Back in September, Scottish Environment Minister Mairi McAllan was taken to visit a grouse moor in the notorious Strathbraan area of Perthshire.
Regular blog readers will know that Strathbraan is dominated by a number of estates with driven grouse moors and the area has been identified in a Government-commissioned report as being a hotspot for raptor persecution, particularly golden eagles, of which at least seven have ‘disappeared’ in recent years, including one whose tag was found a few years later, wrapped in lead sheeting (to block the signal) and dumped in the river (here).
[Utterly depressing intensively-managed grouse moor in Strathbraan. Photo by Ruth Tingay]
And then there was the suspicious disappearance of a white-tailed eagle (here), an illegally-trapped hen harrier called Rannoch (here), the suspicious disappearance of a hen harrier called Heather (here), the illegally shot peregrine (here), the long-eared owl held illegally in a trap (here), the ~100 corvids found dumped in a loch (here), the failed raven cull demanded by Strathbraan gamekeepers but thinly-disguised as something else (here), the subsequent illegal shooting of two ravens on two separate grouse moors in Strathbraan, the post mortem of one of them showing that not only had it been shot, it had most likely been stamped on repeatedly (here), and most recently the three-year General Licence restriction imposed on a Strathbraan grouse-shooting estate for wildlife crimes (here), a decision based on evidence provided by Police Scotland.
It’s quite the location, isn’t it? How odd then, that Scotland’s Moorland Forum would chose to take the Environment Minister for a visit. What was the purpose?
Judging by this tweet from Hugh Raven, it was to show the Minister ‘the skilled moorland management‘ at Auchnafree Estate, among ‘the beautiful Perthshire hills‘. Good grief.
I wonder if they talked about the ongoing raptor persecution in the Strathbraan area? And did they discuss the suspicious disappearance of the two satellite-tagged golden eagles, Adam & Charlie, who both vanished without trace on Auchnafree Estate on 18th April 2019?
When challenged about the visit on Twitter by the Scottish Raptor Study Group, Hugh claimed the estate had been “fully exonerated“:
“Fully exonerated“? Really? By whom?
As I wrote at the time of Adam and Charlie’s suspicious disappearance, there was no evidence found during the subsequent police search to suggest that Auchnafree Estate employees were involved. Is that the same as being “fully exonerated“?
The ‘skilled moorland management’ at Auchnafree Estate was in focus again this morning on the BBC’s Farming Today radio programme. The head gamekeeper was recorded talking about the so-called benefits of grouse moor management on the estate; an opinion that went unchallenged by the BBC presenter accompanying him on the moor.
Funnily enough, I didn’t hear any discussion about illegal raptor persecution on the grouse moors of Strathbraan nor any mention of our two missing golden eagles on Auchnafree Estate.
Fortunately, Max Wiszniewski (Campaign Manager at REVIVE, the coalition for grouse moor reform) was invited on to the second part of the programme and spoke well about the economic, environmental and societal limitations and damage of grouse moor management. Well done, Max!
The programme is available to listen to for 29 days here (starts at 06:15 mins).