Ian Blackford latest MP to embolden calls for a sea eagle cull

Ian Blackford MP (Scottish National Party) is the latest politician with a vested interest to whip up some anti-raptor rhetoric by accusing white-tailed eagles of “slaughtering” his lambs, emboldening those who have been calling for an eagle cull.

It follows recent outbursts from Conservative MP Chris Loder (here and here) and the SNP’s Angus MacNeil (here).

Blackford’s hysteria was published in the Sunday Times at the weekend, as follows:

With a wingspan of up to 2.5m, the majestic white-tailed eagle reintroduced to Britain from Norway is the country’s largest bird of prey.

But calls for a cull of the giant bird have grown after it was blamed for the deaths of lambs raised by Ian Blackford, the SNP Westminster leader.

Three of nearly 200 breeding pairs of the bird, also known as sea eagles, live near to the politician’s croft on the Isle of Skye, and are said to have killed up to ten of his 60 lambs in the past month.

It comes less than three years after a non-native mink killed his three-year-old ducks — named Mrs McGregor, Mrs Campbell, Mrs Morrison and Mrs McFarlane.

Last year conservationists failed in a bid to introduce 60 white-tailed eagles, likened to “flying barn doors”, to Norfolk after objections from landowners.

Blackford, who runs the smallholding with his wife, Anne, in the northwest of the island, watched from a distance recently during one of the attacks.

“Coming across a dead lamb slaughtered by an eagle it’s not a sight that you want to see. It’s an upsetting one,” he said.

“When all your efforts have gone into the lambing season, you take a pride in looking after your flock. To lose even a small number of lambs is soul destroying.”

Angus MacNeil, his neighbouring SNP MP in the Western Isles, favours a targeted cull of the eagles first reintroduced to Britain in the 1970s and again in the 1990s and early 2000s, with most in the Highlands.

Condemning “monoculture conservationists who cannot see beyond one species”, MacNeil said: “Sea eagles eat puffins and other small birds like Mars bars yet they’re heavily protected.

“A livestock law introduced last November says the owners of dogs that attack livestock can be fined £40,000 or sent to prison, but if you’re a conservationist protecting sea eagles who do the same, you’ll get a big desk in Edinburgh and a promotion.”

David Colthart, an Argyll hill farmer who represents National Farmers Union Scotland (NFUS) on a sea eagle stakeholder panel, suffered 135 unaccounted-for losses out of several hundred lambs last year.

There are four breeding pairs of sea eagles in his area and he says that lambs are an easy target for birds feeding their chicks.

“Many farmers and crofters have found the sea eagle reintroduction very challenging,” he said.

NatureScot, the public body responsible for Scotland’s natural heritage, has no plans to allow the killing of the magnificent birds, which emit a yelping cry which is made up of 15-30 short “yaps”.

It said: “We understand the concerns of farmers and crofters, and continue to work closely with them, and a range of stakeholders at the local and national level, to offer management support . . . and to trial management techniques which can help reduce these negative impacts.”

Ross Greer, the Scottish Greens MSP, said the return of sea eagles had been “a great success story”, with efforts by the government and conservation charities to help farmers mitigate their impact.

“If we’re to combat the nature and climate emergencies, then sustainable agriculture and nature restoration must learn to work together,” he said.

Meanwhile, Benedict Macdonald, the conservationist and television wildlife director, has made more calls for lynxes to return to Scotland. In a new book, Macdonald argues that the species, last seen about 1,300 years ago, would bring ecological and financial benefits by controlling deer and foxes. He also defends wild boar as critical to woodland wildlife as nature’s oldest rotational farmers, churning soil and encouraging plant growth.

NFUS is opposed to the reintroduction of lynxes, which has been previously proposed unsuccessfully for Kielder, an English village three miles from the Scottish border. It says they have been responsible for thousands of sheep deaths in Norway. “The Norwegians told us that to reintroduce predators into our country would be an absolute catastrophe,” Colthart said.

ENDS

I find it interesting that Blackford claimed ‘up to ten’ of his lambs had been ‘slaughtered’ by eagles – how many is ‘up to ten‘? Surely he can count? Or is it a case of him seeing a sea eagle consuming an already dead lamb and he’s assuming the eagle has killed it, rather than acknowledging that eagles will readily eat carrion?

If he’s quick, he can apply to join NatureScot’s Sea Eagle Management Scheme which offers support for adapting livestock management and for trialling prevention measures (see here). The closing date for support in 2023 is 31st July 2022.

95 thoughts on “Ian Blackford latest MP to embolden calls for a sea eagle cull”

  1. So where is the connection between ‘135 unaccounted-for losses out of several hundred lambs last year’ and sea eagles? What proportion have been lost to ‘black losses’ he might as well blame the weather, animal husbandry, and poor grazing.

    1. Unaccounted means no bodies. All predators apart from large raptors and foxes leave a lot of debris from a kill. When the body is removed to feed young then there’s no debris. We don’t know how many of his less famous neighbours have suffered similar losses.
      This may not be popular but these birds were hunted to extinction for a reason. While predators are reintroduced and farm animals are easy pickings and loss without compensation then there will be a problem. French and Spanish farmers feel the same way about bears and wolves.

      1. “This may not be popular but these birds were hunted to extinction for a reason.”

