Is the shooting fraternity losing the plot?

Reading through a variety of reported incidents on raptor persecution, and meeting up a couple of nights ago with two friends who made a critical contribution to Hen Harrier protection in the 1980’s and 1990’s, has caused me to reflect further on the situation we currently find ourselves in as far as raptors are concerned.

I know I bang on about raptor persecution! My contributions to various web sites and my own Blog have probably provided little that was absolutely new, or brought about change, other than keeping up a consistent condemnation of those responsible, but I suddenly feel optimistic.

It stems from the fact that the subject is remaining alive, gaining continuing media support and exposure and that the “defensive remonstrations” from the shooting fraternity are doing little other than make them look foolish. Surely they can do better?

First amongst equals is Alex Hogg, Chairman of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association. I actually have some sympathy with his position, but not his views. How can somebody maintain that “its unfair to accuse gamekeepers of wildlife crime”! when it has been reported by the BBC, when it recently reported on the successful prosecution, on seven charges , of a keeper in Derbyshire, England, that he was the 100th gamekeeper to be convicted of crimes against birds of prey. In the light of such disclosure it’s approaching the time when Nero might usefully hand over his fiddle to the SGA! [singlepic id=312 w=600 h=280 float=centre]

Would it not be better to acknowledge there is an unwilling minority of gamekeepers who are prepared to continue, deliberately and illegally, to persecute birds of prey. Forging an active “partnership of principles” between the SGA and the conservation lobby, however loose, would lend credibility to their position and publicly affirm that organization’s wish to see persecution end ( otherwise do they ? ). To skirt around the subject, and attempt to deny obvious connections, when keepers employed within the shooting industry are being successfully prosecuted, is naive in the extreme. The public will undoubtedly absorb such ambiguity and come to a view that all shooting enterprises are “iffy”. Is that really what the SGA and legitimate shooting enterprises want? I doubt it!

Town dwelling residents increasingly feel that they can legitimately offer opinion on the countryside from which they gain a recreational “return”, either at weekends on when on holiday. It’s not too much of a quantum leap for the great British public to then turn its opposition towards institutions and management practices which they find unacceptable in terms of their effects on the natural heritage. The next step is an outright condemnation of shooting. Remember foxhunting ……

That is not an outcome to consider and encourage, as the recent statements of Natural England on the value of our uplands outline, in terms of the unique aspects of the habitat and the biodiversity it supports. Much valued habitat is maintained by upland and lowland estates in all parts of the UK and it is difficult to determine who would maintain and manage such areas in the absence of shooting interests. However, rather than feeling comfortable with the implications of the previous observations, it is important to eliminate the elements of estate practices which the public find unacceptable in order to avoid the possibility of outright opposition and condemnation emanating from their interest.

I often conclude the shooting lobby is a victim of its own arrogance which, potentially, could be its undoing. Stop being blinkered, for Heaven’s sake, take stock of the elements present upon a much wider canvas or, otherwise, pay the price. General opinion is not (yet) against shooting  per se, but against actions which arise from within its management practices, i.e. raptor persecution and persistent assertions from within the industry that it’s nothing to do with them. Some positive and transparent attempt to clean up such practices and put things right, as opposed to continually appearing to be in denial, would assist enormously. At present, even an unconnected bystander would interpret the stance as being somewhat vacuous.             

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Having said all that I have little confidence that the protestations and denials will alter, a situation which actually does provide me with optimism.

Raptor persecution still obviouly endemic

Catching up on various things which have happened over the past fortnight it seems I’ve missed a number of really crucial items that have emerged. The results of the Moy Estate prosecution and, similarly, the results from the Skibo Estate case, coupled with the reportage within the BBC 2 Scotland “Landward” programme on the vicarious liability clause within the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011. All these and more are ably reported on within the Raptor Persecution Scotland website, which I would encourage everyone to read, not least because there are E-mail links to “key Establishment players” allowing one to raise queries about non action on cases or similar.

With successful prosecutions confirming persecution activities are happening, now is the time to keep up pressure on the various authorities involved. That Alex Hogg ( Scottish Gamekeepers Association) acknowledges there is a minority involved in such activities is a cockshy. They are an effective minority nonetheless , undertaking activities that must be brought to an end rather than the matter being swept under the carpet under some justification that there will always be “bad apples”. The whole subject is being increasingly aired and it is important that such impetus is not lost.

John S. Armitage

11 comments to Is the shooting fraternity losing the plot?

