Millden Estate (Angus Glens) gamekeeper convicted for animal cruelty in relation to badger baiting

The long-running criminal case against a gamekeeper from Millden Estate in the Angus Glens was partially completed yesterday.

Rhys Davies, 28, pleaded guilty at Forfar Sheriff Court to a number of offences relating to the keeping and training of dogs for animal fighting (badger baiting) and a failure to seek veterinary attention for dogs that had sustained serious injuries from those fights. He also admitted a number of firearms and shotgun offences relating to unsecured guns and ammunition.

[Convicted Millden Estate gamekeeper, Rhys Davies, at court yesterday. Photo by Ross Gardiner from The Courier]

This has been a long-running investigation that began back in May 2019. Unbelievably, Davies had submitted some photos to a printing company to be developed. Those photographs contained images of horrifically injured, disfigured and dead animals, along with a number of clearly identifiable individuals posing with spades at what looked to be fox dens and badger setts. Davies used his address at Millden Estate for the photo order to be returned.

Fortunately, the print developer recognised the serious nature of the images and reported the order to the Scottish SPCA.

In October 2019, the Scottish SPCA led a multi-agency raid on Millden Estate, and at another property in Aberdeenshire, where multiple pieces of evidence were uncovered during searches of gamekeepers’ houses and the wider estate.

Amongst other things, eleven dogs were seized from kennels at Davies’ cottage and from an outbuilding. Some dogs showed evidence of injuries, some fresh and others sustained previously. These injuries included a torn-off lower lip, extensive scarring and the lower face of one dog was missing. A collar tested positive for badger DNA.

Davies’ phone was seized and more images were found of harrowing animal injuries, GPS locations of where he’d been, and conversations with others in the gang discussing the fights, injuries sustained and comments about DIY veterinary attention.

One of these gang members, 32-year-old Liam Taylor of Deyhill, MacDuff, Aberdeenshire, was convicted last year for his role in this savagery (here).

Davies initially pleaded not guilty and his case was due to be heard in November 2020 but was adjourned, time after time (see here) until yesterday when he finally decided to plead guilty.

Davies’ defence agent, a QC, no less (I wonder who paid for that!) tried to plead for mitigation but the Crown Office Fiscal, Karon Rollo, made clear that Davies was a fully-trained gamekeeper (three-years college training) and had been employed as a gamekeeper for four years so knew exactly what he was doing. Sheriff Derek Reekie agreed and asked for social reports on Davies before sentencing in June 2022.

There’s a full court report by Ross Gardiner in The Courier here.

This case isn’t over yet. During the raid on Millden Estate in October 2019, a number of dead raptors were found stuffed in sacks at various locations. Police Scotland are dealing with this aspect of the case and I understand a separate court hearing will take place in relation to those birds.

Following yesterday’s conviction, I read a statement from an unnamed spokesperson at Millden Estate:

The estate does not condone or tolerate any illegal activity relating to the welfare of animals or wildlife.

We were shocked to learn of all the allegations when they came to light.

The employee involved was suspended by the estate with immediate effect and resigned a few days later when the police investigation was still at an early stage.

At no stage was the estate itself the focus of the investigation“.

I don’t think that last sentence is true at all; it looks like a damage limitation exercise to me. Millden Estate was very much at the centre of this investigation, with the search extending from gamekeepers’ houses, to outbuildings, gardens and the wider ground including the land used for grouse, pheasant and partridge shooting.

I’d also argue that Millden Estate has a lot of questions to answer, not least how underkeeper Davies was able to keep 11 dogs, many of them seriously injured, without his Head Keeper, other under keepers, the sporting agent, or anyone else noticing.

Millden Estate has been at the centre of a number high profile wildlife crime investigations over the years, including the discovery of a poisoned golden eagle (here) and the discovery of a fatally-injured golden eagle whose legs had been virtually severed in what was believed to have been a spring trap. The eagle was found several days later dumped in a layby away from the estate, having travelled overnight according to its satellite tag data (here).

I’ll come back to the history of Millden Estate, and a number of other relevant issues relating to this case, over the coming days.