        This is a really daft comment, because we know many species were hunted to extinction through pure ignorance and to protect the wealth of the landed classes. Do you think, for example, that Hen Harriers were virtually eliminated from the landscape because they caused havoc or because they interfered with the profit margins of excessive, intensive commercial shoots? You say ‘farm animals are easy pickings’, without considering the fact that sheep farmers suffer large losses through poor husbandry and sick sheep, who are then scavenged as carrion. If Sea Eagles were really swooping down and picking sheep off at will, we’d have extensive video footage that showed this. Do really think the NFU wouldn’t be using their extensive resources to show this by camera trapping hot spots if this was actually true? The ‘evidence’ we have at the moment is purely anecdotal and nearly always ecological nonsense, uttered by people with a vested financial interest in removing them, hence the ridiculous and hyperbolic ‘mars bar’ comments.

        1. Hen harriers were only ever SUMMER VISITORS even in Victorian times, in a series of studies of British birds in 1912 they had to go to Holland to photograph a nest with eggs.
          Sea Eagles are killers of lambs and deer fawns, always have been,
          nowadays there is too many videos ,photographs to deny this, the birds are looking for easy food.
          I suppose you would say that the Peregrine falcon is rare, when in fact the UK has the highest density of these birds in the World.
          Minimum of 40.000 birds but the RSPB claims that there are only
          2000 breeding pairs in the UK, why is this ? So the mushrooms in our society donate to protect them.
          In 1984 as a wildlife inspector for the Wildlife and Countryside act
          I attended a seminar and facts and figures from DEFRA stated that
          there were 1965 breeding pairs of peregrines in the UK, no mention of the 1,2,3,4.yrs olds, that were there , non breeding until reaching maturity age.
          Also 505 breeding pairs of Golden Eagles, in fact every previously know nest site was occupied, but we now see a re-wilding project in South West Scotland , what is going on ?
          Time has come to either reduce numbers of troublesome birds or
          For the protectionist bodies to compensate for losses.
          Afterall they glean millions of pounds yearly from government.

          1. Wow, where to start. To keep things brief(ish) I’ll ignore the most of your irrelevant diatribe Mr Surtees, but your statements: “Time has come to either reduce numbers of troublesome birds or For the protectionist bodies to compensate for losses. Afterall they glean millions of pounds yearly from government.” and: “…nowadays there is too many videos ,photographs to deny this, the birds are looking for easy food.” cannot go unchallenged.

            So, a few questions:
            1. Define ‘troublesome birds’?
            2. What ‘protectionist bodies’?
            3. It is true that, for example, the RSPB (presumably one of your ‘protectionist bodies’?) gets significant public money, but the ‘protectionist bodies’ that you refer to, collectively, get a fraction of the scandalous subsidies and tax breaks afforded to farmers, landowners and crofters. So, why should ‘protectionist bodies’ compensate anyone and for what? If, say, we stopped subsidising ‘protectionist bodies’ then would you agree to the removal of all public subsidies from farmers, landowners and crofters too?
            4. What ‘videos’ or ‘photographs’, where and by whom? Surely it is precisely the LACK of video evidence of WTE predation of lambs that undermines the anecdotal ‘evidence’ of prejudiced, forever whinging, farmers, landowners and crofters?

            We live on a shared planet Mr Surtees – a point that seems to have eluded you. Whilst I accept that, sadly, some landowners/farmers/crofters with Victorian values still haunt the Highlands, the majority of people in this country, including a few enlightened landowners, have well and truly moved away from the if-it’s-a-problem-kill-it ‘solution’. Whilst there is a long, long way to go, our ecosystem, hopefully, will one day resemble something healthy again, for all life and not just unsustainable vested interests.

            1. Made – up figures and distortions regarding Hen Harriers aside, DEFRA (which isn’t responsible for population data) didn’t even exist in 1984.

              Also, how many lambs are taken by Peregrines? Or are they mentioned as part of a deeper agenda?

              Oh! And Queen Victoria died in 1901.

          2. I don’t think I’ve seen a post with so many lies in succession. For one, peregrines have faced local extinction in areas of the Peak District and guess which land use coincided with this pattern of persecution? You guessed it, driven grouse shooting. I know you’re the type of person where facts become very inconvenient to the continuation of your little hobby (don’t even pretend you don’t shoot), but for people who live in the real world, they can see the immense damage shooting has caused in the UK, both in terms of wildlife persecution and habitat destruction. This isn’t an opinion, the facts are there for all to see. Our uplands are a disgrace and, due to intensive pheasant/RLP shoots, our lowlands aren’t far behind either.

            Ps in reply to my point about video evidence of sea eagles taking healthy lambs, you said there is plenty, but it seems that you forgot to link it! Well, where is it?

          3. Ermm…..so you complain that the figures given for breeding pairs of birds are misleading because they don’t include non breeding birds!?! I’ve seen footage of a lamb being taken back to a sea eagle nest, but was it killed by the bird or was it one of the many that die from parasites, hypothermia, malnutrition and poor husbandry on our cold, windy, wet, forage and shelter poor hills? A few thousand years of domestication doesn’t undo the fact the sheep is an animal of the middle eastern deserts, probably not best for our climate unless you can put up with high mortality rates. I haven’t seen any unequivocal footage or other evidence of sea eagles taken lambs. On the contrary there’s this – https://www.scotsman.com/news/sea-eagles-not-taking-lambs-slaughter-2473455

            1. Les – thanks for the link. It’s hilarious that the crofter’s rep claims the results were skewed because the tags on the lambs put the sea eagles off killing them cos, if that was the case – well what an easy solution! A simple tag would do the job!

