Fergus Ewing MSP & his shooting industry pals disregard sanctions imposed on Moy Estate for wildlife crime

Look at the state of this.

A tweet by Fergus Ewing MSP, former Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy, posted yesterday at the Scottish Gamekeeper Association’s stand at the Moy Game Fair. I wonder who he’s referring to when he says ‘We’? Is he speaking on behalf of the Scottish Government?

The Moy Game Fair is hosted by the Moy Estate. That’ll be the disgraced Moy Estate that had a three-year General Licence restriction imposed on it in June this year (see here) after Police Scotland provided evidence to demonstrate wildlife crime had taken place on the estate, notably the discovery of a poisoned red kite and incidents related to alleged trapping offences, although the estate has long been recognised as a raptor persecution hotspot (e.g. see here, scroll down to below the press release).

An estate gamekeeper has recently been charged with the alleged shooting of a sparrowhawk and is due in court in September.

Here is a map we created way back in 2016 to highlight the extent of raptor persecution crimes in Fergus Ewing’s constituency and this shows the concentration of incidents on and close to Moy Estate. There have been further incidents since this map was created, hence the General Licence restriction imposed this year:

Also ignoring the sanction for wildlife crime on Moy Estate is Scottish Land & Estates (SLE), the lobby group for game-shooting estates across Scotland, as demonstrated by this tweet yesterday from SLE’s North of Scotland Regional Coordinator, Fiona Van Aardt:

So here’s a senior politician from the SNP Government, the Scottish Gamekeepers Association and Scottish Land & Estates, all effectively sticking up two fingers to the Government’s policy of sanctioning estates for raptor persecution.

When the policy of imposing General Licence restrictions as a tool for tackling rampant bird of prey persecution was first introduced in 2014, the then Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse described the restrictions as being a ‘reputational driver‘. In other words, a sanctioned estate would not enjoy the benefits of being part of the shooting industry because the industry, with its claimed ‘zero tolerance’ approach to raptor persecution, would not wish to be associated with wildlife crime and this (hoped for) ostracization would stimulate a clamp-down on raptor-killing estates.

So much for that idea. It appears that the shooting industry, along with its political supporters, couldn’t give a monkeys. There’s been previous evidence of this on other so-called sanctioned estates (e.g. see here for examples).

Technically speaking, Mr Ewing and his shooting industry pals could argue that Moy Estate is not currently serving a General Licence restriction. How come? Well, because under the rules, if an estate appeals the GL restriction decision, the restriction is temporarily lifted whilst NatureScot considers the estate’s appeal. This is completely bonkers, of course, because a sanctioned estate has already had a chance to appeal the decision, when NatureScot first issues the notification for a restriction. But they’re then given another opportunity to appeal once the restriction has been imposed, and during that appeal process (typically four weeks) NatureScot removes the restriction so the estate can carry on as if the restriction never existed. I’m pretty sure that that’s what’s going on at Moy because the GL restriction decision notice for Moy Estate has been removed from the section of NatureScot’s website where currently-restricted estates are listed (here).

Although if Mr Ewing, the SGA and SLE were to rely upon this technicality, I don’t think that many people would view it as the shooting industry working in the spirit of wishing to stamp out raptor persecution, do you?

Scottish Gamekeepers Association plan awards ceremony at disgraced Moy Estate

Remember all those recent headlines from the game shooting industry, declaring a ‘zero tolerance’ stance against raptor persecution?

Well quelle surprise, it seems their interpretation of ‘zero tolerance’ isn’t quite the same as everyone else’s.

Last month Moy Estate, a shooting estate in the Monadhliaths was given a three-year General Licence restriction, imposed by NatureScot on the basis of evidence provided by Police Scotland of wildlife crime against birds, specifically the discovery of a poisoned red kite in 2020 (here).

It was just the latest in a long line of raptor persecution incidents reported on or next to Moy Estate for over a decade, and another court case is due to be heard this autumn.