Meanwhile, we all owe the Scottish SPCA a huge debt of gratitude for uncovering the grotesque crimes of gamekeeper Rhys Davies and his depraved mates. This was an intricate, detailed investigation and without it this gamekeeper would likely still be employed by Millden Estate, inflicting vicious, unspeakable brutality on wildlife and dogs.

I look forward to the Scottish Government pulling their finger out and finally (after 11 years of procrastination) granting extended powers to the Scottish SPCA to allow them to investigate more wildlife crime.

Previous blogs on this case can be read hereherehereherehereherehere, here

Trial delayed again for Angus Glens gamekeeper charged with animal fighting & cruelty offences

Further to the the blog post on Friday (here), where a gamekeeper from Millden Estate in the Angus Glens was due in court to face charges of alleged animal fighting and animal suffering, the case has been continued yet again, apparently at the behest of the gamekeeper’s QC.

This case has been dragging on for over two years and is related to the execution of a search warrant at premises on Millden Estate in October 2019, when Police Scotland and the Scottish SPCA seized dogs as well as a number of dead birds of prey.

The new trial date has been set as 11th April 2022.

Unfortunately as this is a live case I am unable to publish further details and can’t accept comments until proceedings have concluded. Thanks for your patience.

Previous blogs on this case can be read here, here, here, here, here, here.

Angus Glens gamekeeper in court today on animal fighting charges

A gamekeeper from the Angus Glens is due back in court today to face charges relating to alleged animal fighting and animal suffering.

These charges stem from a joint Scottish SPCA / Police Scotland search warrant which was executed on Millden Estate in October 2019 where a number of dogs were seized.

[A headline in The Times back in October 2019]

This case has dragged on and on and on (see here, here, here, here, here).

Hopefully today there’ll be some progress.

As this is a live case I won’t be accepting comments here until proceedings have concluded. Thanks for your patience.

UPDATE 6th December 2021: Trial delayed again for Angus Glens gamekeeper charged with animal fighting & cruelty offences (here)

New trial date for Millden Estate gamekeeper accused of animal fighting offences

A new trial date has been set for a gamekeeper from the Angus Glens who is accused of multiple offences relating to alleged animal fighting and animal suffering.

Property on the Millden Estate was searched under warrant in October 2019 in a joint SSPCA and Police Scotland investigation (see here), as well as a simultaneous search at another property in Aberdeenshire (more on that fascinating case once the Millden case has finished).

A number of dogs were seized during the raid and a Millden Estate spokesperson later stated the gamekeeper had been suspended pending further investigation (see here and here).

The gamekeeper was charged with animal cruelty offences and was due in court in December last year but the case was continued to May 2021 with a trial date set for June 2021 (see here).

[Headline from The Times in October 2019]

The trial date in June 2021 came and went (see here) and was further delayed. The new trial date is 3rd December 2021.

A number of dead buzzards were also reportedly found during the raid at Millden and I am currently waiting for Police Scotland to provide an update on that investigation. (The SSPCA is dealing with the alleged animal fighting offences, Police Scotland is dealing with the dead raptors).

As there are still live court proceedings, blog comments are restricted until the case has concluded. Thanks.

Animal cruelty charges follow SSPCA/Police raid on property at Millden Estate

In October last year the Scottish SPCA, supported by Police Scotland, executed search warrants at a number of addresses in Angus and Aberdeenshire as part of an intelligence-led investigation in to suspected animal fighting at those locations (see here).

A number of dogs were seized and an SSPCA investigator was later quoted as saying the dogs had ‘injuries consistent with animal fighting‘ (see here).

It later emerged that one of those raided properties was on the Millden Estate in the Angus Glens and that the estate had immediately suspended an employee pending further investigation (here). It was later reported that the suspended employee was a gamekeeper (here).

It was also reported that the police had recovered dead buzzards although the number of carcasses and the circumstances of the alleged discoveries were not reported.

[One of several newspaper headlines following the SSPCA/police raid in October 2019]

Since the raids there have been no further updates, until now.