      2. I’ve heard this argument – ‘they were got rid off for a reason’ – before. Of course there must be ‘a reason’ why something was killed off by our glorious ancestors in the Highlands and Islands, because if not that would imply that lo and behold they weren’t perfect, might not have been the glorious custodians of the land they’re made out to be. Well we do know that the very last great auk encountered in British waters was in 1840 and was captured by St Kildans. After a few days they came to the conclusion it was responsible for an unrelenting storm and so stomped it to death. Funnily enough this little bit of ‘cultural’ history never really gets highlighted, although to his enormous credit a descendant of one of the men who killed the bird wrote a song about it. https://www.scotsman.com/whats-on/arts-and-entertainment/scotlands-last-penguin-killed-amid-fears-it-was-witch-860499

          1. Being allergic to bullshite doesn’t make someone a misanthrope – you forget I complimented somebody in my comment – you’re being a bit misanthropic yourself aren’t you?

      3. Leaving aside the complete lack of actual evidence that Sea Eagles actually do kill large numbers of lambs, as has been said if that was the case it would not be difficult to get actual camera trap footage of it happening. Lets compare the economic benefit of Sea eagles to the local community, with that of a Crofter raising a few sheep. There is no comparison and lets not forget that the tax payer subsidises the sheep rearing, or it would not be worth doing! So IF and its a big IF Sea eagles are impacting on sheep rearing, on purely economic grounds one would stop sheep rearing!

        But of course what we have here is the ingrained prejudice against predators that a lot of country folk have. The if its even potentially a danger to livestock then it must be eliminated. Its time to revisit these views, why are livestock being raised in areas where it isn’t economically viable and often not ecologically sound?

        We can live with large predators, but it will require a strategy based on evidence and not a clinging onto outdated ways, however “traditional” these may be.

        1. Yes excellent points, among other things is an animal derived from the domestication of a desert animal ever going to be at home on Scottish hills? The evidence suggest no.

        1. I suggest you reread the comment and take time to think it through. The Great Auk didn’t die off because it threatened human activities, it was driven to extinction by gross over exploitation and the last known one in Scotland was kicked to death ‘for witchcraft’ in the same era we had railways and telescopes. The dodo too died off for different, but also bad, avoidable reasons. In each case our ancestors lost something for no purpose so these are parallel tragedies, the one compliments the point made about the other. The crofting community quite often asserts animals were lost from Scotland ‘for a reason’ meaning a valid reason so best not have them back – well in the case of the Great Auk that’s definitely not true unless you believe they’re responsible for causing storms. Whitewashing the past rather than acknowledging ecological and environmental harm done won’t help restore the land and bring back lost wildlife. Shite though much of our rural environment is it suits some people that way so claiming lost species were all problematic is a sneakyish way of trying to maintain the status quo.

          1. I read somewhere that egg collectors drove out or wiped out the Ospreys of Loch an Eilein about 1905. Gentlemen all, i would hazard a guess.

  2. Or some good old fashioned shepherding could be ‘reintroduced’ instead of this once a day visiting stuff that apparently occurs nowadays..

    1. With the advantage to the compensation-claimants of photos or videos to support their cases. Oh, do I see a problem there?

    2. Why should we bring back animals and birds that have been extinct for a long time? Where is the economic benefit to bringing them back?

      1. Er, how about because we are in the middle of a biodiversity emergency that could see Homo sapiens go extinct as the evidence is already here that we are in the sixth mass extinction, with the twist that it is humans causing it. In our particular case the UK’s ecosystem is suffering catastrophically from the lack of apex predators. How’s that as a viable alternative for your misguided ‘economic benefit’ concerns?

        You should remember Mr Mulholland that we are only a strand in the web of life, what we do to the web we do unto ourselves…

      2. Apart from issues of humanity, because birds may act as a warning in the manner of canaries in coal mines, providing warnings, but as apex predators. If you know of ‘Silent Spring’, DDT, Aldrin & Dieldrin you’ll understand. If you don’t, you should.

  3. Well Blackford certainly looks like he knows about eating Mars Bars. Maybe if he decided whether he wanted to be a hobby farmer or a politician he could watch his livestock.

  4. Same empty heads with the same broken record – amazing too in this era of wall to wall camera phones that so little evidence of eagles actually taking healthy live lambs exists

    1. Another point I was going to make. Blackford ‘watched from a distance’. Yep, I bet he did – from Westminster!

      1. Would greatly welcome a legal challenge to evidence, if only to stop funding to “charities ”
        Good to see you put your name to your reply, not hide behind a sudoname.

        1. I would greatly welcome public debate about how much subsidy the ‘poor’ crofting community is getting just for being crofters – no matter what it is it’s never enough is it? Of course pushing for a sea eagle cull might look to the cynical amongst us as a ploy to drum up compensation instead to add to umpteen grants, rebates and general handouts they already get by the truckload going by the four/five bedroom ‘crofts’, hardwood conservatories, brand new fitted kitchens, and big shiny SUVs that were the standard I saw on Lewis. They put the charities in the shade. I don’t use a pseudonym (not sudoname) because I’m not living in a place where I have to worry about getting a brick through the window, being jumped outside a pub or getting the car’s (if I had one) side panels kicked in due to me expressing an opinion that’s unpopular in some quarters. Others who comment here aren’t so lucky hence their use of pseudonyms, and they’re still far braver than I am.