For an example of the history, here is a map we created way back in 2016 to highlight the extent of raptor persecution crimes in former Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing’s constituency (given his strong support of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association) and this shows the concentration of incidents on and close to Moy Estate:

The General Licence restriction is a bit like putting a school into ‘special measures’ – a status applied by regulators to indicate the school has fallen short of acceptable standards, although the main serious difference here of course is that a General Licence restriction is imposed on the basis of wildlife crimes being committed on the estate, rather than merely a shortfall in standards.

The main idea behind the introduction of General Licence restrictions back in 2014 was that they would act as a “reputational driver” for those sanctioned estates, according to the then Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse (see here).

However, there has been no evidence that the game-shooting industry takes any notice whatsoever of such sanctions. For example, the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust hosted a guided tour and BBQ on ‘the renowned Corsehope Shoot‘ in June 2017, at the same time that this estate was serving a three year General Licence restriction for wildlife crime; Edradynate Estate bragged about “a belter season“ at the same time it was serving a three-year General Licence restriction for wildlife crime; and this estate was also endorsed by the British Game Alliance, the game shooting industry’s own ‘assurance’ scheme, membership of which is supposed to indicate ‘rigorous and ethical standards’, whilst the estate was under a General Licence restriction for wildlife crime (see here).

So it comes as no surprise to see that the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) is not only intending to have a stand at the forthcoming Highland Field Sport Fair hosted by Moy Estate (now rebranded as the Moy Country Fair, presumably in an attempt to make it more palatable), but the SGA is also planning an awards ceremony at the event to announce the winner of the SGA Young Gamekeeper of the Year Award as well as presenting various Long Service Medals!

You couldn’t make this up!

The Moy game fair has previously attracted the likes of former Cabinet Minister Fergus Ewing who used his attendance to give a rallying speech to the game-shooting sector (here) and Scottish Land & Estates (SLE) also usually has a stand. I can’t remember if Moy Estate is a member of SLE, but it’ll be interesting to see if SLE puts in an appearance this year.

General Licence restriction imposed on Moy, a grouse-shooting estate, after discovery of poisoned red kite

Press release from NatureScot, 21st June 2022:

General Licence restricted on Highland estate

NatureScot has restricted the use of General Licences on Moy Estate for three years

The decision was made on the basis of evidence provided by Police Scotland of wildlife crime against birds.

This evidence included a poisoned red kite found on the estate in 2020, and incidents in relation to trapping offences.

[Red kite. Photographer unknown]

Donald Fraser, NatureScot’s Head of Wildlife Management, said: “We consider the information from Police Scotland provides robust evidence that wild birds have been killed or taken or there has been intention to do so illegally on this land.

“Because of this, and the risk of more wildlife crimes taking place, we have suspended the use of general licences on this property for three years until June 2025. They may still apply for individual licences, but these will be closely monitored.

“NatureScot is committed to using all the tools we have available to tackle wildlife crime. This measure will help to protect wild birds in the area, while still allowing necessary land management activities to take place, although under tighter supervision.

“We believe this is a proportionate response to protect wild birds in the area and prevent further wildlife crime. We will continue to work closely with Police Scotland and consider information they provide on cases which may warrant restricting general licences.”

General licences allow landowners or land managers to carry out control of common species of wild birds, such as crows and magpies, to protect crops or livestock, without the need to apply for an individual licence.

In addition to this restriction, there are currently three other restrictions in place on Invercauld Estate in the Cairngorms National Park, Lochan Estate in Perthshire and Leadhills Estate in South Lanarkshire.

ENDS

The restriction notice reads as follows:

In line with NatureScot’s published General Licence restrictions: Framework for Implementing Restrictions we hereby give notice that a restriction has been applied to the land outlined in red overleaf. This restriction prohibits the use of General Licences 01, 02 and 03 on that land between 21st June 2022 and 21st June 2025.

Please note that this restriction does not imply responsibility for the commission of crimes on any individuals.

This one has been a long time coming. Moy is one of those estates where if its name comes up in conversation amongst raptor conservationists in Scotland, eyes tend to roll and knowing looks are exchanged. It has been identified as a raptor persecution hotspot for many, many years.