A man has been charged with a number of alleged animal welfare offences. An inspector from the SSPCA’s Special Investigations Unit told me:

We can confirm that a report for Animal Welfare offences under Sec 19, 23 and 24 has been submitted to the Procurator Fiscal following a joint operation with Police Scotland in October of 2019“.

These offences relate to the Animal Health & Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006.

Section 19 concerns offences related to unnecessary suffering.

Section 23 concerns offences related to animal fights.

Section 24 concerns offences related to ensuring the welfare of animals.

This case was due to be heard last week but it has since been continued for another preliminary hearing on 11th May 2021 and a trial date has been set for 2nd June 2021.

In relation to the reported discovery of a number of dead buzzards I asked Police Scotland for an update on the investigation. Here is the statement released by the Police:

“We can confirm that a Police Scotland investigation remains ongoing in relation to search warrants which were executed at an address in Angus in October 2019. As part of these enquires, we can confirm that a 27-year-old man was reported to the Procurator Fiscal in relation to firearms offences. Officers will continue to work with the Scottish SPCA and partner agencies as the investigation continues.”

PLEASE NOTE, as there are live court proceedings and an ongoing investigation into other alleged offences, comments will not be published on this post until criminal proceedings have concluded. Thanks.

UPDATE 2 November 2021: New trial date set for Millden Estate gamekeeper accused of animal fighting offences (here)

New report suggests up to quarter of a million animals killed in traps & snares on Scottish grouse moors each year

Press release from League Against Cruel Sports (Scotland), 13th August 2020

Shocking new statistics show up to 260,000 animals killed each year on Scottish shooting estates to increase the number of grouse to be shot for ‘sport’

Charity publishes ‘Calculating Cruelty’, a field study of Scotland’s hidden shame

  • 57,000 killing devices deployed each day in Scotland representing the equivalent of over 10,000,000 active trapping and snaring days per year.
  • Up to a quarter of a million animals are killed each year in an attempt to totally eradicate foxes, stoats, weasels and crows to increase the number of grouse.
  • Nearly half of the animals killed are non target species such as hedgehogs, dippers and mistle thrush.

The League Against Cruel Sports Scotland has published the most comprehensive and robust field study of ground predator control on Scotland’s shooting estates. Over 15 months, an independent surveyor mapped the location and frequency of traps and snares set on seven shooting estates to calculate the true extent of animal killing as a result of predator control to sustain the driven grouse shooting industry.

Analysis of the survey data by a leading scientist concludes that up to a quarter of a million animals are killed every year to maintain high numbers of grouse for sport shooting, with nearly half of these non target species. The study also found that failure to comply with existing codes of practice is widespread on Scottish grouse moors, and that best practice guidelines produced by professional organisations that represent the shooting industry appear to serve little useful function.

Robbie Marsland, Director of the League Against Cruel Sports, Scotland said: “These figures have shocked and appalled us. This is the most comprehensive, quantitative study of predator control giving an illustration of the grim reality of Scotland’s grouse moors, where up to a quarter of a million animals are simply wiped out to ensure grouse numbers are kept artificially high.

Our report ‘Calculating Cruelty’ leaves us in absolutely no doubt that managing such large parts of Scottish moorland for an industry which makes a woefully low contribution to the economy is entirely misguided and outdated.

Between June 2018 and September 2019 a surveyor, with over 20 years experience of game management recorded the scale, distribution and use of legal grouse moor management equipment and practices. Using the Scottish right to responsible access, the estates were walked and all ground was viewed so that the items being specifically surveyed were likely to be found. All ground was covered at least once with all tracks and watercourses checked carefully. The estates surveyed were had various intensities of management practices, and included:

● Millden Estate, Angus

● Tillypronie Estate, Aberdeenshire

● Glenmazeran Estate, Inverness-shire

● Easter Clunes, Inverness-shire

● Kildrummy Estate, Aberdeenshire

● Invermark Estate, Angus

● Skibo Estate, Sutherland

The survey was carried out without the estates being notified so that the data were not biased by management practises changing as a result of the survey and no legally set trap or snare was interfered with in any way. This is the first time that such a widespread and detailed survey of estates has been undertaken.

