Mr Alex Hogg – Chairman of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association.
Had it not been for the Raptor Persecution Scotland’s blog, most people in England and elsewhere across the world would never have heard of Alex Hogg, (Chairman of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association), or this man’s hypocritical opinion of raptors which in his view their numbers throughout Scotland need to be controlled. As if the plight of Scotland’s raptors was not bad enough, Mr Hogg talks about raptors for all the wrong reasons leaving very little doubt in anyone’s mind as to which side of the fence he stands when it comes to his support for an integral and important part of Scotland’s wildlife heritage.
Just in case anyone remains unconvinced about Alex Hogg’s campaign and resolve to persuade the Scottish parliament of the need to control numbers of raptor in Scotland, read the following news story feathered today 23rd September in the Daily Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/scotland/7971788/Gamekeepers-attack-ministers-over-raptor-control.html?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter
Raptor Poisoning in Scotland on the increase.
Incidents of raptor poisoning on Scottish shooting estates appears to be increasing and certainly the number of dead birds recovered represents just the tip of a larger ice-berg bringing shame of Scotland’s national reputation.
Significantly and just as important, despite a great deal of police time and resources being spent to trace and bring to justice those criminal responsible, it is disappointing very few individuals are being brought before the courts to answer for their criminal activities. This fact demonstrates that existing wildlife legislation in Scotland requires an urgent upgrade if these serious crimes against wildlife are ever going to be addressed satisfactorily. Certainly both the Scottish and English parliament need to look closely at making estate owners responsible for the illegal actions of the gamekeepers they employ.
The details contained within this article highlight the Victorian views of individuals like Alex Hogg together with the number of eagles found poisoned in Scotland and those estates where they were found poisoned since 2006. This important information has been re-published below thanks to Raptor Persecution Scotland, who thankfully have their eye and finger very much on the pulse of raptor persecution throughout Scotland. This important and damaging information is being published by Raptor Politics to highlight this truly dreadful detail more widely in the hope the Scottish government and their MP’s may begin to head public concerns and take appropriate action sooner, rather than later to address what is taking place on many of Scotland’s rural shooting estates. It comes as no surprise that in some parts of Scotland viable populations of golden eagles no longer exist resulting from their continued and sustained persecution. There is now clear evidence of decline in areas where illegal poisoning continues in the uplands of Scotland. According to recent figures published by the RSPB in Bird Crime 2009, since 1990 at least 23 golden eagles alone are known to have been poisoned throughout Scotland.
8 Golden Eagles and 3 White-tailed Eagles Poisoned in Scotland in the last 5-years.
To read more precise information of numbers of golden eagles and white-tailed eagles together with the names of estates where they were poisoned since 2006, by all means go to the end of this article. We extend our thanks once again to Raptor Persecution Scotland for providing the bulk of information and statistics published below.
Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) bill.
Many individuals both in this country and abroad will be totally unaware that on the 9th June 2010 the Scottish Government introduced the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) bill to parliament.
The purpose of this bill is to modernise game law, abolish the designation ‘areas of special protection’, improve snaring practice, regulate invasive non-native species, change the licensing system for protected species, amend current arrangements for deer management and deer stalking, strengthen protection of badgers, change how muirburn can be practised, and make operational changes to the management of Sites of Special Scientific Interest.
The bill (as introduced) can be seen here.
The Rural Affairs and Environment Committee has been appointed the lead committee to scrutinise the bill and as such has called on various bodies to provide views on the general principles of the bill.
Written submissions can be read here.
Naturally the most important issue on this bill, from a raptor conservation aspect, will be any change to the licensing system for protected species which could theoretically pave the way for the licensed killing of raptors in Scotland.
In a change to the usual passage of such bills the 18th meeting was held in The Buccleuch Centre in Langholm on 7th September 2010 . A full transcript of the meeting can be viewed here.