      1. No, it’s not irrelevant, because a lot of the ‘arguments’ from farmers about Sea Eagles are appeals to emotion and little more, because the facts don’t actually back them up. Their hypocrisy should be highlighted.

    1. I live in the middle of sheep farming in the mountains of Wales and I can safely say, from personal experience, that the vast majority of sheep and lambs are lost through negligence and poor husbandry. The subsidy system allows farmers to minimise their input into farming and, like Blackford, concentrate on more lucrative sidelines. They spend very little time actually farming. They do, however, spend a lot of time hunting and killing most of the wildlife that has the nerve to try and exist in the area, including foxes, badgers, birds of prey and even rabbits. When I first moved here, many years ago, rabbits were in abundance but I haven’t seen one for over two years now. This is all done in the name of protecting the sheep, who are basically left to fend for themselves. The only time they show any interest in the sheep is when they are rounding them up to send off to some hell hole slaughterhouse to have their throats cut. Any sympathy I had for farmers has long since gone.

  5. Just have a look at Blackford’s profile on Wikipedia. A wealthy former banker and now politician with a less than pure white record. Why does he need to keep lambs? – it’s hardly as if his living depends on it.

  6. 10 of 60 is a massive 17%. I’d hardly call that level of loss putting in all his efforts to care for his flock.
    I agree with both commenters above, some improvement in animal husbandry appears to be called for.

  7. Why do these dinosaurs even get a platform? Another xxxxx white, male, materialist – probably a xxxxxxxxxx. What about what WTEs have done for the island economy in terms of wildlife tourism? He can afford a few lambs. These people make me sick.

      1. Would you be so good as to state exactly which of the above comments refer to anyone’s skin colour?

  8. A shame these people cannot see further than a bank balance.
    Rewilding and tourism would be an all round better investment, instead of this short term .destructive mentality.

  9. I’d like to see some scientifically based research from the Highlands to help justify these claims. The previous research i have seen in relation tosea eagles taking live healthy lambs saw none recorced. There might have been some since and, if there is, I would be more than happy to see it.
    I’ve seen this campaign building from a number of years ago since compensation was given based on some inconclusive research and more on word of mouth claims by the financial beneficiaries. I said at the time that this was a mistake and would lead to the situation we face now.
    Here is a claim from September 2008,
    “William Fraser, of the Crofting Foundation, said: ‘One woman has lost 50 per cent of her animals.”
    Now if figures like thius were anywhere close to the truth of the matter catching them taking live, healthy lambs from the area on video should have been easy .. but over the last 14 years none, if any, footage has been provided.
    I can’t, as no one can, prove a negative in a situation like this but it’s obvious that this was either a lie or a vast exageration.
    Both Norway and Sardinia have seen huge escalation of numbers by those with financial interests in cases where claims were made for compensation when wild animals and birds were deemed to be taking donestic stock.
    I can’t claim the same type of behaviour is taking place but I can admit to being suspicious, very susoicious.

    1. I’ve tried several times to find any decent research on eagles (goldies or white tails) taking live, healthy lambs, but all I ever find is claims without any substance from folk like Blackford. Plenty of things reporting eagles and other scavengers feeding on already dead lambs or adult sheep…

      Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

      1. I moved to N W Wales (sheep country) 46 years ago. I’ve still never seen (live or video) a corvid attacking a lamb. I’ve seen thousands of sheep ignoring corvids in the fields. I share your suspicions

        1. Which means?

          Scottish eagles are pretty well observed by many folk, self included, and yet no-one reports them killing lambs.

          If you can supply some evidence to the contrary, rather than badly spelled, unhelpful opinions, please do so. I’ll certainly be interested.

          Same as round here no-one ever sees corvids killing sheep, despite what is often claimed.

          1. Just to add to this: how many eagle nests have cameras trained on them the whole breeding season? And how many instances of lamb carcasses being brought in to feed the young have been recorded? And how many sheep bones are found in those nests after breeding is over?

            How many birders, and other members of the public, spend hour upon hour observing eagles? And how many see lambs being taken?

            These are some of the most filmed, photographed and observed birds in the entire UK…

        2. “Coming across a dead lamb slaughtered by an eagle it’s not a sight that you want to see. It’s an upsetting one,” he said.
          What does he think goes on behing the doors of the slaughter house he sends them to!
          Lets hope he doesn’t ever join their trip to witness the mass slaughter of his lambs at the slaughter house, it may cause a tear to be shed before he sits to eat his lamb chop dinner that evening.
          He is sad to see 1 lamb taken for a meal but happy to watch a mass cul of a beautiful majestic animal who is living on limited food resources due to farmers taking it for extreme mass breeding plans.
          Rediculous.

    1. Woah Woah Woah, easy tiger…we do not need his attitude to conservation and farming down here thank you. We have plenty of “pretend” farmers from elsewhere giving our own true farmers a bad name.

      Their lies and compensation grabbing headline catching spiel is no good for the real countryside ecology.

      Real farmers (land wardens) work with nature. Trendy farmers (land owners) and pleasure hunters seek profit and glory from their pretend farming. Keep him and we’ll fight them all where they sit!

  10. Compensate the owners of lost lambs which they keep telling us are either worth a fortune OR not worth their production costs and xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx seems the best way to go to me but then again if the government or any of these politicians know right from left well lets re open the coal mines rather than promote green alternatives and give everyone extra money so they can afford to INCREASE the Uk Carbon footprint forget about carbon neutral concentrate on the money.