The report published by the League, is part of a series of reports by the various partners of Revive, the coalition for grouse moor reform, a campaign group bringing together social justice, environmental and animal welfare organisations. Since its inception in 2018 Revive has shone the spotlight on the circle of destruction surrounding driven grouse moors, campaigning for their radical reform.

Robbie Marsland added: “The enormity of the figures produced by the data in this report is simply staggering. The League and our partners in Revive, the coalition for grouse moor reform think it is unconscionable to kill any animal, let alone up to a quarter of a million, to ensure that hundreds of thousands of grouse can then be shot for ‘sport’.

Driven grouse shooting is surrounded by a circle of destruction which is Scotland’s hidden shame. This cruelty and willful disregard for the environment and our wildlife needs to stop once and for all starting with a complete ban on all snares and traps.


The League has published two new reports, ‘Calculating Cruelty’ and ‘Hanged by the Feet until Dead’, both of which can be downloaded below:

Calculating Cruelty

Hanged by the Feet until Dead

A copy of both reports has been sent to every MSP in the Scottish Parliament.

There is also a short video highlighting the key findings of this study:

38 Degrees has launched a new petition, ‘Stop grouse shooting’s war on wildlife‘ which can be signed HERE

There has been the usual criticism of these two reports by the game shooting industry although so far this criticism appears to be focused on personal and defamatory abuse of one of the report’s lead author Professor Stephen Harris rather than any criticism of substance about the reports’ actual findings. This is what we’ve all come to expect – anybody who dares try to shine a light on the murky practices of this industry immediately becomes a target and attempts are made to smear, distort, misrepresent and undermine that person’s professional and personal integrity.

Read the reports for yourselves, look at the eye-watering number of traps recorded on some of these estates and judge for yourselves whether this level of intensive and largely unsupervised slaughter of wildlife, to facilitate a ‘sport’, is acceptable in modern Scotland.

You’ll notice Millden Estate in the Angus Glens was one of the seven estates surveyed, and also reported as the most intensively-managed of all seven. That won’t be a surprise to many readers as this area has been accurately described by Chris Townsend as ‘savaged, stripped and blasted land’ (see here for some shocking photos).

Millden has featured on RPUK many times and readers may recall the most recent Millden blog – last October there was a huge multi-agency raid for suspected animal fighting and during that raid a number of dead raptors were also discovered and as a result a gamekeeper was suspended (see here, here and here).

We understand that cases are progressing on the animal fighting allegations as a result of the SSPCA investigation but it is not known whether any of the wildlife crime allegations are progressing – these are apparently being investigated by Police Scotland.

More detail emerges about SSPCA/Police Scotland raid at Millden Estate

A couple of weeks ago the Scottish SPCA, assisted by Police Scotland, conducted a pre-dawn raid on properties in Angus and Aberdeenshire as part of an investigation in to suspected animal fighting (see here).

This story has attracted huge media attention and more details have been emerging as journalists begin to dig.

The first insight came when journalist David Leask from The Herald exclusively revealed that the property raided in Angus was the Millden Estate, a grouse shooting estate in the Angus Glens (see here). We learned that as a result of the raid, the estate had suspended an employee pending further investigation.

We’ve now learned that the suspended employee was apparently a gamekeeper, according to this article by Charlie Parker in The Times, published two days ago: (see copy of article at foot of this blog)

Some may already have made the assumption that the suspended employee was a gamekeeper but this wasn’t previously clear; Millden Estate employs multiple people in multiple roles and they’re not all gamekeepers (e.g. in the Millden Estate 2011 sales brochure 16 employees were listed).

We’ve also learned something else about this raid. It had previously been reported that the SSPCA had seized dogs during the raid at Millden but their condition was unreported. However, according to this article by Jim Millar in The Courier, an SSPCA spokesperson is quoted as follows:

We were made aware of animal fighting and secured a warrant to investigate further. This has been a successful raid and we are happy with the outcome. We have seized a number of dogs, which have injuries consistent with animal fighting and taken them into our care where they are getting all the love and attention they need“.