(The most relevant discussion involving raptors commences at col 2991)
Alex Hogg (chairman of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association) had much to say on the subject of the licensed killing of raptors and ravens. Mostly anecdotal and unsubstantiated. Mr Hogg pleaded his case saying -
I only have a problem with young rogue buzzards. If I could deal with those specific ones, the problem would stop, I am quite sure. A lot of money would be lost to the rural economy if every shoot in Scotland ended up losing poults. A pheasant poult is worththe same as a lamb—it is worth about £35 when it is shot, and that is a huge amount of income for the rural economy. All that we are asking for is something to deal with specific rogue birds. We do not feel that a huge number would be involved,
Mr Hogg forgot to mention that his last application to the Scottish Government was to kill 12 buzzards on his estate alone, is that a few rogues? and that multiplied by the number of shooting estates in Scotland! Mr Hogg also omitted to expand upon his valuation of his pheasant poults. On an average pheasant shoot the number of pheasants shot is (optimistically) around 50% of the number of poults released so Mr Hogg’s pheasant poultis actually worth£17.50 As he already stated that his employers shoot is a small family operation, i.e. non commercial, it could be argued that they are in fact worth considerably less.
Mr Hogg went on to rant about the “fantastic” number of raptors in Scotland. He obviously fails to mention the vast tracts of Scotland’s uplands where no raptors exist at all, these areas being generally termed “grouse moors”.
We have worked hard to reduce wildlife crime, and anybody who is caught poisoning any birds of prey will be thrown out of the SGA. Nevertheless, I point out that the numbers of birds of prey in Scotland are at a fantastic high. We have 440 pairs of golden eagles and more than 700 pairs of harriers, whereas there is nothing in England at all. Our raptor population has not stopped rising since the 1960s. The incidence of bird poisoning rose last year, but I am sure that, through peer pressure over the next couple of years, it will go down to nearly zero, although we will not get rid of poisoning. It is like rape and murder—it will always be there. We will try our hardest to drive it out of the country. However, we also need some means of managing the raptor population, the raven population or whatever population we are trying to balance with our work in the countryside.
Mr Hogg is always telling us that poisoned raptors are planted on shooting estates and gamekeepers are blameless scapegoats therefore it’s hard to understand why he thinks that peer pressure will stop raptor poisoning. As for “working hard to reduce wildlife crime” if the SGA worked as diligently on stamping out raptor persecution as they have in trying to legalise it then our countryside would be a lot healthier and diverse than it is at present.
Mr Hogg’s finale was his roadmap to stop wildlife crime in Scotland which can basically be summarised as “give me my licence to shoot buzzards and wildlife crime is a thing of the past” !
I feel that wildlife crime would stop in the next two or three years if we could address the question that Mike Russell asked, which was how many is too many. How many hen harriers does Langholm need? How many raptors, ravens, rabbits or whatever does an estate need? An estate needs to be managed and kept in balance with nature. It is dead easy to make a political decision about enforcement—to say, “We should jail people for 20 years”—but we should try to get people around a table to try to get them to come to a commonsense solution that everyone will benefit from. People who are involved in wildlife tourism, grouse shooting and the private estates all want the same thing, so we must be able to get around a table and thrash out the issues until we get an answer.
No one is fooled by Alex Hogg’s apparent willingness to negotiate, least of all the Rural Affairs and Environment Committee who asked some very well-informed and revealing questions. Mr Hogg and the SGA are on the ropes and desperately trying to drum up some support for the licensed killing of raptors. We can only hope that the committee recognise the ignorant, irresponsible self-interest of the SGA and appreciate the damage that this would cause Scotland’s reputation across the world as an environmentally responsible, modern and forward thinking country.
Eagles Poisoned in Scotland since 2006
- MAY 2006: A dead adult male golden eagle is found on the Dinnet & Kinnord Estate, near Ballater, Aberdeenshire. A post-mortem reveals he has been poisoned by the illegal pesticide, Carbofuran. Grampian Police launch an investigation. As of September 2010, nearly 4.5 years later, no arrests have been made.