Here is a map we created way back in 2016 to highlight the extent of raptor persecution crimes in former Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing’s constituency (given his strong support of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association) and this shows the concentration of incidents on and close to Moy Estate:

Here is a selection of examples, but this is by no means an exhaustive list:

Moy Estate was raided by police in 2010 after the discovery of poisoned bait and dead raptors and illegally set traps. A gamekeeper was later convicted of possession of a red kite after its bloodied corpse was found in the back of his vehicle. It had two broken legs, consistent with being caught in spring traps, and a head injury. A bloodied shinty stick was also found in the back of the vehicle. Notably, the gamekeeper wasn’t convicted for killing the kite, just for having possession of it. Nobody was charged with killing this kite.

These baited traps were discovered on the moor (the illegally-set spring traps were originally disguised under moss, removed here for evidential purposes). No charges were brought.

The remains of two further red kites were discovered on the moor, including a severed red kite leg and some wing tags that had previously been fitted to a kite, all found buried in holes under some moss. No charges were brought.

A jar in one of the gamekeeper’s houses contained the leg rings of four young golden eagles – nobody could account for how they had ended up inside that jar. Perhaps he’d found them whilst ‘metal detecting at his uncle’s farm’ like gamekeeper Archie Watson, who recently gave this implausible explanation to the court for how he’d come to possess BTO leg rings from a buzzard and a red kite attached to his keyring.

This male hen harrier was found caught by its leg in an illegally-set spring trap on Moy Estate in 2010. No charges were brought. It survived after being rescued by raptor workers from the Scottish Raptor Study Group.

In May 2011 a satellite-tracked red kite ‘disappeared’ on Moy, and another one ‘disappeared’ in August 2011.

In 2016 Police Scotland issued an appeal for information following the discovery of disturbed and abandoned buzzard and goshawk nests in the Moy Forest. One goshawk and four buzzard nests were abandoned in suspicious circumstances, with some evidence of illegal disturbance. These nests were being monitored by staff from Forestry Enterprise Scotland (see here). No charges were brought.

In 2017 masked gunmen were caught on camera at a goshawk nest in Moy Forest. A few days later the nest and a clutch of four eggs was found abandoned (see here). No charges were brought.

In 2018 Police Scotland issued an appeal for information after a buzzard was found caught in an illegal pole trap in the Moy area (see here). No charges were brought.

In 2020 a poisoned red kite was found dead, containing traces of a banned pesticide, leading to a police appeal for information (here).

In 2021 an individual was charged with the alleged killing of a bird of prey in this area. This case is believed to be progressing through the courts so I can’t comment further at this stage.

Of course, a General Licence restriction doesn’t amount to much of a sanction in real terms, as I’ve discussed on this blog endless times before (e.g. see here). However, it’s currently the only tool available to the authorities until we finally see the introduction of the promised grouse moor licensing scheme by the Scottish Government. Had that scheme been in place already, we’d hopefully have seen the removal of Moy Estate’s licence to shoot for a number of years, if not permanently.

Meanwhile, what will be really interesting to see is whether the Moy Game Fair goes ahead this year, given that the shooting organisations have all claimed to have a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to raptor persecution. I don’t think the likes of Scottish Land & Estates, Fergus Ewing MSP and the Scottish Gamekeepers Association can expect anything other than high-level criticism if they attend this event on an estate that has now been sanctioned for wildlife crimes by the statutory nature conservation advisor, based on e

Evidence provided by Police Scotland. Mind you, the conviction of a gamekeeper on Moy Estate in 2011 didn’t stop them attending (see here and here).

UPDATE 14th July 2022: Scottish Gamekeepers Association plans award ceremony at disgraced Moy Estate (here)

UPDATE 6th August 2022: Fergus Ewing MSP & his shooting industry pals disregard sanctions imposed on Moy Estate for wildlife crime (here)

Freedom of information documents highlight gamekeepers, fox hunting and raptor persecution in 3 public forests

The Scottish animal welfare charity OneKind has today revealed that Forestry Land Scotland (FLS) is still permitting the use of fox-hunting foot packs in several public forests, partly for the benefit of privately-owned grouse shooting estates. These public forests also happen to be in well-known raptor persecution hotspots.