There is still no further detail about the dead buzzards that were reportedly recovered by the police/SSPCA, nor any indication of how they died.

We’ll await further information as and when the investigating authorities publish it. At this stage we are not aware of anyone being charged with any offences.

Sorry but as this is a live investigation we won’t be accepting any comments on this post.

UPDATE: Here is the text of the article in The Times:

A gamekeeper at Scotland’s most prestigious shooting estate is the subject of an investigation into organised animal fighting, The Times has learnt.

The Scottish SPCA last week led raids at two private lodgings on the £17.5 million Millden Estate in the Angus Glens. Specialist officers, backed by police, recovered computer equipment and dead buzzards among other evidence after obtaining warrants to search the properties.

They were said to be acting on intelligence gathered on animal fighting activities. Dogs and several other animals are understood to have been rescued in the operation.

Sources familiar with the raids said a gamekeeper was being investigated as part of the inquiry but no arrests have been made.

Millden Estate confirmed it immediately suspended a staff member after being contacted by officers but stressed that the investigation concerned an individual and not the estate itself.

The estate was recently visited by Alan Werritty, who is leading a Scottish government review of grouse shooting. He looked at Millden as an example of best practice for managing moors.

Robbie Marsland, director of the League Against Cruel Sports, which assisted the Scottish SPCA in its investigation, said: “We look forward to anyone found responsible experiencing the full weight of the law.”

A spokesman for Millden Estate said it was carrying out its own internal investigation. He added: “The estate will continue to liaise with the appropriate authorities. It has a robust system of compliance with the law including a zero tolerance approach to any wildlife offences or animal welfare issues.”

The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: “If the allegations are correct, this type of abhorrent organised activity will not be condoned by anyone associated with gamekeeping.”

The Scottish SPCA issued a formal statement on Monday saying it had conducted raids in Angus and Aberdeenshire after intelligence led to concerns for the safety of dogs and wild animals. An undercover officer in its special investigations unit said: “We uncovered intelligence to suggest illegal animal fighting was taking place at these locations.”


UPDATE 3 December 2020: Animal cruelty charges follow SSPCA/Police raid at property on Millden Estate (here)

UPDATE 2 November 2021: New trial date for Millden Estate gamekeeper accused of animal fighting offences (here)

Millden Estate named in joint SSPCA/Police raid as part of investigation in to suspected animal cruelty

Further to Monday’s blog about a joint Scottish SPCA/Police Scotland raid on various properties as part of an investigation in to suspected animal fighting (here), it has emerged that one of the addresses was the Millden Estate in the Angus Glens.

An exclusive article by journalist David Leask is on the front page of this morning’s Herald and reads as follows:

This looks to be a significant investigation, led by the Scottish SPCA and supported by Police Scotland, with input from other partner agencies including the RSPB.

Further updates will be posted as they become available.

Please note, as this is a live investigation we will not be accepting any comments on this blog.

UPDATE 2 November 2021: New trial date for Millden Estate gamekeeper accused of animal fighting offences (here)

Scottish SPCA & Police raid suspected animal fighters in Angus

Press release from Scottish SPCA and Police Scotland, 14th October 2019

Double swoop on suspected animal fighters

Numerous dogs have been seized by the Scottish SPCA following two simultaneous raids at different addresses in Scotland

Working in partnership with Police Scotland, the Scottish SPCA led raids at an address in Angus and an address in Aberdeenshire last week. Scotland’s animal welfare charity acted on intel gathered on animal fighting activities in both areas.

An undercover officer in the Scottish SPCA’s special investigations unit (SIU) said: “We uncovered intelligence to suggest illegal animal fighting was taking place at these locations. With serious concerns about the welfare of both the dogs and wild animals being subjected to this, we worked with the police and external partners to raid both addresses. We’ve seized several animals and will be checking on their condition.”

Offences such as this are incredibly difficult to investigate as they are very well-guarded by those involved. Our expertise, in conjunction with the police, has proven to be invaluable to tackling these underground crimes.”

