that we need to keep giving marginal farms big piles of dosh to maintain food security, but while somehow forgetting to fight against good farmland being sold to developers, or to mention nearly 40% of our food gets wasted.

      NFU Scotland has been doing its level best to undermine lynx reintroduction in Scotland by holding up sheep losses in Norway as a warning. This fails to mention A) Norway is virtually unique in Europe in that sheep are grazed WITHIN woodland where the lynx hunt, and even more importantly B) the compensation scheme there for livestock lost to predators is notoriously lax, research commissioned by the Norwegian government indicated that only one in nine claimed sheep kills by lynx is genuine. How exactly is NFU Scotland managing to use Norway as a supposed negative example without knowing all this, or are they just happy to be ‘disingenuous’, which is a very diplomatic way of putting it? The NFU needs to be collectively, pro actively and publicly criticised by the conservation movement once and for all, we just snipe back at it now and again, it’s fighting against wildlife on all fronts so we need to unite against it. Getting the most money for the very least inconvenience is what they want, which means the restoration of wildlife we could so easily have is too much bother, and getting flooded out, sending food to landfill is clearly someone else’s problem.

      1. Totally agree with you.
        In my opinion it’s an organisation that promotes the greedy excesses of money driven industrial farming. It should be a concern to everyone that as an organisation it is very powerful and successful at political lobbying, and has been very effective at manipulating government agricultural policy.
        At a time when farming and its contribution to global warming, along with environmental degradation are hot topics, the NFU has the potential to curtail meaningful change to make UK farming environmentally sustainable and our countryside a place for nature. Something which so much of it is isn’t at the moment, as wildlife surveys suggest.
        Grouse moors and intensive industrial farming share much in common.
        The difference being that successful political lobbying has made many destructive farming practices totally legal.
        This has often been at the expense of the small scale family farm where there was awareness and consideration for the natural environment – but these small farms can’t compete with the industrial giants so get bought up and land exploited for everything which can be turned into money.
        It reminds me of the Orks in Tolkien’s book – The Lord of the Rings!!

        It also has a significant impact on raptors, and other vulnerable species such as Curlew, as the countryside becomes a desert to wildlife, as fragile ecosystems and the natural food chain are completely destroyed.
        This then plays into the hands of the grouse moor managers who are able to claim that their moors are vital homes for many endangered species, – species which have nowhere else to live, and have had to swap destruction by the plough to destruction by the gun! Thus the grouse moor estates are able to play the environmental card and receive public funding to pay for the mess we have created in our countryside.

        In an earlier thread someone mentioned collusion- If there is collusion maybe its between the landowners where industrial farming takes place and the grouse moor owners? – or do some of these individuals own both? The industrial farming destroys the countryside so wildlife is pushed to the margins in the uplands. By owning the uplands, tax payers money can be obtained to pay for stewardship schemes on environmentally dubious grouse moors. It’s a win-win- highly profitable industrial farming and public subsidies on the moors?? All created by a system which is driven by money and has degraded nature.

        Fortunately there are farmers who are waking up to this catastrophe, but they need better representation, a voice which can drown out the NFU, as well as changes to government policy and consumer habits, so that they are able to financially flourish whilst the “environmental wreckers” go out of business.

        Raptor persecution isn’t always deliberate criminal acts, it can also be destructive agricultural practices – made totally legal but a system driven by greed and profit!!!

        Something which can be seen in that original letter from the NFU!

  8. Nasty shower that represent the worst aspects of modern farming – we would probably be still using the likes of DDT on crops if that shower had its way

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