Raptor persecution “hasn’t been a problem for years”, claims Scottish Gamekeepers committee member

There was a jaw-droppingly half-baked article published in The Courier last week, featuring commentary from a Scottish gamekeeper.

Bob Connelly, who is reportedly a Committee member of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA), had been speaking at the Scottish Game Fair and the Couriers environment journalist Scott Milne took the comments at face value and wrote the following article, which has to be read to be believed.

People will not realise the importance of land management and the shooting industry until campaigners force the end of the sector.

That is the view of gamekeeper Bob Connelly, who works in an estate in north east Perthshire.

Bob was speaking at the Scottish Game Fair, which took place in Scone over the weekend.

The Scottish Government is preparing legislation that could see gamekeeper grouse shooting licenced.

This has come after a campaign by animal rights advocates [Ed: he’s referring to this blog!] releasing evidence which appears to show wildlife crimes such as raptor persecution and misuse of traps.

The theory goes that predators such as buzzards and hen harries are killed in order to protect grouse, which brings in a lot of money during shooting season.

ARE GAMEKEEPERS VICTIM OF A HATE CAMPAIGN?

Bob feels much of this evidence has been manufactured as part of a “malicious” campaign to turn public opinion against gamekeepers and the shooting industry.

He said: “They want to get rid of us.

“But people don’t understand what we do and why we do it.”

A case in point is the controversial practice of heather burning.

It has been criticised as unnecessary and potentially damaging to peatland, which can release large swathes of carbon.

But Bob has a different perspective.

“You have to accept that there are going to be fires in places like that if you let it overgrow.

“So if it’s inevitable, do you want to have a controlled fire or let a wild one get out of hand?

“That would be even more damaging.”

Bob also feels it’s important gamekeepers are allowed to control predator populations in order to protect smaller species.

He said: “What we do is we build it from the ground up. We make sure the right environment is in place for insects and other small species and then bigger ones can naturally thrive on top of that.

“There’s more and more red-listed birds. If you want to protect them, it’s important to control predators such as foxes and buzzards.

“There’s a lot of people who have been manipulated to feel a certain way on social media, but don’t fully understand what we do.

“They’ll will miss us when we’re gone.”

WILL LEGISLATION CHANGE THINGS?

Bob thinks the upcoming gamekeeper shooting legislation is not needed.

“There is already rules surrounding things like traps. I can’t see how it can be legislated anymore.

“Yes, there were problems in the past with raptor persecution and things like that.

“But if you discount one or two recent examples, it hasn’t been a problem for years.”

GAMEKEEPERS AND LAND MANAGERS ARE WORRIED

Tim Baynes is director of moorland with Scottish Land and Estates.

Also speaking at the Scottish Game Fair, he said many gamekeepers and land managers he knows are worried for their jobs.

“A lot of these people have a very specific skillset that has come down from generations.”

Tim wouldn’t go as far as Bob and say anti-shooting campaigners have adopted “malicious” practices, but he does feel they “have an agenda”.

“They want to remove shooting.

“But they are not involved in it or in managing land so they are coming at it from a different perspective.”

Tim hopes the shooting industry can work with politicians to have legislation that works for everyone.

However, he is concerned that last-minute changes might be brought in that would work against their favour.

“At the end of the day, we have to work with the government that has got the votes.

“There are people within the government who are pragmatic about the industry.

“But it can be difficult for them to publicly say so.”

ENDS

The level of idiocy in this article is quite staggering, even for an SGA committee member. I guess it’s what we’ve come to expect from the SGA though, who have been in denial about the extent of these crimes for at least the 12 years I’ve been writing this blog and probably for years prior to that, as their standard response to the most glaring of truths.

And it is that level of idiotic denial, combined with ongoing raptor persecution and the SGA’s inability to influence those within the shooting industry who continue to commit these disgusting wildlife crimes (e.g. see here, here, here, here, here), that has brought about the Government’s decision to introduce a grouse shooting licensing scheme.

That decision wasn’t based on so-called ” manufactured evidence“. It was based on the number of raptor corpses found dead and mutilated on game-shooting estates over many, many years, including poisoned eagles found on grouse shooting estates even inside our National Parks for God’s sake, combined with the massive weight of incontrovertible scientific evidence that all points to an outright refusal to abide by the law by many members of the game-shooting industry.

It’s not the fault of this blog, nor the fault of the many other campaigners who have been fighting against this abuse of our raptors for decades. The blame lies entirely, and obviously, with the criminals.