  • Circus maximus

    Lost the plot and gone mad….

    Now they are after people!

  • John Miles

    The sad thing is that these estates are not the managers of the land. we are and look at the next entry to

    The land is being taken away from the estates and managed by the people in Scotland due to the estates being poor managers. Now adult Red Grouse are dying on the North Pennines due to desease due to greed and mis management of these moorland SSSi’s.

  • Pied Fly

    As said before in various artciles on this bog, the persecution situation will only began to see a turnaround when the shooting fraternity stop sitting on the fence, show some backbone, and heavily condemn the persecutionists publicly and with some form of boycotting of guilty shoots. Then we may get some catalyst for change. It’s an attitude thing.

    It’s often stated by the shooting fraternity, and sometimes ‘neutrals’ that it’s a “minority” of gamekeepers that are persecuting. That may be so in the lowland shoots of England, but evidence (almost complete lack of breeding raptors on grouse moors) in Northern England and Scotland surely points to a bit more than a “minortiy” doing it!

    • Absolutely correct Pied Fly, I have never believed this “minority line”. What is needed is not a change in attitudes, but a change in the law.
      Any estate/farm/shoot, where keepers are proved to be persecuting BOP, should be banned from all forms of shooting for 5 years. Any further offences, 10 years. This would scare the living daylights out of the shooting fraternity, and quickly bring them into line.

      The soft sell has failed, what is needed is a good hard bang on the ear. The words of Dr Leslie Brown, “British Birds Of Prey”, early 1970’s.

  • nirofo

    No, the shooting fraternity have certainly not lost the plot, in fact they are well and truly in control. Lets look at why:

    (1) They can and do just about anything they want to on the land with full backing and financial assistance from public funded government bodies such as Natural England.

    (2) They can and do control the moncultural moorland environment created to further their selfish need for artifially high numbers of Red Grouse, this is at the expense of other moorland breeding wildlife such as waders, hares etc.

    (3) They can and do breed and put down artificially high numbers of non endemic introduced species such as Red-legged Partridge and Pheasants, while at the same pushing to have, (almost certainly endemic) species such as Eagle Owls removed by culling, backed of course by Natural England and others.

    (4) They can and do persue a relentless onslaught of death and destruction on our legally protected Raptors and other wildlife without the fear of repercussions from the law.

    (5) They know they can literally get away with protected wildlife murder while our police force go through the motions of appearing to do something about it while doing nothing.

    (6) They know that even if by slim chance they are caught at wildlife persecution, our courts and justice systems will make a laughing stock of the trial and will not mete out the sentencing that is available and deserved for these crimes.

    There are other reasons, but that’s probably enough to be going on with.


  • harrier man

    Completely agree Pied Fly on the English grouse moors it is the majority.

  • NIROFO. The hoped for emphasis of my original Blog, and the article on this site, was directed at the dis-array the shooting fraternity is in relating to their positioning and “defensive PR”. If this has come through insufficiently, then the responsibility is entirely mine. What it wasn’t was an examination, oft stated previously, of their management practices, which you refer in your points 1 to 3.

    Seldom do they elect to comment on any statements made by the likes of ourselves, but when they do, e.g the comments by Alex Hogg, the facts are muddled and confused. We have to ensure the subject is kept alive, and in the public domain, and that the utter ambiguity between their protests of innocence and the facts , as proven by successful prosecutions, are repeatedly given air time or appear in the Press and on sites like Raptor Politics.

    I wouldn’t agree they are in control in a literal sense. Out of control more like, a position that eventually can lead to their undoing. This is a long haul battle; it won’t go away unless there is some drastic, even draconian measures directed at the industry by Government, or from within its own ranks, initiatives I’ve no confidence in happening in the immediate future, hence the need to ensure the whole subject never strays from the public’s attention. What we have to do is keep up the pressure about all points of concern, whether it be subsidies or their management practices, and also ,however many times its repeated, call for change in sentences, levels of investigation and ensure the subject is kept under the nose of the public.

    The one thing they’ can’t deny is the strength within the truth, i.e. facts associated within reportage on successful prosecutions. Opinions , whatever the source or strength in the argument, unfortunately can be ignored, but even that strategy will eventually work against them.