In a freedom of information response, FLS admitted allowing the fox-hunt foot packs to operate in three public woodlands near Inverness: Loch Farr Wood, Farr Wood and Meall Mor near Moy.

[Moy has long been of interest to this blog, mostly for the frequency of illegal raptor persecution incidents recorded there for over a decade. And then there’s this: a photo to illustrate the stupidity of setting fire to the moor for grouse management, a few hundred yards from some publicly-subsidised wind turbines!]

The FoI documents also reveal that FLS staff suspected that gamekeepers were visiting the forests to look for fox dens to block up, which also happened to be beside Schedule 1 raptor nests, some of which have been repeatedly attacked in previous years.

For example, in 2016 Police Scotland issued an appeal for information after one goshawk and four buzzard nests were abandoned in suspicious circumstances in Moy Forest (see here).

In 2017, also in Moy Forest, masked gunmen were caught on camera underneath a goshawk nest. The nest, containing a clutch of eggs, was mysteriously abandoned shortly afterwards (see here and here).

In July this year, Police Scotland appealed for information after a dead goshawk was found in Loch Farr Wood – this bird had been shot (see here).

The issue of fox-hunting is beyond the remit of this blog although I’d question whether a Scottish Government agency should be complicit in supporting the eradication of native predators for the benefit of driven grouse shooting, which is what appears to be happening here.

If you’d like to read more about OneKind’s freedom of information request and FLS’s response about fox-hunting, gamekeepers and raptor persecution in these public forests, please see the OneKind blog (here) and an article in today’s National (here).

Meanwhile, as the authorities seem unable to tackle raptor persecution in public forests, we’re all still waiting to see whether NatureScot will impose a General Licence restriction on Moy Estate following the discovery of a poisoned satellite-tagged red kite found on the grouse moor almost a year ago, in October 2020 (see here).

“It’s essential that we carry on with muirburn”, says Scottish Government’s Rural Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing

Climate emergency? What climate emergency?

Fergus Ewing, the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Tourism, was speaking at the Scottish Gamekeepers Association’s political hustings last Friday (and more on that soon!), and this is a direct quote from his two-minute position statement on what the SNP can do for gamekeepers:

It’s essential that we carry on with muirburn. We might come to that later. It’s absolutely essential to protect peatland. I’ve seen the Mars Bar film. I get it“.

Good grief. Let’s hope Fergus, if re-elected, isn’t part of the delegation attending the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow on 1 – 12 November 2021; a summit to bring together parties to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Meanwhile, as we wait to find out what the proposed muirburn licensing scheme will look like, post-Werritty, the grouse moors are once again being set alight up and down the country.

Here are some photographs of the moors on Lochan Estate in Strathbraan this week, sent in by a blog reader:

And not for the first time (see here, here and here), here is the grouse moor on Moy Estate in the Monadhliaths, set alight last week, perversely next to the wind turbines installed to to create renewable energy and thus reduce the carbon emissions that would otherwise be created from burning fossil fuels:

The ParkswatchScotland blog has also reported on grouse moors being set alight inside the Cairngorms National Park this week (see here).

But not to worry – we’re only in a climate emergency and these fires are just like having your hair cut. And besides, the Cabinet Secretary has watched an amateur video made by some gamekeepers to convince himself that muirburning “is essential“. Who needs scientific research, eh?

If you’re in England, where DEFRA has announced a pathetic proposal to ban burning on moorland that isn’t anywhere near as strong as it should be (see here), the RSPB has launched a burning reporting system where members of the public can report any upland burning that they see. Please report your sightings here.

Poisoned red kite found dead on Scottish grouse moor – an interesting police investigation

Further to yesterday’s news from Police Scotland that a poisoned red kite had been found dead on a Scottish grouse moor at Moy (see here), news has emerged that this bird was also being satellite-tracked, which has implications for the police investigation and any potential sanction imposed on the estate as a result.