  11. As an SNP leader this highly unlikely have been unsanctioned, unscripted, unreviewed by the vast SNP PR spin machine. So it has been decided this benefits the SNP, (particularly since this is the second salvo) but how? An actual cull would seam politically suicidal both with a large proportion of voters and their coalition partners, plus many constituency residents will be anti cull;
    1) Diversion from the SNPs litany of failures and current ‘sleaze’ ~ possibly
    2) To garner local support; doesn’t seam to imminently needed, but perhaps an opening gambit to legislate for compensation (or to buy votes if in future if you cynical) ~ possibly?
    3) As a statement to the landed and rural wealthy that the SNP are on their side; Is Blackford been lined up to fill the empty shoes of Fergus Ewing; to sooth Land and estates concerns and prevent a backlash ~ quiet possibly??
    4) To make a statement that the Scottish (non)greens are not in control; possibly but why needed, are they fearing the Greens are a liability in rural Scotland??

    The only thing going on that I’m aware of is consultation on possible Amendment’s to the Land Reform Act; which appears to canvassing for changes to Large Land holdings and associated tax (so maybe the SNP do want to send a message that they aren’t going to rock the boat….after all in previous term they regularly protected landed power from Andy Wightman / Green Party proposals), but also will have a subsection consulting on small land holdings, but with no publicly advertised political agenda.
    So yours slightly bemused

    1. So you joined every ‘SNP Bad’ dot you could find there, and you still could not find a conspiracy. Baffling, but maybe you just can’t fight irrational nonsense with more irrational nonsense.

  12. His lambs will be out on the hill with the rest of the flock in the common grazing, he has probably been given a percentage figure by the committee.

  13. Absolute nonsense and based on ignorance.

    Scotland as a country has one of the lowest biodiversity records.

    The sheep industry is subsidised because it is unsustainable and has degraded and wrecked habitats.

    Exactly why I don’t vote SNP.
    Their record on the environment and conservation is disgraceful.
    Vote Green.

    1. The Green Party in Scotland has been corrupted by a whole variety of minority vested interest groups that wouldn’t stand a hope in hell if they stood openly on thier own agendas, and green issues are secondary policy issues for them.
      They are predominately intellectually destitute without Andy Wightman.

      1. There are one or two decent SGP MSPs, but yes the environment is WAY down their priority list – just do a bit of screeching about climate change now and again and that’s the environment covered. A few years ago myself and another SGP member tried to get a resolution to do more about Scottish ‘sporting’ estates presented at the AGM. It didn’t even get as far as that, not relevant enough apparently, there were I think three or four proposals re transgenderism that year though. Quite a few people not happy within the party, but having to keep their heads down for now.

  14. Aye ye can get away with your cull, dont even think about it xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx, these Eagles can bring a lot more to us than you realise, just think about it. They were away for a long time, sadly missed as well, now theyre back you want to kill them, trchh

  15. If he can’t look after his sheep he should not be allowed to keep them, there are farmers across the country who bring their Sheep off the hills in spring to give birth in sheds to protect both the ewes and lambs at a sensitive time and there are also those who leave their flock to look after themselves and look to blame any predatory animal for any stillborn or accidental births, there was a book written on animal husbandry several centuries ago later turned into a fairy tale called three little pigs and taught to infants, it should be essential reading for any wannabe sheep and chicken farmers, not sure is Blackford a member of the SNP or the tory party

  16. I knew there was a good reason not to like that smug looking horrible little man and there it is.

  17. So then, ‘monoculture conservationists’: has anyone ever seen one? They must surely be an endangered species.

  18. It should be remembered Crofters are able to apply for public money to support their businesses under the Crofting Agricultural Grant scheme. It is doubtful many crofts would be viable businesses without this payment of public money. I would suggest that this scheme should be amended to bring it into line with the ELMS payments being introduced in England. That way only those crofters whose land management supports the environment/ wildlife and nature would be eligible for public money. From all the recent surveys it is very clear that the majority of people are very concerned about the environment and the demise of wildlife and nature. Demanding a cull of Sea Eagles to protect lambs clearly isn’t part of restoring nature, and therefore those who are demanding such activity should perhaps have their public funding removed?

    The responsibility should be on crofters to work with nature and adapt in order to allow nature to flourish.

    If my history is correct sheep farming wasn’t a traditional activity in Highlands but was a practice introduced by the estate owners in the late 18th early 19th century. I shouldn’t take a genius to work out that if sheep farming is a very recent introduction then the native wildlife will have had to adapt to accommodate this introduction of domestic farm animals- no doubt often helped by humans with their guns, traps and poisons! Maybe it is time for a decline in sheep farming and a return to more traditional Highland farming with cattle which I suspect will have had more in harmony with the native wildlife.

    It doesn’t surprise me Blackford is making a lot of noise about sea eagles. His outbursts in the House of Commons often sound like an over inflated bagpipe being played very loudly!
    I note Mr Blackford is an MP for Skye, yet holds the position of Leader of the SNP in the House of Commons.
    It is a long way from Skye to the House of Commons and I wonder how Mr Blackford is able to manage the running of his Croft in Skye (which is a full time job in itself) with his political responsibilities in Westminster 640 miles away?
    According to the Scottish Daily Express Mr Blackford claimed £239,300 in expenses in 2021 on top of his MP’s salary. (which is approximately £64,000 for a member of the Scottish parliament or £82,000 for an MP sitting in Westminster.)
    It would be interesting to know whether Mr Blackford is also in receipt of grants or payments under CAG to help run his crofting business?
    When considering just how much of tax payers money Mr Blackford is potentially receiving- the expression – milking the public purse comes to mind- perhaps Mr Blackford should consider dairy farming and leave the sea eagles alone, to be enjoyed by the public from whom he receives so much money!!!!