24 thoughts on “Raptor persecution “hasn’t been a problem for years”, claims Scottish Gamekeepers committee member”

  1. Advocates for the wealthy and the powerful at it again.. employing similar tactics to the current UK Government, that of the blunt denial of truth which is supported by fact while singlemindedly pursuing their own ends by any means possible, illegal or not. They are on a par with foxhunting and the “trail-hunting” they engage in… by the same demographic.

    1. Raptors are predators…. they need management not encouragement….where have all the song birds gone?

      1. overuse of agricultural pesticides ,everything humans do is affecting the natural world ,truth is the plannet and its echosystems are being owly but surely destroyed by what humans do .

      2. Don’t be silly. As all here are well aware, your ridiculous “song bird” argument was put to bed decades ago.

      3. Hedges cut back early and annually, or ripped out altogether. drainage of wet areas, competition and possibly predation from pheasants, and what others have said.

      4. *Looks out of window, then goes for a walk around neighbouring area of rural Northumberland*

        Habitat loss – hedgerows being flailed to bits by our local “guardians of the countryside” aka farmers. Trees being felled. Rough grazing being sprayed with insecticides and herbicides; some now given over to oil seed rape. Fields being given over to caravans and camping with consequent disturbance of bird life.

        Deliberate management to reduce native bird populations. The farmers round here are all shooters and release pheasants and like to keep the landscape and wildlife under control for their side hustle and extra income.

        The immediate surrounds of the village are doing better, mostly because many of the residents are trying to make their gardens and other bits of land wildlife friendly, but get another few metres away and it’s another matter completely.

      5. Where is your evidence that raptors have a negative impact on song bird numbers?
        There isn’t any is there.
        It doesn’t take a genius to work out that the most likely cause of declining song bird numbers is the appalling way the countryside is being managed. There has been a massive decline in British wildlife in the last 30 years. During this period we have seen an ever increasing intensification of industrial agriculture. The use of more and more pesticides and herbicides leading to loss of insects, a loss of habitat, a loss of properly functioning natural eco systems, and ultimately a loss of birds and other wildlife further up the food chain.
        It also doesn’t help when people living in urban areas rip out their gardens and replace hedges with fences, lawns with plastic grass, and bushes and shrubs with paved patios.
        So much farm land has become a no go area for so much wildlife. Something which has resulted in the government having to change the way farm payments are made with the introduction of ELMS to try and create a more sustainable farming system, and hopefully reverse the decline in wildlife.
        However there are those that refuse to accept the scientific evidence, either because their misuse of the land rewards them handsomely and change isn’t something they want to do in case it results in less profit, or because they simply haven’t the wit to understand the science, and can’t understand that what they are doing is so destructive.
        Fortunately there are many really good farmers, people that genuinely care and want to work with conservation organisations to help reverse the decline in nature. The same is also true of some home owners, who really are trying to make their gardens a home for wildlife.
        However perhaps those farmers, or home owners who refuse to acknowledge the vital role they play in nature recovery should be the ones who need “management not encouragement”?

      6. It’s not the raptors, it’s the damage done to their environment, such as food. Just drive for any distance in the summer – 30 years ago, your car would be covered in insects. Now, it’s much much less, the result of use of insecticides and removal of habitat by ‘guardians of the countryside’ like Bob. The only thing they want to ‘manage’ is their ability to generate as much ££££ as possible. They think everything needs to be managed.

        Actually, I feel sorry for people like Bob, who have swallowed the nonsense passed down from previous generations, and from the ‘land managers’ who persist in using it.

  2. The idiotic argument along the lines of letting heather grow creates a fire hazard so you’ve got to burn it first was put to me by a Prince Charles patsy on Balmoral Estate. If they were that bothered they could put in fire breaks.

    1. A friend of mine who spent his last few years working for the fire brigade in fire investigation to me that moorland fires were the heather is managed and burnt regularly are a lot safer than when heather has been left to go old as the heat on unkempt moor fires usually burns into the peat and can burn for months. Using thermal imagery on a drone it would always be far worse on un managed moors.he never had any issues on managed moors.

      1. Thats true, it indicates the problem we now have and which is getting worse. If we must (as the DGS industry tell us) have wall to wall heather over hundreds of thousands of acres with no breaks or barriers of varied habitat, on short rotations that dry the moors out year on year…then it becomes incumbent to keep it short and densely patchworked in perpetuity to prevent wildfires.

        But why must we have these vast expanses of tinder-box dwarf shrub monoculture? Theres only one reason for it, one interest group that wants it.
        Thats not a good enough reason for me at least.
        They have created this problem over a lot of years and ramped it up to current ridiculous state since 90’s…they now use the fact that it is difficult to get out of this trap to advocate that more and more of the same management is the only solution.
        Ideally they should be forced to carefully diversify habitat in 30yr management plans under a licencing scheme, or have the land took off them and be forced to pay compensation to the nation for having f-d it up over 150+ years.

