Game-shooting industry called out on raptor persecution by one of its own

It’s been almost four weeks since we learned that a deliberately poisoned golden eagle was found on a grouse moor on Invercauld Estate in the Cairngorms National Park (see here).

This abhorrent wildlife crime is just about as serious and high profile as it gets.

[The poisoned golden eagle and the poisoned bait. Photo by RSPB Scotland]

The golden eagle (along with the white-tailed eagle) has the highest level of protection of any bird species in Scotland (not just the bog standard protection given to all bird species, but the gold standard that includes protection of its nest site and protection from harassment all year round).

It’s an iconic species, loved by millions and on most wildlife lovers’ list of ‘must-sees’ when they visit Scotland.

The Cairngorms National Park is supposed to be the UK’s jewel in the crown and again is on the list of ‘must-sees’ for many visitors to Scotland.

It’s no wonder then, that when one of those wild golden eagles is found slumped and cold in the heather on a prestigious estate in the Cairngorms National Park, right next to a poisoned mountain hare bait deliberately placed to kill wildlife, the news is going to be both shocking and prominent.

And it was.

So how come the game-shooting industry has, on the whole, remained silent about this disgraceful crime? The only statement from a shooting organisation that I could find was from Scottish Land & Estates, the landowner’s lobby group. The statement was vague and short on detail (no mention that the golden eagle had been illegally poisoned and no mention that the eagle’s corpse and the poisoned bait had been discovered on a grouse moor on Invercauld Estate, an SLE member, no less, and that this isn’t the first time the estate has been under investigation).

Still, at least SLE published something. As far as I can tell, almost four weeks on there is no statement of condemnation on the websites of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, BASC, GWCT, Countryside Alliance, or Scottish Association for Country Sports.

Doesn’t that silence speak volumes?

I’ve thought a lot about why these organisations, with their vociferous claims of having ‘zero tolerance’ for raptor persecution, should remain silent on such a high profile crime when all eyes are upon them. I haven’t been able to come up with a reasonable explanation because there simply isn’t one. There’s no reasonable explanation, or excuse, for not condemning this crime. None at all.

But where there is ground to benefit is in plausible deniability. In that, if nobody acknowledges that this crime even happened, then the constant denials that there’s even an issue, let alone that it’s an out of control issue, can continue. Think about it. The denials can’t continue if the organisations have previously acknowledged and condemned a recent raptor persecution crime. So the strategy seems to be, shut up, say nothing and it’ll all blow over soon and then we can get back to pretending how much we love raptors whilst simultaneously campaigning for licences to kill them and turning a blind eye every time another one gets taken out on land managed for gamebird shooting.

I’m not the only one to notice the silence and the denial.

The following letter was published in this week’s Shooting Times:

The recent disturbing news of a police raid on Invercauld estate after the discovery of a poisoned golden eagle next to a bait should disgust and anger all in the shooting community. Sadly, for quite a few members of that community, these feelings of revulsion will not be felt.

If any readers can steel themselves to check out the Raptor Persecution UK blog they will find a sickening list [here] of illegally killed raptors from all around the Cairngorms.

If, as shooting’s representative organisations keep telling us, “it’s a few bad apples”, I would suggest that this area of Scotland could well contain the orchard.

Invercauld is one of the most prominent sporting estates in Scotland, with a reputation to uphold around the world, yet this is not the first time it has been investigated in recent years.

This begs the question, how many similar crimes go undiscovered? More pertinently, when they are discovered, how often is the burden of proof insufficient to bring a prosecution?

This fact is well known to the perpetrators, and should be borne in mind when the relative scarcity of successful prosecutions is used by the industry’s representatives to deny the scale of the problem.

Paul Tooley, by email.

I don’t know who Paul Tooley is, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn this Paul Tooley (above) is the same as this Paul Tooley or this Paul Tooley (scroll down to comments section).

Whoever he is, bloody well done for calling out these organisations.

Although as a campaigner I shouldn’t really mind the industry’s silence. In my view it’s indicative of complicity / covering up / shielding the guilty and that just means we’re another step closer to toppling this filthy ‘sport’.

11 thoughts on “Game-shooting industry called out on raptor persecution by one of its own”

  1. Well done to Paul Tooley who obviously has a clear picture of what’s happening under the guise of ‘muir management’ and ‘protecting’ raptors. Hope there are more of him willing to put their heads above the parapet. I notice after his first letter there were plenty of thumbs up but no thumbs down. Encouraging?

