I would shoot all these bloody eagles!

A poisoned white-tailed eagle recovered on an Angus grouse moor

A poisoned white-tailed eagle recovered on an Angus grouse moor

Yesterday, while visiting a local farm shop, I met a lady I hadn’t seen for a while. We chatted, and a few minutes later her husband appeared. I was introduced to him as Alan Stewart, the retired wildlife crime officer from Tayside Police.  The husband shook my hand and the ensuing conversation went along these lines:

“Yeh, wildlife crime. I can think of some different types of wildlife crime.”

“Oh, what is that?”

“It’s all these bloody eagles that have been released.”

“Do you mean the ones that have been poisoned or shot?”

“No, it’s the bloody lambs they are killing. It’s scandalous that all these birds have been released here.”

“But white-tailed eagles are native to Scotland. They’re being released because of the fact that they were exterminated by farmers and gamekeepers. They have a place in Scotland and the release project is righting the wrongs of the past.”

“I would shoot all these bloody eagles. Farmers can hardly make a living for them killing their sheep and lambs, it’s a bloody scandal.”

At this point his wife piped up, “Yes, it does seem a shame for the lambs.”

I continued, “Most of the lambs taken are already dead. There was a study done on North Uist that demonstrated that. They do take some live lambs but the majority of the lambs they take have been still-born or have died.”

“It’s not right at all. The whole bloody lot should be shot.”

By this stage I was thinking it was this clown who should be shot, when his wife, who by this time had lost any respect I’d had for her, again said, “It must be terrifying for the lambs to be carried away.” (Nothing about how terrifying it might be for a mouse or a bird to be caught by a cat, a water buffalo pursued by a pack of lions and eventually suffocated, or the guts torn out of a zebra by a pack of African hunting dogs). Ignorance can be bliss.

I could see there was no sense in continuing a conversation with this imbecile – or his wife – who both live in the middle of a city and probably wouldn’t know a gimmer from a tup or a blackfaced sheep from a north country cheviot. I suspect what they collectively know about farming could be written on the back of a matchbox, yet Mr Know-all was spouting forth in such prejudicial terms about a subject he knew damn all about. I was glad I’d already had my coffee in the farm shop. I wouldn’t have enjoyed it otherwise.

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