Poisoned golden eagle: statement from NatureScot

NatureScot, formerly known as Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has published a statement in response to the discovery of the deliberately poisoned golden eagle found on a grouse moor on Invercauld Estate in the Cairngorms National Park in March.

[Poisoned golden eagle laying next to a poisoned mountain hare bait on Invercauld Estate, March 2021. Photo RSPB]

Here’s what it says:

7 May 2021

NatureScot statement: Poisoned golden eagle found on Invercauld Estate

Robbie Kernahan, NatureScot’s Director of Sustainable Growth, said:

This incident is appalling and, without doubt, is an act of animal cruelty. We encourage anyone with information to report it to the police immediately.  The indiscriminate use of poisons – as this incident demonstrates – is lethal to our iconic Scottish wildlife, but it can also pose a serious health risk to people and domestic animals that come into contact with it. NatureScot will await a full report of the circumstances from Police Scotland and consider this case in line with our framework for restricting the use of General Licences.

We are committed to working with Police Scotland and other members of the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime (PAW Scotland) to tackle continuing raptor persecution and other wildlife crime in Scotland“.


It’s unusual to see a formal statement from the statutory conservation agency in response to an individual wildlife crime, but perhaps the audacity and brazenness of this latest atrocity, and the widespread public revulsion that this still goes on with impunity, let alone inside the Cairngorms National Park, has pushed NatureScot to publish a statement.

The concept of NatureScot condemning the poisoning is solid, of course. Why wouldn’t they? Why wouldn’t anyone in their right mind condemn it, vociferously? They should also be highlighting and condemning every single wildlife crime that gets uncovered in Scotland, not just the big high profile cases.

But I wonder, having read their statement, whether NatureScot thought they’d better say something early because the inevitable question is heading their way – the General Licence restriction.

They must know that I, as well as others, will be asking about that and they might also have guessed that I’d be arguing strongly that a General Licence restriction is in fact long overdue on Invercauld Estate, given some of the other alleged offences reported from there.

I’ll be writing a separate blog about that though, because there may well be a technical loophole that has allowed NatureScot to ignore previous grounds to revoke the General Licence on this particular estate – I’ll come back to it because it’s worth it’s own blog and I don’t have the time to write it today.

18 thoughts on “Poisoned golden eagle: statement from NatureScot”

  1. It’s curious to see this condemned by an official body as “animal cruelty”, because this would seem to imply that they regard all poisoning of animals and birds is “appalling”. Presumably nobody would argue that poisoning a carrion crow or a stoat causes less suffering than poisoning a golden eagle, or that it is less cruel. These species are also examples of Scottish wildlife. Perhaps they fail to qualify as “iconic Scottish wildlife”?

    Anyone who wants to argue that killing common predators is okay, including killing them very slowly with poisons and traps, but that killing rare ones is “appaling”, had better stick to ecological arguments and not mention the subject of animal cruelty, which obviously has to be applied to all species and not just those deemed “iconic” or “domestic”.

    The fact is, animal cruelty goes on all the time and is entirely legal, and most people support it. I can buy stuff in any hardware shop to deliberately cause horrible suffering to rats and mice, for example.

    1. One could conclude that Robbie Kernahan would be much happier if the eagle had been shot.

      All the same an interesting use of language – probably intended not to offend the shooting lobby. Also interesting that the Director of Sustainable Growth would make such a statement. I have no idea of the internal structure of NatureScot but I’d have thought there were numerous other directors with titles more appropriate to the situation.

      1. “The indiscriminate use of poisons – as this incident demonstrates – is lethal to our iconic Scottish wildlife”

        So the poisoning was accidental was it?

        Always pays to read each word carefully.

      2. yes, strange job title. He used to be their Head of Wildlife Management, from memory. He moved to SNH (as was) when the old Deer Commission Scotland was merged with them.

      3. I thought he was Director of Sustainable Figleaf Management at NaturistScot?

        Burning out caledonian pine wood regeneration, burning out juniper, burning over screes, burning bogs, burning protected species alive, poisoning specially protected species, in appropriate development…..all happening within a national park?

        NatureScot shouldnt be issuing a lame statement, they should be screeming blue murder! Why are they not pushing for changes to the law to get this travisty sorted out? What are they for?

  2. Good of NatureScot to flag up the possibility of a restriction of the General Licence.

    Gives the estate plenty of time to prepare applications for individual licences.

  3. The statement begs the question ‘is NatureScot concerned because it’s wildlife at risk or because it could also affect humans and domestic pets’. Yes the latter is relevant but their focus should always be on the illegal use of poisons and the illegal killing of wildlife without the need to refer to the latter. Or is the latter necessary to remind estates how stupid they are?