- JUNE 2006: A dead male golden eagle is found on Glen Feshie Estatein the Cairngorms. A post-mortem reveals he has been poisoned by the illegal pesticide, Carbofuran. Northern Constabulary launch an investigation. As of September 2010, nearly 4.5 years later, no arrests have been made.
- AUGUST 2007: A dead adult female golden eagle was found piosoned on a Peebleshire shooting estate. A post-mortem reveals she has been poisoned by the illegal pesticide, Carbofuran. This female was part of the only breeding pair of golden eagles remaining in the Scottish Borders. She had a young dependent chick still in the nest. The adult female was replaced by another adult female later that year. She mysteriously ‘disappeared’ from the territory in late 2008/early 2009. Lothian& Borders Police launch an investigation into the 2007 death. As of September 2010, over 3 years later, no arrests have been made.
- AUTUMN 2007: Tayside Police receive a detailed tip-off that a young male white-tailed eagle (known as ‘Bird N’) has been shot by a gamekeeper on the Glenogil Estate in Angus. The tip-off included the name of the alleged shooter and that the body had been burned to hide the evidence. ‘Bird N’ was part of the cohort of reintroduced sea eagles that were donated by Norway and released in Scotland in August 2007. The timing and location included in the tip-off coincided with the timing and location of the last-known radio signal of this bird. As of September 2010, 3 years later, no arrests have been made.
- MAY 2008: A one year old male white-tailed eagle who hatched on Mull in 2007 and was known as ‘White G’ is found dead on the Glenquich Estate, Angus. A post-mortem reveals he has been poisoned by an unusual concoction of pesticides that include Carbofuran, Bendiocarb and Isofenphos. A police search in the area also reveals a poisoned buzzard, a baited mountain hare and 32 pieces of poisoned venison baits placed on top of fenceposts on the neighbouring Glenogil Estate. Laboratory tests reveal the baited mountain hare and the 32 poisoned venison baits contain the same unusual concoction of highly toxic chemicals that had killed the white-tailed eagle, ‘White G’. As of September 2010, nearly 2.5 years later, no arrests have been made.
- JUNE 2009: An adult golden eagle is found dead on the Auch Estate, Bridge of Orchy, Argyll. A post-mortem reveals it has been poisoned by the illegal pesticide, Carbofuran. Strathclyde Police launch an investigation and state they are “following a positive line of inquiry“. As of September 2010, 15 months later, the outcome of this “positive line of inquiry” has not been made public.
- JULY 2009: A two year old female golden eagle, known as ‘Alma’, is found dead on the Millden Estate, Angus. A post-mortem reveals she has been poisoned by the illegal pesticide, Carbofuran. Alma is a well-known eagle – born on the Glen Feshie Estate in 2007, she was being satellite-tracked and her movements were followed by thousands on the internet. Tayside Police launch an investigation. In 2009, Roy Dennis (the man who was tracking Alma) was given a police gagging order and instructed to keep quiet about the case. As of September 2010, over a year later, no arrests have been made.
- AUGUST 2009: A young white-tailed eagle is found dead on Glenogil Estate, Angus. A post-mortem reveals it has been poisoned by the illegal pesticide, Carbofuran. Reports circulate that this bird actually died in March 2009, but incompetent RSPB fieldworkers could not locate the transmitter signal. The decomposed body was eventually found in August 2009, after an expert fieldworker was brought in. Tayside Police did not release a press statement about this persecution incident until January 2010, 6 months after the dead body was discovered, and 9 months after it was killed. As of September 2010, over a year later, no arrests have been made.
- MAY 2010: Three dead golden eagles are found on Skibo Estate, Sutherland. They are found together with a dead buzzard and a dead sparrowhawk. All are suspected victims of illegal poisoning and the bodies have been sent for forensic post-mortem in Edinburgh. Northern Constabulary launch an investigation. As of September 2010, 4 months later, the post-mortem results have not been made publicly available. The result of the police investigation has also not been made publicly available.
Our thanks go to Raptor Persecution Scotland and RSPB for allowing their information to be used within this sorry tale.