  19. “One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen”. Aldo Leopold.

  20. I think this is more hysterical propaganda from the SNP stooge. The SNP allow the establishment to pull their strings. There is no evidence to corroborate his claims. In these days with most people carrying smart phones that have good cameras, you would have thought at least one person could have taken a photo to support their claims. They are beneath contempt.

  21. As I have said frequently before: the only difference between the SNP and the Tories are the accents.

  22. Ian Blackford is the loudest voice in Parliament. He comes from a small constituency in the Hebrides and knows little or nothing about wildlife. What a relief if he kept quiet about sea eagles, a subject about which he knows absolutely nothing! J. Turner

  23. Get rid of the sheep. They are amongst the most environmentally damaging creatures introduced to the highlands. And how much money in grant aid does the likes of Ian Blackford get for keeping sheep. Her’s trying to present a Bambi approach to the killing of lambs, and some will fall for it, but he’s just as happy to see them go off to the slaughterhouse. And as for sea eagles taking puffins? Could someone explain to him what happens in the natural world!

    1. Bang on Cameron. As for ‘mono-culture conservationists’ what about ‘mono-culture common grazing’? caused by overgrazing by, er, publicly-funded sheep. Sadly, the SNP – for all its talk – is still in hock to landed interests. They simply cannot be trusted.

  24. Hill farmers make a choice; leave the sheep out on the hills to lamb and take the losses that naturally occur (loss to cold, birthing problems and predators/scavengers) – or bring them in to lamb in the barn and prevent the losses. It’s their choice so to complain about losses while making a choice that pretty much guarantees those losses will occur is pretty immature. An intermediate solution is to send a shepherd out with a shepherd’s hut to look after the sheep during lambing. An old but quite satisfying occupation. Again, it’s the farmers choice; look after your animals or abandon them to their fate…

    Apart from that, culls don’t work unless you can exterminate the whole population. And that’s actually very hard to do.

  25. Extract of evidence submitted by the Scottish Wild Animal Welfare Committee to the Scottish Government consultation on the Hunting with Dogs Bill stage one. 23 June 2022 (Evidence regarding sea eagle behaviour shows a similar picture to the figures for fox. )

    p4 https://www.parliament.scot/-/media/files/committees/rural-affairs-islands-and-natural-environment-committee/correspondence/2022/20220623_hwdb_sawc_followupsubmission.pdf

    “Early lamb mortality is a complex and multi-factorial issue and there is no doubt that, whatever the primary cause in each specific case, it is a significant animal welfare
    problem. Dwyer et al (2016) explored the primary factors causing lamb mortality
    including birth trauma; starvation and hypothermia, often related to a poor bond
    between ewe and lamb; infectious disease; and a number of other causes which are
    less prevalent, including congenital malformation, predation and accident. The
    paper also considered why, internationally, research on lamb mortality reduction has
    not been consistently implemented on farm. Across Scotland and elsewhere
    estimates of annual lamb losses, which can vary markedly between farms, are
    around 10-25% of lambs born, with 75% of losses occurring in the first three days of
    life.
    There is relatively little Scottish research to evidence the proportion of lamb losses
    caused by fox predation, but existing studies point to this being below 2% of lambs
    born. A Scottish Government report, Sheep attacks and harassment: research
    (Scottish Government, 2019) notes “there are limited recent empirical studies of the
    issue in Scotland; a situation that may in part reflect the difficulties involved in
    establishing causality in some sheep/lamb mortality.”
    Three papers are referenced in the Scottish Government report.
    Hewson (1984) identified predators in two small areas in the west of Scotland
    (Ardnish and Drimnin) as fox (1-16), badger (0-7), eagle (0-1 pair), buzzard (1-2
    pairs), raven (1-2 pairs) and crow (6-22 pairs). Foxes were estimated to have killed
    up to 1.8% of lambs born. This study considered that lamb predation provided foxes
    with only a small proportion of their food and that it was very rare to see actual
    predation.
    In a study of fox management in three different areas of England in 1995 (Heydon
    and Reynolds, 2000), where 24-60% of farmers reported predation by foxes during
    the previous year, the authors found that, as an average percentage loss of lambs,
    fox predation accounted for less than 1% (range 0-28.6%).
    In a separate study on two Scottish farms (1993-1996), confirmed losses due to
    foxes were 0.2% and 0.6% with maximum loss due to foxes up to 1.8% (White et al.,
    2000). This study concluded that fox predation was a relatively unimportant cause of
    death of lambs, in numerical terms, and of low overall financial impact.
    The Scottish Government research shows that farmers’ reports of attacks by wildlife
    suggest a higher prevalence than these loss figures would indicate. Overall, 64% of
    all sheep farmers in the survey indicated that, at some point, their sheep had been
    attacked, chased or preyed on by animals or birds other than dogs, with 37% stating
    that this had occurred in the past 12 months and most reporting multiple incidents.
    The estimated total number of incidents of wildlife (including corvids, foxes, eagles,
    gulls and skuas) attacking, chasing or preying on sheep in Scotland in the period 1
    May 2018 to 30 April 2019 was around 50,000, with the true figure likely to be in the
    range of around 45,000 to 55,000.
    It is important to note, however, as the report says, “these estimates are subject to
    wide confidence intervals and the limitations of any survey of this nature (not least
    because most life incidents are unobserved and farmers are generally only
    aware of incidents where the aftermath, such as the disappearance of a lamb or an
    injured sheep, is obvious). They should therefore be treated with extreme caution.”
    Studies at SRUC have shown that farmers in the UK were more likely to attribute
    lamb mortality to predation than any other cause, and in some cases their estimates
    of losses from predation exceeded actual lamb losses (as calculated from their own
    on-farm data).
    A recent study in Ireland (Shiels et al., 2021) also found that predators were
    considered the main cause of live-born lamb mortality, based on farmers’ own
    perception, even though most participants in the study lambed indoors. A follow-on
    study (submitted for publication) from post-mortem data following lamb mortalities
    suggested that almost no deaths were actually caused by predators in an Irish
    sample of farms.
    There can be difficulty in distinguishing between the after-effects of a predation
    incident and the scavenging of lambs that are already dead. Hewson (1984)
    includes a table of characteristics to help identify and evidence what has actually
    happened, noting, for example that finding a nose, ear or tail bitten off is associated
    with scavenging rather than predation. The Table is reproduced in the Scottish Government report.