    1. Yes, that aspect struck me as well. And also that it is referrred to as “an incident” – no mention of it being a crime! In fact, wildlife crime is mentioned until the very last few words and in a general way, not referring to this “incident”.

  4. No evidence will be found and ‘bent coppers’ take another back hander. Nothing changes.

    [Ed: Christopher, I’ve asked you, politely, several times to refrain from making unsubstantiated accusations against police officers. You’ve refused to accept the house rules. You’re now banned from commenting on this site]

    1. Christopher – you’ve just written what many of us think – not necessarily about ‘bent coppers’ but about a whole bent system which turns a blind eye to what’s happening. Maybe I’ll get banned for supporting you but – so be it !

      [Ed: Discussing a bent system of wilful blindness is fine. There is plenty of evidence to support that. Consistently blaming every failure on so-called ‘bent coppers’, without any evidence to support the claim, is not fine because it demonstrably isn’t true, it’s lazy and it’s unhelpful. It also isn’t fair on those police officers who work tirelessly but are just as frustrated as we are at the system’s inadequacies. There are some under-performing officers, there is no doubt about that, but Christopher has never provided any supportive evidence for his allegations that they’re all bent, all of the time. He simply parrots the same line time and again]

  5. In accordance with establish procedures what follows after the crime becomes public knowledge is a period where the various officials and organisations go into one of their “talk only” modes whereby they attempt to convince people that they are on the verge of doing something worthwhile.

    It is all a repetitive charade with the usual objective of restoring “normal service” in the killing fields ASAP.

    Is it not quite amazing how some people are paid taxpayer funded salaries for this diabolical hokum.
    The majority of the public are in no position to have the least inkling as to what is going on .

  6. Could you explain to me why my post questioning the veracity of this claim has either not been posted or been removed. It was a legitimate question and was neither rude, patronising or even controversial but merely asking a few simple questions regarding the truth. Is it possibly because you are not willing to hear a reasoned argument that this might not reflect the truth. Or is it simply because it is untrue and you don’t wish for anyone to actually point that out. I would love to know your thoughts on this. I have a screen shot of the post so if you’d like me to re post it …..?

    [Ed: Er…….your comment WAS posted! You didn’t post it on this thread though, which is probably why you can’t see it here. Try looking here: https://raptorpersecutionscotland.wordpress.com/2021/05/06/poisoned-golden-eagle-examining-the-statement-from-invercauld-estate/#comments ]

  7. When is the talking going to stop and enforcement action take place? Until this happens these crimes will continue. Some people think they are untouchable.

  8. Take a look at the list here : https://www.nature.scot/about-naturescot/board-directors-and-committees/senior-leadership-team

    Titles like : Director of Business Services and Transformation, Head of External Affairs say it all.

    And as for the Director of Sustainable Growth
    “Robbie leads our work to deliver Sustainable Growth. Working across the business and with a range of externals, Robbie provides leadership and strategic vision to secure greater investment in nature to tackle the twin challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss.” Biodiversity loss clearly excludes muirburn and raptor persecution as they impact on the “sustainable growth” of the grouse industry.

  9. Balmoral leases a beat from Invercauld though I am not saying the eagle is on that one. It would show good leadership, especially in view of the families stance on protecting wildlife, if they withdrew from the estate. That would have an effect.

  10. The General Licence Scheme should be scrapped. Not only does it allow any eejit to cull unlimited numbers of several species of native wild birds without first demonstrating a genuine, justifiable need for a cull it also gives those same eejits the mindset that they can kill any bird or animal that doesn’t fit in with their perverted view of the natural world.

  11. Hallo Ruth

    Given that this horrendous crime has been committed on Invercauld Estate, by someone working there – why can’t Invercauld be finally nailed through the Vicarious Responsibility Law here in Scotland?



    [Ed: Hi Alan, As far as I’m aware the police do not have sufficient evidence to identify the poisoner, let alone identify whether it was ‘someone working’ on Invercauld Estate, so the prospect of a vicarious liability prosecution is currently zero. For that to happen, the suspect must be identified (and that means the police having sufficient evidence to support the allegation/charge, just having a suspicion is not enough), the police must establish that the suspect has a direct hierarchical relationship with a sporting agent/estate factor/estate owner etc, and must also establish that that third party (a) did not know the crimes were being permitted and (b) s/he took all reasonable steps AND exercised all due diligence to prevent the offence being committed. For more info on vicarious liability please read this: https://raptorpersecutionscotland.wordpress.com/2012/03/10/vicarious-liability-whats-it-all-about/ ]

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