I read the other day an article written by Tim Baynes, director of Scottish Land and Estates’ Scottish Moorland Forum and published in the summer 2016 edition of a magazine I somehow have completely missed on the shelves of bookshops: the Scottish Sporting Gazette. The article was copied on the Raptor Persecution UK blog, which was where I read it. Its content, in summary, was a claim that crime against birds of prey and linked to shooting estates is ‘hugely improved’ and that ‘the police believe that wildlife crime generally is now under control’.
There are many arguments that would counter these two statements, even more so now that Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham is seriously considering further action against shooting estates, including licensing. What really made my blood boil was Tim’s claim that:
‘the problem now is that all the positive work by land managers risks being derailed by a small number of committed activists, particularly those who are anti-grouse shooting’.
I read the comments on the Raptor Persecution UK blog and was surprised that no-one picked up on this preposterous statement. There are most certainly activists trying to draw the attention of the Scottish Government and the public to wildlife crime, especially that committed on grouse moors. I agree they are committed but would question that we are talking about a small number; indeed a significant proportion of the population are disgusted at the continuing arrogance of some estates. As an example, despite all the negative publicity about the use of gas guns on grouse moors where raptors, particularly hen harriers could be nesting, a gas gun was recently operating on Glenogil Estate in Angus. This may not be illegal but everyone and their granny knows its purpose. I would have thought that a beleaguered industry would try to comply with public opinion rather than put two fingers up.
I have no doubt that positive work is indeed being carried out by some land managers. If this is being derailed surely the blame lies at the door of the estate owners, sporting agents and gamekeepers who continue to kill (or are complicit in the killing of) protected species. In Scotland there are several people in some of these positions whose greed at producing the biggest possible number of grouse for driven shooting includes wiping out as many species that would adversely affect grouse as is possible. Their identities are well known; indeed I have discussed their illegal methods with many land managers over the past decade. They are still operating and in fact are revered by some in the grouse industry rather than being reported to the police. Tim knows them as well as I do, yet for any alleged derailing of positive work he blames law-abiding people (that he later in his article refers to as ‘extremists’) who simply want the law upheld.
Coming out with transparent twaddle like this is not helpful. Admittedly the article is nearly a year old but I’ve seen nothing in print since then that puts the blame for raptor persecution exactly where it should be focussed.