An article in today’s Strathspey and Badenoch Herald (here) published a photograph of the young kite with two of its siblings when they were fitted with satellite tags in 2019. The article also notes that this kite was from the first brood to fledge in the Cairngorms National Park, and the first successful brood in the Badenoch & Strathspey area since 1880 (thanks to blog reader Dave Pierce for posting this as a blog comment yesterday).

[The three red kite siblings, fitted with satellite tags, in the Cairngorms National Park. Photo Scottish Raptor Study Group]

It’s not often, these days, that a poisoned satellite-tagged raptor is found (although there are some notable exceptions, including this satellite-tagged white tailed eagle, found poisoned on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park earlier this year).

Since satellite-tagging became more routine, poisoning offences have dropped considerably, presumably because the presence of a satellite tag increases the probability of crime detection. Instead, the shooting and trapping of raptors have become much more prevalent killing methods because the perpetrator has more control over the crime scene (and can thus remove evidence quickly). What we usually get with satellite-tagged raptors these days is a sudden and inexplicable ‘stop’ in the tracking data, and both the tag and the bird ‘disappear’, never to be seen again (well, only if the criminal has hidden the evidence of the crime properly, unlike in this recent case where a golden eagle’s satellite tag was discovered cut off and wrapped in lead [to block the signal] and dumped in a river).

So the discovery of this poisoned satellite-tagged red kite at Moy is unusual, but also very helpful. Depending on the type of tag and it’s ‘duty cycle’ (i.e. the frequency with which the tag had been programmed to collect and transmit data), information should be available to Police Scotland to inform them of the kite’s recent movements. For example, had it been on this grouse moor for several days (in which case the likelihood of it being poisoned there would seem high) or had it travelled in from a distance elsewhere shortly before dying, which might indicate it was poisoned elsewhere?

Much will also depend on the type of poison used (which hasn’t been disclosed) and the dose and the toxicity. We know from the Police press release yesterday that it was a banned poison (one of eight listed on the Possession of Pesticides (Scotland) Order 2005, which are Aldicarb, Alphachloralose, Aluminium phosphide,  Bendiocarb, Carbofuran, Mevinphos, Sodium cyanide and Strychnine) but some of these poisons are incredibly fast-acting and others are less so, which might also give clues to where the poison had been placed.

Information also hasn’t been released about whether a poisoned bait was found close to the poisoned red kite. Sometimes they are (especially if the poison used is fast-acting) but other times the bait is not present, which might suggest the bird was poisoned elsewhere and managed to fly some distance before succumbing to death.

In other cases bait has been found placed out on estate boundary fences – this has been a common ploy by some estates that aims to obfuscate a police investigation and point blame to an innocent, neighbouring estate where the poisoned bird may have been found dead.

For obvious reasons, the Police haven’t released much of the details because the criminal investigation is ongoing. However, it is these details that will inform the decision-making process at NatureScot (SNH rebranded) as to whether a General Licence restriction order should be imposed on Moy Estate after the discovery of this poisoned red kite.

As regular blog readers will know, General Licence restriction orders are pretty impotent because estates can simply circumnavigate them with applications for individual licences instead, but nevertheless, that’s not a reason for not imposing them where merited.

This’ll be an interesting case to follow.

UPDATE 22nd June 2022: General Licence restriction imposed on Moy, a grouse-shooting estate, after discovery of poisoned red kite (here)

Poisoned red kite found on Scottish grouse moor

Press release from Police Scotland (16th December 2020)

Appeal for information – poisoned bird of prey – Ruthven, Moy

Police Scotland has confirmed that a red kite found dead in the Ruthven area in October, had been poisoned with a banned pesticide.

[A poisoned red kite, photo by Marc Ruddock. NB: Not the poisoned red kite in this particular incident]

Further searches were carried out yesterday (15 December) with partner agency RSPB on hill ground near Meall a’ Bhreacraibh and Ruthven, Moy, in the northern Monadliath mountains.

No further poisoned raprtors or animals were identified.