  2. The next door neighbours to Invercauld Estate are the Royal Family at Balmoral. With silent neighbours like this what hope is there that other Scottish estates will condemn the events on Invercauld? Furthermore, both these estates are key members of the local deer management group. For the last 20 years, at least, government efforts to persuade this deer management group to reduce deer numbers down to levels which will permit natural habitat recovery, notably in the Caenlochan area, have failed. This repeated failure to achieve the necessary population reductions, documented in the Deer Working Group report to the Scottish Government (published Jan 2020), led the DWG to recommend that the Scottish Parliament should conduct a special investigation into deer management in this area of the Cairngorms National Park. It is the only area in Scotland subject to such a recommendation and demonstrates how bad the situation is. That investigation should commence this year and now needs to be extended to include wildlife persecution. Perhaps the management of Balmoral, Invercauld and the other relevant estates can then be brought up to the standard expected in a modern European nation.

    1. And let’s not forget that incident on 24th October 2007 when two hen harriers got blasted out of the sky over Dersingham Bog NNR. The neighbouring active shooting estate is Sandringham….

    2. Spot on! The royals weren’t prepared to cull enough deer to allow forest regeneration without deer fencing at Balmoral which drastically compromised on site plans for conserving the capercaillie This is common trees only growing where there’s fencing with extremes on either side of it – one side overgrazed, the other an unnatural under grazed thicket not much cop even for woodland species like the caper that also has to contend with flying into the fences. The other side love claiming the RSPB has failed to help the caper, while forgetting to mention how little habitat is left for it between grouse moors and deer stalking estates.

    3. And yet if it’s a large African mammal the royals are all over the issue of illegal killing, and love to be photographed as a friend of the natural world. Somebody needs to tell them to sort their own backyard out before they start lecturing others about species decline.

  3. To be honest, I’m surprised that the ST published this letter at all, so fair play for that. Much better than publishing a sick story of ‘ten in ten hours’.

  4. And well done Ruth for the way you have linked this piece with others written five years ago or more…….

    And it is worth noting that the Shooting Times did print this email from Paul so they do seem to be open to other viewpoints.

  5. The game shooting industry has always tried to defend continuation of it’s deep rooted nefarious principles and practices. Attitudes that were out of date decades ago remain anchored to the past.

    Progress is irresistible, but is impeded by those who cannot accept that an industry, whose raison d’etre is killing for fun, is morally repugnant to the majority of people.
    Shooters undoubtedly view themselves differently from protagonists of other blood sports, but they are not. Killing for fun is the common denominator that links all such reprehensible activities.

    “So how come the game-shooting industry has, on the whole, remained silent about this disgraceful crime?”

    Perhaps it is a case of saying as little as possible so as to avoid provoking the inevitable damning response that occurs whenever they attempt to defend the indefensible.

  6. Pathetic posh people are obviously responsible .b…..ards. I’m gutted and infuriated.

  7. Firstly, bravo to this guy for speaking out openly and honestly, and accurately. The well-crafted response by vested interests behind the scenes and perhaps in print will be to continue to marginalise the raptor problem and “spin it” as just another angle of attack – a trojan horse, by which the “anti’s” will try and pursue their real agenda – to ban shooting. The last time the perennial debate (never unrelated to grouse shooting, which needs intensive predator extermination to produce any numbers) about “sporting day’s versus big-bags” came up in the ST, vested interests did exactly this. They need the blind deference and loyalty of the rank and file shooting men, and they wish to perpetuate the idea that it is an existential question of “either with us or against us”, and in so doing ensure that the many shooting people who hate raptor persecution (and know all about it in their local area), think twice about risking any public divergence from the “party-line”, and thus keep their mouths tightly shut.

  8. I was only discussing this very thing the other day with a colleague, that no folk from the shooting cabal condemn individual cases of persecution. This is a step forward not much of a step until lots of folk make a similar view known from inside shooting. however it is still the case that there is a deafening silence from all the shooting organisations themselves within both Scotland and England other than their meaningless claims of intolerance of persecution, until individual crimes start being condemned ( and some expulsions) their claims of intolerance mean jack shit.

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