This is the latest in a string of animal fighting cases the Scottish SPCA has taken on recently. The Society is taking the fight to anyone engaging in this barbaric practice and sending out a clear message that it is not acceptable.”

As it is an ongoing investigation, we are unable to give any more specific information at this time.”

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Officers supported the Scottish SPCA in relation to search warrants at an address in Angus and an address in Aberdeenshire. Officers from Police Scotland will continue to work with the Scottish SPCA and partner agencies.”

So far this year, the Scottish SPCA has taken an average of a call on animal fighting every other day. Approximately 50% of the jobs the charity’s SIU take on relate to it.

The investigation continues.


You may be wondering why we’ve posted a press statement about suspected animal fighters on this blog. Unfortunately we’re not able to comment further at this stage but it will become apparent in due course if this case progresses.

As this is a live investigation and a potential case of huge significance, we won’t be accepting any comments.

We’ll be blogging updates when they become available.

UPDATE 17 October 2019: Millden Estate named in joint SSPCA/Police Scotland raid as part of investigation in to suspected animal cruelty (here)

UPDATE 21 October 2019: More detail emerges about SSPCA/Police raid at Millden Estate (here)

UPDATE 3 December 2020: Animal cruelty charges follow SSPCA/Police raid at property on Millden Estate (here)

UPDATE 2 November 2021: New trial date for Millden Estate gamekeeper accused of animal fighting offences (here)

UPDATE 3 December 2021: Angus Glens gamekeeper in court today on animal fighting charges (here)


Minutes of meeting between Cairngorms National Park Authority & Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association

ALMDLast month we blogged about a comment that had been made during an official meeting between the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) and the SGA. The comment came from a CNPA Board member (Eleanor Mackintosh) who was advising the gamekeepers to ‘cover up’ dead mountain hares so that photographs of the corpses couldn’t be published on social media (see here).

That meeting between the CNPA and the SGA was triggered by the SGA’s anger over a blog that had been written by Will Boyd Wallis (CNPA’s Head of Land Management & Conservation) in August, where Mr Boyd Wallis had raised legitimate concerns about some aspects of intensive grouse moor management (see here).

The SGA was furious about that CNPA blog, for a number of reasons (see below). The SGA asked for a meeting with the CNPA to discuss these concerns and the meeting was arranged, apparently after the ‘intervention‘ of Fergus Ewing MSP, who is Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy & Connectivity, but whose remit does not cover the National Parks (Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham has responsibility for the National Parks).

Chairman of the SGA, Alex Hogg, wrote to the CNPA requesting a meeting. We got a copy of his letter via an FoI request and here it is: sga-letter-requesting-mtg-with-cnpa-sept-2016

It’s an entertaining read. In it, Alex claims there’s no need for concern about the potential environmental harm of dumping tonnes of medicated grit on to the grouse moors because there’s no scientific evidence to show any damage. He also suggests that if the CNPA was concerned about potential environmental damage then the CNPA would be looking at the issue of dogs and livestock (which have also been wormed) defecating all over the Park. Hmm. If dogs and livestock had been wormed every day with a drug that was 10-20 x the strength permitted for use in the UK, and those piles of faeces were placed at every 100 metres across the grouse moor, for up to eight months of the year, as are piles of medicated grit put out for red grouse, then he might have had a valid point. Unfortunately for Alex, there is growing scientific evidence that the drug used in medicated grit (Flubendazole) is actually highly toxic to some aquatic organisms (e.g. see here) and, given the extent of its use on intensively managed grouse moors, this is exactly why Leeds University is offering a PhD scholarship to examine this issue in more detail (see here).

Anyway, on to the actual meeting itself. This took place on 29 September 2016 at Glenlochy in the National Park (an interesting choice of venue given the raptor persecution crimes that have been recorded in the area). In attendance were several representatives of the CNPA, several from the SGA, including Bert Burnett, some gamekeepers, and local SNP councillor Geva Blackett, who used to work as the SGA’s Parliamentary Officer many moons ago and who is married to Simon Blackett, the (now retired) Estate Factor at Invercauld Estate.

