South Scotland gamekeeper Peter Bell admits buzzard poisoning

Dead buzzard
Bell admitted poisoning a buzzard in southern Scotland last year
A gamekeeper from southern Scotland has been fined more than £4,000 for poisoning a buzzard and possessing illegal pesticides. Peter Bell, 62, of Newton Stewart, admitted four contraventions of the Wildlife and Countryside Act. Bell committed the poisoning offence by lacing a pheasant carcass with carbofuran in December last year at Glasserton Home Farm near Whithorn. He was fined a total of £4,450 at Stranraer Sheriff Court.

Bell is a full-time gamekeeper and has sole responsibility for rearing pheasants and organising shooting on Glasserton and Physgill Estates, which includes land on Glasserton Home Farm.

The court heard how he laced the carcass of a pheasant with the pesticide carbofuran and set the bait in a field.

A birdwatcher passing the farm saw something flapping in the field and on closer inspection found that it was a common buzzard, lying on the ground, in the last throes of life.

Subsequent forensic work showed that the buzzard had died as a result of ingesting the poisoned bait.

A search of Bell’s home address in March this year found poisonous substances in his tool shed and home which were illegal to possess.

The court heard that Bell, who recently celebrated 40 years’ service at the estate, had witnessed the buzzard kill one of his pheasants and had taken out his frustration on the raptor.

It was also explained by Bell’s lawyer that the poison had been kept in Bell’s gun cabinet, where it was put after clearing out his uncle’s belongings following his death, and hadn’t been used since.

He added that the effects of a conviction will have “catastrophic consequences” for Bell, whose only trade is that of gamekeeping.

Sheriff Kenneth Robb told Bell: “You clearly knew your responsibilities and that there were other options available to you, yet you went out and killed this bird. You’re also clearly a man of considerable skill and reputation but sadly it appears that your values towards your animals askewed your legal responsibility.”

Procurator fiscal Craig Harris said: “The killing of this buzzard was considered and deliberate criminality.

“The laying of bait laced with carbofuran was shockingly irresponsible conduct.

“It was compounded by the stocks of other illegal poisons that were kept.”

He said anyone trying to poison wild birds could expect to be brought before the courts.

RSPB Scotland’s head of species and land management Duncan Orr-Ewing called the conviction a “textbook operation”.

He said: “The level of the fine is also a good outcome in this case, and reflects the true seriousness of the incident, and the nature of the pesticides involved.”

Mr Orr-Ewing said while some progress was being made in some parts of Scotland, there were still persistent problems elsewhere, which showed little sign of reducing.

A spokesman for The Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) said it condemned illegal poisoning.

“Mr Bell was a former member of the SGA,” he said.

“He will not be allowed to hold membership of the organisation again and was informed of this likelihood back in 2012, when the case came to light, and told not to re-apply.

“The SGA advocates those facing problems with predation of livestock by protected predators should only look to the legal routes and options open to them rather than taking the law into their own hands.”

Douglas McAdam, chief executive of the landowners’ group Scottish Land & Estates, said the organisation fully supported the fine.

“Scottish Land & Estates has repeatedly stated the illegal poisoning of birds of prey has no part to play in modern game management,” he said. “It is also a danger to other wildlife, domestic animals and potentially humans.

“Industry organisations have worked hard to get that message across to their members and the number of such incidents has dropped dramatically in the last three years.”

He added that the estate involved was no longer a member of the group.

2 comments to South Scotland gamekeeper Peter Bell admits buzzard poisoning

  • Anne Cardwell

    If the incident took place in December last year, why did it take the police until March the following year to search Bell’s home for evidence? This time the police were fortunate,they found the poison, but they may find the bird has flown if they wait so long the next time. I also find it curious the SGA keep calling the birds they shoot to death livestock. If any member of the public went out to shoot their ducks, geese, hens, goats or pigs for sport, which are livestock, they would be in court. Why is it so different for the SGA and their members I wonder?

  • Pheasants and partridges are only “livestock while being reared or are in a release pen. Once they are turned loose into the countryside they become wildlife and are then nobodies property in law.