    1. A very interesting report. This research has similar findings to other research in North America relating to predation by wolves on cattle, where ranchers often grossly over estimated or even fabricated the killing of livestock by wolves in order to justify the slaughter and eradication of wolves.
      This perhaps suggests the ultimate conclusion which could be drawn is that some farmers are blaming livestock loss on predators due to their own inherent bias and ignorance regarding that predator, when in fact the loss is more probably due to poor and inappropriate husbandry or simple natural biological causes which cause the lamb to be weak and die?

      The Farming Today program on Radio 4 covered the subject of the call for a cull of Sea Eagles.
      What was apparent was that NatureScot were offering all sorts of help to crofters to help manage livestock and reduce predation by sea eagles. This included things like lambing sheds, bird scarers etc.

      So one has to question why the likes of Blackford or MacNeil are whipping up the hysteria and prejudice against sea eagles rather than encouraging their constituents to work with NatureScot and engage in more sustainable crofting practices which help nature and wildlife?

      The deplorable and depleted state of nature right across the UK is something which scientific studies have indicated is indisputable.
      This poor state of nature is in part due to previous and current farming practices. Farming practices which are no longer acceptable and are something which have to change – hence the Westminster governments move to rural payments based on the idea of public money for public good.

      What I also don’t understand is why would Blackford and MacNeil not recognise that one of the attractions to the Highlands and West Coast of Scotland is the wildlife, including eagles, which have resulted in a massive tourist industry which brings in far more revenue to local economies than a few lambs on a croft?

      However, perhaps the words of the NatureScots spokesperson on the Radio4 interview indicate exactly why there should be not be a cull of sea eagles, when it was explained to listeners that the current population and distribution of sea eagles is still below the levels which previously existed before they were driven to extinction by human persecution.

      I can only conclude by suggesting that Blackford and MacNeil’s comments on wanting a cull on sea eagles are “a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”. Very fitting that this is a quote from Macbeth- a story set in Scotland!!!

    2. This reminds me of two studies, one quite old and the other recent. The old one is from 1969 by Ian Rowley “An Evaluation of predation by “crows’ on young lambs” (You’ll have to google the link) which was done in Australia and showed that crows feasted mainly on afterbirth, fecal matter and dead lambs, while occasionally finishing off dying lambs. Again, the farmers view that the birds were ‘killing’ their lambs was considerably exaggerated.

      The other study I found deep in Defra’s website while researching bovine TB (Decision-making research into farmers’ cattle purchasing behaviour… Endicott, 2020. Research report for Defra ZF0532) which showed a significant number of UK farmers regarding cattle catching TB as ‘bad luck’ rather than down to risky purchasing behaviours or poor bio security measures. I will add that not all farmers were like this – many are very good – but a significant proportion essentially refuse to take expert advice, look at the facts and data and modify their purchasing behaviour and husbandry practices to mitigate the risks. Farmers also grossly exaggerate the role of badgers in the transmission of bTB to cattle and have slaughtered c.150k of them with Defra’s own research showing that only 4% of culled badgers test positive for bTB with no data on infectivity.

      We cannot go on allowing farmers to destroy our wildlife based only on their prejudiced opinions as opposed to proper scientific research.

      1. Why isn’t the media putting all this information out there for the public. . . Oh hang let me guess, maybe the interests and power of the large farmers and the National Farmers Union!

  26. Hey Ian we eat all your sheep,well the ones you didn’t eat, thanks tasted nice, all the best Angus the Eagle.
    Better that than shipping them all down south. Happy days at least your no starving like some people are.
    Hey think about it we bring in the tourists which all of Scotland benifts from. Your free independent snp supporter friend the Eagle. Frrreeeedooom

  27. Big birds of prey catching and eating prey who would have thunk it . Oh its someone’s personally owned prey . I take it back eagle’s are bad land owners and mps are good.

