Islay – The New Malta

Here we have 2 islands, one in the Mediterranean baked with sunshine and one positioned off the coast of Scotland with a high wind and rainfall. One has a population of 460,000 while the other only 3000. It is Islay with a small population but nearly twice the land mass at 619 sq. km. Malta is noted for its bird slaughter which over recent years has declined thanks to the European Union, Birdlife International and raptor camps where men and women from around Europe come to monitor and condemn the illegal shooting of especially birds of prey. In contrast we have a Scottish government misusing the publics £millions to encourage the shooting of a European protected species –the Barnacle Goose. Significantly in December 2018 the European Union prevented Norway from shooting Barnacle Geese on their migration! Sadly over 10,000 geese have been massacred on Islay!

Geese-1web

This killing is due to the farmers of Islay being paid to have geese on their land and also paying gun men to shoot these geese. Multi firing shotguns are being used to spray LEAD onto the wet land where geese like the very rare Greenland Whitefronted Goose feed and take in grit [and lead] to grind the sedges and grass they have just eaten. This form of shooting results in many injured geese, which Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) who pay the money for the government. They claim these injured geese are removed by the shooters, but dead and dying geese are being eaten by the island’s eagle population [Golden and White tailed Eagles] which in turn  could results in their death from eating the contaminated carcasses.

Geese-2web

All this carnage is undertaken while many of Islay’s residents want to make a living from Britain’s fastest growing tourist business on the island – wildlife tourism. This is especially important on Islay due to the geese arriving in the autumn and leaving in the spring. A survey around the island showed that 75% of tourist coming to the island wanted to watch wildlife but with all this shooting going on, this is a time when tourism can decline effecting the local B & Bs and self catering at a time they need it the most.

With all this shooting taking place across the island the geese have now become very nervous.  In the past before shooting people on the island could enjoy observing the geese at close quarters. There is now another problem for the farmer, because of all the disturbance caused by cars and the gunmen, the geese require even more food as they use more energy each time they fly away as gunmen and any cars pull up near them.  Because of this a staggering 18% more grass needs to be consumed! There also seems to be another problem with this shooting, the Barnacle Geese are now producing fewer young and this could be because they are unable to get into condition for the long journey back to Greenland to breed.

Islay has other big problems, as the wildlife declines due to this industrial farming the rare Chough needs to be fed by hand as the fields are so contaminated by chemicals injected into the sheep and cattle. This has resulted in most of the insect life that the Chough feed on being killed off. In Britain 20 species of Dung Beetle are near extinction due to these chemicals. These Dung Beetles are a major food item for the Chough as the beetle’s grubs feed on the contaminated dung. Most breeding waders are also in decline across Britain especially the Culew due these chemicals and silage cutting.

The other bird the island is famous for is the Woodcock with research showing migration from as far away as Eastern Russia arriving on Islay to winter. The shooting estates regard these birds as easy targets – Driven and evening flighting included in this package 20 birds average per day to a small team of guns 4-5 and it’s not unusual to lift 80-90 birds per day! The Woodcock is declining fast especially in the South of England and no one knows what effect killing these birds has on their native area.

So what needs doing? The  shooting of both geese and woodcock on Islay  should be stopped immediately. The Scottish Government need taking to the European Court and prosecuted. The island should become the first ‘lead free’ island in Scotland. Staff need to be sacked at SNH. The islands stock needs reducing especially as ‘Global Warming’ needs a reduction of 50%. The island should be the first total ORGANIC island in Scotland. {Even the RSPB only have 1 reserve in the whole of Britain which is Organic!] If Malta can change then Islay should to.

 

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