The minutes can be downloaded here: minutes-cnpa-sga-mtg-29-sept-2016

These minutes are well worth a read, not just because they expose the buffoonery of the SGA, but also because they provide an insight to the astonishing display of deference from the CNPA officials towards the SGA.

The meeting covered many topics and we won’t go in to all of them here because you can read them for yourselves and have a good giggle (whatever you do, don’t diss red grouse by calling them willow grouse!). The main thing we want to focus on is the discussion about gamekeepers getting licences to monitor and ring raptors and waders within the National Park.

Geva Blackett is pushing the CNPA to support this idea, and according to Bert Burnett, “no training is needed”. He really doesn’t have a clue, does he?!  The CNPA seems equally as ignorant, claiming that they’d like to support this initiative because they’d like to know about raptor numbers within the Park. Er, have they not heard of the award-winning Scottish Raptor Monitoring Scheme? A multi-partner scheme that holds all the raptor monitoring data collected across Scotland? Apparently not.

What’s even funnier about the SGA’s demands to get licences is that just this week, Bert Burnett and a couple of his cronies (including a convicted falcon thief) have launched a social media campaign designed to portray raptor fieldworkers in a negative light. They’ve trawled the internet and come up with some old photographs of raptor tagging activities (one photo is at least 13 years old!) and have made wholly unsubstantiated allegations about the behaviour of those featured in the photographs (unbeknownst to Bert, one of the photographs is actually from a project in North America, not from Scotland!). Apparently, these nest visits cause birds to desert. Hmm. And the evidence for that is where, exactly?

Bert has also claimed that raptor monitoring, ringing and tagging is “completely unregulated and those doing it are totally non accountable for their actions”. This exposes Bert’s lack of knowledge about the training and qualifications needed for this work, and also his ignorance about the high level of reporting required by the licensing authorities.

Strange, isn’t it, that if Bert thinks all this monitoring and ringing is ‘bad’, that at this meeting with the CNPA he is pushing for gamekeepers to be issued with licences to do the same work!

And if Bert/the SGA and co are so upset about satellite-tagging, why are they not kicking off about the GWCT’s woodcock satellite-tagging project?

And if Bert/the SGA and co are so upset about the ‘welfare’ of satellite-tagged golden eagles, why do we never see them kicking off about eagles that have been found poisoned, shot or trapped on driven grouse moors?

What is obviously going on here is a desperate little smear campaign designed to coincide with the forthcoming review of raptor satellite tag data, as requested by Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham (see here). This review, due out in the spring, is expected to be damning. We already know that many satellite-tagged raptors ‘disappear’ on grouse moors, and we also know that many satellite-tagged raptors have turned up either poisoned, shot or trapped on grouse moors. This review will pull all of those data together and it is predicted to be a shocking read.

The SGA knows this, hence these latest tactics to try and discredit the raptor workers.

Now, what was it that Tim (Kim) Baynes of the Scottish Moorland Group told that parliamentary committee last week? Ah yes, it was this:

We would very much like to see greater cooperation between ourselves, the Raptor Study Groups and the RSPB“.

It’s pretty clear the SGA has not received this message, or if it has, it’s chosen to ignore it.

But you carry on, Bert, because what you’re doing is political suicide. By asking your cronies to send (no doubt illiterate, baseless rants) to Roseanna Cunningham, complaining about Scottish Raptor Study Group members, she will see that the SGA is trying to undermine her review of the satellite tag data, and she’ll also recognise that the SGA’s claims of ‘partnership working’ with other members of the PAW Raptor Group are nothing more than lip service. PAW partners? Piss-poor partners, more like.

Photograph: dead golden eagle ‘Alma’, found poisoned on a grouse moor on Millden Estate in the Angus Glens. Her corpse was only found because she was wearing a satellite tag, fitted by Scottish Raptor Study Group member and internationally-recognised expert Roy Dennis. It’s no surprise then, that the SGA wants to put a stop to satellite-tagging.

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