        1. Well said, they’ve actually created this awkward situation themselves and are using it as an argument to maintain the status quo. There needs to be a plan to back out of it and reinstate hills and moors that are a hell of a lot less flammable in the first place. Some judicious tree planting and bringing back beavers to dam streams and create pretty bloody good firebreaks that would also reduce downstream flooding would be a bloody good place to start.

  3. Does anyone know the total area of moorland burnt by gamekeepers anually compared to that burnt by wild fires?

  4. Part of what he said is true, if they stop burning heather then ‘wild’ fires will definitely increase hugely, and every one will be ‘accidental’ proving him correct.
    The only way to prevent this is to take away the need. Don’t license, just ban.

  5. “But if you discount one or two recent examples, it (persecution) hasn’t been a problem for years.”…

    However, this quarter-wit then goes on to openly advocate the very activity that he claims “hasn’t been a problem for years.”

    “If you want to protect them, it’s important to control predators such as foxes and buzzards.”

    These people are dishonest and stupid in equal measure.

    1. The quoted statement betrays a both deficient understanding of the ecology (Buzzard diet highly variable, but often dominated by small mammals) and reckless assumption that the ends justify the means (“control” is not a legal option hence implies a need to stray into criminal activity and/or change of the law, this should be declared not fudged over); there are 70 species on the UK red list but Buzzards will have no impact on the vast majority (how many Swifts or Roseate Terns do they catch?), potential impacts on just a handful of breeding gamebirds moorland waders and I don’t think Buzzards are their biggest problem; why would an official in an organisation responsible for advice and education have such a poor grasp and/or seek to deliberately obfuscate these issues while at the same time denying the simple facts about ongoing persecution? Personally I have no desire or motivation to see people losing their jobs but I wish they would be open to discussion and engagement, starting with acknowledgement of what is causing the problem, instead of being defensive and manipulative…

  6. The stupid thing is that when one day (maybe not soon but it will happen) intensive commercial shooting is seriously restricted/licenced, the Bob’s of the world still won’t recognise that it is those that are breaking the law that caused it. Until their dying day they will still blame “Packham & Co” (as if they are the ones going around shooting the buzzards, trapping the goshawks, poisoning eagles, etc, etc) and not the scores of Estates, few dozen Agents and thousand plus keepers who are responsible. They should also blame themselves – people like Bob who genuinely care about the state of things, are a part of the problem if they are not speaking out and also passing info to Police & RSPB (if he is, then I apologise) It is inconceivable to me that someone who has put in all those years in that world won’t have heard a lot of true stories and be able to name names to the police.

  7. not a problem for the gamekeepers maybe – because they’ve been mostly getting away with it for years

  8. Whilst there is some evidence that well managed estates do contribute to protecting red listed species of birds, there does appear to be a contradiction in what is being said about raptor persecution, which leads to doubt about the credibility of Mr Connelly’s statement.
    Perhaps Mr Connelly could explain his comment “There’s more and more red-listed birds. If you want to protect them, it’s important to control predators such as foxes and buzzards”.
    What does he mean by -“it is important to control predators such as – buzzards?”
    Buzzards are a protected bird of prey species. It is illegal to kill, harm or persecute them. To do so would be a crime.
    Whilst I understand estates can apply for a specific licence to deal with a particular problem caused by a particular buzzard or group of buzzards.
    How many licences have actually been issued in Scotland?
    And what about all the police investigations into illegally killed birds of prey, or the evidence from satellite tracked birds which indicates that crimes against them are being committed?
    How does Mr Connelly explain the recent court convictions of game keepers for criminal offences committed against birds of prey and other animals?
    This is hardly manufactured evidence.

    It is a shame Mr Connelly doesn’t speak out against the criminal activity which takes on many shooting estates. It is this criminal activity which is turning public opinion against game shooting and game keepers. Perhaps Mr Connelly would be wise to reflect on the fact that wildlife campaigners are only exposing just what is actually taking place in the countryside, and the public don’t like what is happening.

    1. “There’s more and more red-listed birds. If you want to protect them, it’s important to control predators such as foxes and buzzards”. That should read “its important to control predators such as gamekeepers” !

  9. Presumably they mean they’ve had no problem illegally persecuting raptors for years, because there’s massive evidence of the current scale of illegal raptor persecution. They have zero credibility, so you can’t take anything they say seriously.

  10. I was very impressed with the way “environment journalist” Scott Milne challenged Connelly’s and Baynes’ arguments. A man obviously well on top of his job (whatever that really is). And newspaper proprietors worry about why younger adults no longer buy papers…

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