Police Constable Daniel Sutherland, Highlands and Islands Wildlife crime Liaison officer, said:

Traces of a banned pesticide have been detected in a Red kite found in the area. This incident is sadly another example of where a bird of prey has been killed through ingestion of an illegally held poison.

I strongly urge anyone within the local and wider community to come forward with details on any information about this incident.”

Following consultation with the Scottish Government Rural Payments Directorate and the Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA), Police Scotland requests members of the public and any dog walkers to be cautious when walking in the surrounding area and the immediate vicinity. 

Anybody who has information about this incident, banned pesticide possession or misuse, or other information relating to raptor persecution please contact Police Scotland on 101 or pass on information anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

ENDS

This is a very good response from Police Scotland – a press release out the day after the police search and a clear warning to the public to be cautious in this area, especially if walking with dogs. The name of the banned poison isn’t given, probably for investigative purposes, but by telling the public it’s a banned poison we know it’s one of eight highly toxic pesticides (or perhaps a combination) listed on the Possession of Pesticides (Scotland) Order 2005, which are Aldicarb, Alphachloralose, Aluminium phosphide,  Bendiocarb, Carbofuran, Mevinphos, Sodium cyanide and Strychnine.

Now, about the location. According to Andy Wightman’s excellent Who Owns Scotland website, the area of land mentioned in the police press release is part of the Moy Estate in the northern Monadhliaths. Or at least it was when Andy compiled his data – it’s possible, of course, that there have since been boundary changes.

Regular blog readers will be familiar with the Moy area. Moy Estate was raided by police ten years ago after the discovery of poisoned bait and dead raptors and illegally set traps. A gamekeeper was later convicted of possession of a red kite after its bloodied corpse was found in the back of his vehicle. It had two broken legs and a head injury. A bloodied shinty stick was also found in the back of the vehicle.

The remains of two further red kites were discovered on the moor, including a severed red kite leg and some wing tags that had previously been fitted to a kite, all found buried in holes under some moss. A jar in one of the gamekeeper’s houses contained the leg rings of four young golden eagles – nobody could account for how they had ended up inside that jar. A live hen harrier was found caught by its leg in an illegally-set spring trap. It survived after being rescued by raptor workers.

No further charges were brought against anyone for any of the offences uncovered at Moy.

In 2016 Police Scotland issued an appeal for information following the discovery of disturbed and abandoned buzzard and goshawk nests in the Moy Forest. One goshawk and four buzzard nests were abandoned in suspicious circumstances, with some evidence of illegal disturbance. These nests were being monitored by staff from Forestry Enterprise Scotland. No charges were brought.

For previous blogs on Moy see here.

I would imagine, after this latest discovery, that Ministers in the Scottish Government who recently decided to press on with the introduction of a licensing scheme for grouse shooting estates, despite cries of ‘It’s unnecessary regulation!‘ and ‘It’s all so unfair!‘ from the shooting industry, can today feel vindicated that their decision was the right one.

They now need to get on with it and get it implemented ASAP, because this latest victim is evidence that raptor persecution continues, despite all the denials routinely chuntered out by the so-called leaders in the game shooting industry.

UPDATE 17 December 2020: Poisoned red kite found dead on Scottish grouse moor – an interesting police investigation (here)

Buzzard caught in illegally-set trap near Moy

Once again, we’re having to report on the deliberate persecution of a protected bird of prey in the Moy area of Highland Scotland, a well-known raptor persecution hotspot.

RPUK map showing location of Moy:

Police Scotland has issued the following appeal for information this morning:

Appeal after buzzard reported trapped south of Inverness

Police Scotland can confirm that an investigation is ongoing following a report of a trapped buzzard near Moy south of Inverness.

The buzzard was discovered by a member of the public earlier in October. However, following a subsequent search of the area by police the bird has not been located.

The trap was close to a fence near to a rough, marshy grazing area close to the B9174 and the national cycle path between Moy and Craggie.

Inspector Mike Middlehurst said: “This unfortunately appears to be an example of deliberate unlawful use of a legal trap to cause suffering to a bird of prey.