  28. As usual it’s the same old argument, wildlife must fit in with humanity and not the other way round. It’s humanity who is expanding at an alarming rate and who are confining wildlife into ever smaller pockets. So when they collide with us, our answer is to cull them. Sheep farming has only been going on for hundreds of years, the eagles have been there for 10s of thousands. Wildlife populations only grow to to the available food!

  29. In Europe there are many breeds of large pastoral dogs, whose job it is to guard the flocks. They have thick impervious coats and live alongside the sheep, protecting them from predators. Nobody ever suggests that here, the knee jerk reaction is to kill. My neighbour will happily shoot anything’s that snaffles his veggies, instead of protecting them with mesh or netting. Why oh why is the first solution to kill, instead of to protect.

    1. With the introduction of legislation to protect wolves, lynx and other large carnivores the EU have commissioned and produced reports on how to mitigate conflict between livestock and these predators.
      As you point out traditional shepherding techniques feature within the range of options available.
      But which techniques are adopted all comes back to money.

      I would suggest that as large predators such as wolves have been absent from Britain since 1680 when the last one was killed in Scotland, then farmers in Britain have become used to managing their livestock without thought to reducing conflict between their animals and potential large predators.
      With the introduction of species such as the sea eagle then all of a sudden this issue arises, but it would appear there is no the longer the desire to manage flocks in a way that permits potential predators to coexist alongside vulnerable livestock, as this may result in additional costs to the farmer. Hence the immediate call for a cull, and reach for the shotgun.

      I would also argue that this issue is also aggravated by the stance taken by the NFU. One only has to hear Minette Batters to realise that protection of the environment, nature and wildlife will always play second fiddle to increased agricultural output, money and profit. It would appear that this then sets the farming agenda.
      Fortunately there are many farmers who recognise the importance that nature, wildlife and increased biodiversity play in maintaining a balanced, sustainable and healthy farming system where monetary gain isn’t the only motivation.

      It would appear to me that raptor conservation is heavily focussed on the illegal persecution of raptors by the game shooting industry, but the reports of raptors being illegally killed away from shooting estates also suggests that some in the farming community will also not tolerate their presence.
      Which may explain why some of our less enlightened politicians are calling for culls, or not wanting the police to properly investigate incidents of raptor persecution.

      I think a great deal of thanks should go to Ruth for raising these issues, as previously these matters never came to the publics attention, and the vested interests which operate within our countryside were able to elect and enjoy the unbridled support of the objectionable individuals who represent them.
      I would liken this to a circular system operating in the shadows, whereby vested interest elect politicians who are handsomely rewarded for ensuring nothing damages the status quo.

  30. The lambs he talks about are to be sold or killed for profit, and not because he, or anyone else, is focused on their wellbeing and giving them a good, long life.

  31. Blackford, like Loder (Dorset MP), has vested interests in man’s ruinous destruction of the planet. From the planting of non-native conifers, rearing then shooting game for pleasure (?), to farming unsuitable breeds of animals in unsuitable weather and lousy husbandry, with all of the above receiving vast grants from the impoverished tax-payer. I haven’t seen a comment on here from Roy Dennis. Shame, he could wipe the floor with these guttersnipes jumping on the bandwagon. Roy, we need your brilliant re-wilding to cover more parts of UK, like Cornwall. Then the benefits of WTEs can be seen for the majority of educated public, rather than the minority of ignorant public servants.

  32. There were photographs in the Scottish Farmer of a pair of white tail sea eagles in mid flight fighting over a lamb. One bird trying to steal the lamb from the other bird.
    As a retired farmer I have heard from others that these bird have also taken cats, small dogs ( pets ) and pups from farms and crofts.
    If nothing is done about this problem then sheep farming in certain areas will become unsustainable due losses caused by the birds and people will stop keeping sheep. Then where do the get their free meals? There was a reason why these birds were hunted to extinction and reintroduction was as my wife says ” guttering with nature “

    1. A photograph of two white tails sea eagles fighting over a dead lamb is not proof they killed it. It’s strange that most of the comments about the eagles taking small animals are hearsay, if it was so common you would have thought that these caring farmers would have seen it themselves. Regarding the reintroduction of these birds being ‘guttering with nature’ what their extermination wasn’t!?

    2. Sheep farming in many areas is already unsustainable and would not happen without public money thrown at it. Farmers tend to be Tories (i.e. free-marketeers), so why should they get subsidies AT ALL as subsidies, surely, are as about as Socialist as you can get? There were indeed reasons why WTEs were hunted to extinction: principally greed and ignorance. Sadly, the same greed and ignorance still seems to alive and kicking in the parts of the farming community today.

    3. We really don’t give a toss what your wife says. It seems she’s just as poorly educated as her husband.

  33. I live in the middle of sheep farming in the mountains of Wales and I can safely say, from personal experience, that the vast majority of sheep and lambs that die prematurely are lost through negligence and poor husbandry. The subsidy system allows farmers to minimise their input into farming and, like Blackford, concentrate on more lucrative sidelines. They spend very little time actually farming. They do, however, spend a lot of time hunting and killing most of the wildlife that has the nerve to try and exist in the area, including foxes, badgers, corvids, birds of prey and even rabbits. When I first moved here, many years ago, rabbits were in abundance but I haven’t seen one for over two years now. This is all done in the name of protecting the sheep, who are basically left to fend for themselves. The only time they show any interest in the sheep is when they are rounding them up to send off to some hell hole slaughterhouse to have their throats cut. Any sympathy I had for farmers has long since gone.

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