  • Daye Tucker So behind the curve. You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. FACT, Scottish landowners ARE working in partnership with Scottish Government, RSPB and Scottish Police Force to stop raptor persecution. FACT, landowner individuals and organisation HAVE publicly condemned raptor persecution and signed a petition to Roseanna Cunningham to that effect. How was this received? With ridicule by the hard line anti landowner lobby, just reread the comments on the Raptor Persecution website in response to these genuine actions from landowners to disassociate themselves from raptor persecution perpetrated by the minority. There are subtle signs within the usual anti landowner rants that the light has just gone on. There is a creeping realisation that abandonment of land and lack of management not only impacts negatively on biodiversity but local economies in fragile rural areas. The clock is ticking, some think it is too late, I’m more optimistic, but the time has come to stop using a pick axe to smash through an open door and accept and acknowledge that there has been a sea change in thinking amongst our 21st century landowners who are key to supporting a balance in their ecosystems.
    a few seconds ago · Like

    • nirofo

      Have you just dropped in from Mars or have you really been hoodwinked by all the landowner look what I’m doing for wildlife rhetoric. There’s no doubt that a few well meaning landowners really do want to see our wildlife and habitat prosper and they are to be applauded, unfortunately they are seriously let down by the majority who only care for how well the guns are doing at each shoot and we all know what that means for our Raptors.

      Little wonder the signed petition was received with ridicule, most active conservationists and Raptor workers have seen first hand just how underhand and devious some of these landowners are in reality. Many who signed up to publicly condemn Raptor persecution have in FACT already broken their word by actively allowing Raptor persecution to take place on their land and have been caught at it.

      If the light has really gone on with the landowners then I think it’s high time they paid their electric bills to make sure the light doesn’t go out again.

      If as they think and say, they are the custodians of our land, then I wish they would release it so that nature could reclaim it and get it back to the way it was before they intervened to improve it for themselves.


  • Steve

    As somebody who occasionally walks the shooting estates, particularly across Scotland, and finds illegal snares as well as badgers, foxes and deer, either dead or near to death in snares that haven’t been checked for days, illegally set crow traps, illegally set Larson traps, live bait raptor traps, not to mention partially buried shot or poisoned raptors, I wonder, when will this country REALLY become tough on wildlife crime? Am I really asking too much to be able to walk the hills without having to end the day on the phone giving grid reference directions to a wildlife crime officer or an animal welfare/protection reporting authority?

    Do I think that it is all down to a few bad apples who are responsible for causing death and destruction within our countryside and potentially threatening to wipe out whole species? Of course not. The evidence speaks for itself that the problem is widespread throughout Britain, although harder to detect outside of Scotland due to the access laws, and that those who are brought before the courts for their wildlife crimes are just the ones who have been CAUGHT.

    When I discover a badger alive in a wire snare, but almost cut in two from days of struggling, I think about the thousands of other snares out there, and some with other animals in the same situation as this one, but which never will be found, except may be by the owner of the snare. I think the same for the shot and poisoned raptors that we hear all too frequently about, that have been discovered, often by chance. We know that these discoveries will only be the tip of the iceberg of this year’s annual raptor slaughter and even as I write this, there will be buzzards, eagles, falcons, harriers and the like stuffed into dry stone walls, buried in the ground, dumped into pits, hidden in woodland or waiting somewhere to be burnt or vanished away. This is nothing new, but what is new is the overwhelming evidence gathering of the silent slaughter of our UK raptors that Government must no longer ignore. The evidence is beginning to build and something must be done and done now before it is too late for some of our most magnificent bird species that we are fortunate to have to fill our skies and we watch in amazement and sheer joy as they sour and swoop above us. The skies are becoming far too empty in some parts of this land and it’s time to take action.

    • nirofo

      Steve, you are correct in what you say, it’s just the tip of the iceberg, this unabated wildlife slaughter is an every day event and is widespread throughout the British Isles. Just imagine the fantastic wildlife that could be thriving everywhere if were not for the selfish attitudes of the shooting estates with the full backing of our wildlife protection agencies, the police and justice systems. Unfortunately the people who own and run these shooting estates know they can do just what they like without any repercussions, in fact they know they can rub our noses in the dirt while using our money to do what they want by way of public funded subsidies for all manner of hairbrained schemes.

      The biggest problem we face in overcoming this wildlife persecution and environmental landscape rape is getting it across to the general public just what is happening and what their hard earned tax money is being used for. We can moan and groan on forums such as this one, we can protest to our so-called wildlife protection agencies, but it only gets across to the already converted. We need to get the wider media on our side and get it out there so that everybody can see what’s happening, if we can’t make this thing big enough and widespread enough, then we have no hope of the government sitting up, taking notice and doing something about it, and the status quo will continue unabated.