Education with Enforcement – an excerpt from my book A Lone Furrow
Despite the amount of enforcement in which Tayside Police wildlife crime officers become involved, I am convinced that education and awareness-raising must be on an almost equal footing. It may be because of these beliefs that I was appointed Chair of the PAW Scotland Training and Awareness Group in early 2009. We have gradually built up a number of public events we regularly attend, the most valuable of which is possibly the Game Conservancy Scottish Fair, but has included over the years the Bowmore International Horse Trials at Blair Atholl and the Festival of the Countryside at Glamis Castle. There is great camaraderie among stall holders at these events and our stand is always well attended. As well as meeting the colourful and interesting characters who work in occupations associated with the events, who take part in pursuits that the events represent or who simply have come along for an enjoyable day out, we answer a huge range of questions about which the inquirer wouldn’t necessarily telephone us or come in to a police station to ask. I think our very presence there gives encouragement to those who look to us for support.
We seldom get a visit from anyone we suspect to be sailing close to the wind crime-wise, though there was an exception to this trait in 2009. I was on the stand at the Game Fair at Perth on my own when a young chap in his early 20s came in and started to talk about hare coursing. He admitted that he was involved in coursing but thought that the way he carried it out – with only one dog – was perfectly fair. I recognised him immediately as one of the half dozen or so rogues from Greenock and Port Glasgow who have regular nocturnal and nefarious forays to the Crieff area of Tayside. I asked where he went coursing and his reply, probably to annoy me, was, “All over Tayside.” When I asked where he was from he lied, “Fife.” We discussed coursing for a few minutes until other visitors came on to the stand and he decided to go. As he went down the ramp from the events unit I said, “See you then John.” It took him a few more steps until he realised I had referred to him by name. When he turned round he saw me smiling at him. Bewilderment was written all over his face. He was still puzzled when I saw him turn round for a second look after another ten paces.
These events also offer a good chance to sample some of the delightful cuisine of the countryside and a stand that sells wild boar pies and game pies does a roaring trade. The pies are about nine inches in diameter and about two inches deep. The wild boar pies in particular are scrumptious, so much so that I decided at one event we should have a bit for breakfast. There were two of us on the stand, my colleague Gordon Nicoll being another retired inspector. As a quarter of a pie is enough for one sitting, I called at the busy pie stand and asked for two quarters of wild boar pie. “I’m sorry but we can only sell half a pie or a whole pie” was the response. I laughed and looked for some sort of reciprocal facial reaction but the vendor maintained a blank expression. Glaikit would be the apt Scots term.
Determined to have wild boar pie for breakfast and slavers beginning to trickle down my chin at the thought of a pie between my teeth, I tried again. “OK could I have half a pie please?” “Certainly sir,” the serious voice answered, as he proceeded to press a gleaming knife through the centre of a lovely meat-filled brown-crusted pie. I had a flashback to zoology lessons in school and the reproductive system of the amoeba, which multiplies by binary fission; splitting itself into two, then four then eight so that the world is suddenly filled with millions of amoebae. I had a vision of the wild boar pie, at the touch of Sheffield steel, suddenly becoming lots of mini pies, quickly multiplying so that there were plenty for everyone.
Coming back to my senses I said to Professor Glaiket as he was about to hand me half a wild boar pie, “Would you mind cutting that in two for me please?” “Certainly sir” he said, as the moment was lost over the top of his head.
At these events we normally have some sort of quiz for young folks, with everyone who participates leaving the stand with a wee prize of some sort. At one RSPB event a man from Fife came into the stand with three boys who would be about ten or so. When they saw the prizes they were keen to try the quiz and soon got to work on a quiz each, using their advance prize, a free Tayside Police wildlife crime pen. The first question was Name three birds you could see in your garden. I was looking over the shoulder of one of the boys and saw him writing Canary. When I gently suggested to him that might be the wrong answer and that there were no canaries in the wild in Scotland, he answered, “Aye there are but. My neebor keeps them in a shed in his gairden an’ they’re aye gettin’ oot”
It got worse. Another question was Name a bird in Scotland that eats fish. Three juvenile faces were blank and were looking for inspiration at their mentor, who I learned was not a father or uncle of any of the boys but another ‘neebor’. His knowledge of wildlife appeared slim and may even have been limited to the birds and the bees. If he had been part of a team competition he would have been as good as a man short. The boys contemplated for a while then one said, “It’s an os, os, os something or other isn’t it?” I whispered to him ‘osprey’ in encouragement and he started to write. He either wasn’t a great speller or had short memory retention. He wrote os then started to struggle. Doctor Mensa noticed him starting to write and tried to help with the spelling. It had suddenly clicked with him and he said, “Yer right so far, son, it’s os…t…r…i…c…h.” They still all went away with a prize!
See A Lone Furrow and other books on this blog. If you would like a signed copy contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org