A lot of good work has been done in the Highlands and this has been a good season for raptors locally, so any evidence of continued persecution is disappointing.

The location next to the national cycle network path will hopefully help us identify anyone seen acting in a suspicious manner in the area.

Anyone seen near the fence lines, walking up the fence lines, placing articles on the fence posts would be of great interest to us.

We are appealing for anybody who has information about this incident or any other wildlife persecution in the Highland area contact us on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”

ENDS

The road number cited in the police press release appears to be inaccurate. The police say it is the B9174 but it looks like this should read the B9154 as this is the road that runs between Moy and Craggie.

Interestingly, Police Scotland has not published the pictures of the trapped buzzard, photographed by the member of the public who found the bird in distress. However, from the police press release, especially the penultimate sentence, it seems reasonable to conclude that this buzzard was caught in a pole trap. A pole trap is a spring trap that has been fixed to the top of a post. When a bird lands on it, the jaws of the trap smash the birds legs, often breaking them. As the trap is fixed to the post, the bird cannot fly away and it is left to dangle upside down, held by its legs, until it dies or until the trap operator comes along and kills it.

Here’s a photo from our archives of another buzzard that had been caught in a illegal pole trap. It didn’t survive its horrific injuries.

These are barbaric devices that cause immeasurable suffering and as such have been banned from use since 1904. However, pole traps are still routinely used as a weapon of choice on game-shooting estates as we see all too often (e.g. see here, here, here, here, here, here). Anyone caught using these traps deserves a lengthy custodial sentence. There is simply no excuse for such savagery in 21st Century Scotland.

We’ve blogged about raptor persecution in the Moy area many many times, including the illegal use of traps and reports of armed masked gunmen visiting the nest sites of protected species. Here are a few examples: here, here, here, here, here and just last year there was a report of another buzzard that had been caught in an illegally-set trap in this area (here).

[RPUK map showing the B9154 road between Moy and Craggie. The red dots are confirmed raptor persecution incidents in this area]

And of course, this grouse moor dominated area has also been identified as one of the hotspot areas where satellite-tagged golden eagles ‘disappear’:

Cabinet Secretary at Moy Game Fair: what message for the raptor killers?

The Moy (Highland) Game Fair kicks off today, where the great & good of the game shooting world gather to celebrate their activities.

Fergus Ewing MSP, Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity, will be there again this year, especially as this is bang slap in the middle of his constituency and he’s a big supporter of the game shooting industry.

We’ve often puzzled over the choice of venue for this event. The area has quite a history. In fact this region of the Monadhliaths, to the north west of the Cairngorms National Park, is one of the well known raptor persecution hotspots in Scotland.

Last year, Fergus Ewing rocked up to the Fair as usual, but his first time as a Cabinet Secretary. Have a watch of this video and listen to the strong message he gave to any raptor killing criminals that might have been listening. Not quite the message we might have hoped for from a senior representative of a Government that’s supposed to be big on stamping out raptor persecution, and in sharp contrast to the message given by another Cabinet Secretary earlier this year:

More moor burning at Moy – it’s simply perverse

The gamekeepers at Moy Estate are continuing to set the moor alight as part of their grouse moor management strategy. Here’s a photo taken from a train yesterday showing a fire on the Moy grouse moors.

moy-burning2-copy

This fire isn’t as extensive as the one at Moy we blogged about last week but it’s just as interesting.

Take a look at the right hand side of the photo and you’ll see some wind turbines. These are part of the 20-turbine Moy wind farm, built on the moors of Moy Estate, that became operational earlier this year.

The whole purpose of installing (publicly-subsidised) wind turbines is to create renewable energy and thus reduce the carbon emissions that would otherwise be created from burning fossil fuels.

Isn’t it a bit perverse, then, that the estate has also leased the moors to a shooting tenant whose (probably publicly subsidised) management techniques include the regular burning of heather? By burning the heather, the carbon-rich peaty soil is disturbed and exposed. As the soil dries out, the stored carbon decomposes and releases carbon dioxide in to the atmosphere, contributing to climate change.

Oh the irony.

%d bloggers like this: