The raptor haters – Sir Max Hastings

The raptor haters is an occasional series of articles on people who slag off birds of prey.

Just over a week ago I was sitting next to Sir Max Hastings at the Game Fair and got on surprisingly well with him but he’s gone down in my estimations, not that that should worry him too much.

In today’s Financial Times – the organ of choice for all birders I know – Sir Max has one of those lazy pieces of comment that must take just a few minutes to dash off given that it contains tired old opinions, no scientific merit and seems to me to be a piece of prejudiced invective against wildlife and town-dwellers.  Although Sir Max castigates others for not following the science, he hasn’t got a clue himself.  Sir Max writes about badgers, raptors, mergansers, cormorants etc,  and his answer for all of them seems to be culling.

Sir Max finds the numbers of kites and buzzards in the skies above him ‘alarming’.  He writes, in a national newspaper,  the non-sequitur ‘Last week a sparrowhawk swooped on our bird table’. And your point is, Sir Max?  Last week a blackbird pulled an earthworm out of my lawn – shock! horror! Hold the front page!

This article, do read it, is cleverly written in a way.  Sir Max praises the RSPB for its historic opposition to illegal persecution of raptors by gamekeepers but says that ‘some’ might say that it is obsessive about this issue.  I know from personal experience that the RSPB might be less obsessive about raptors if there were not so many raptors haters writing rubbish like Sir Max does.

Sir Max, praises Songbird Survival for the science that it has done to which the ‘RSPB has no credible answers’.  What science is that Sir Max?  You don’t say and let’s be clear, you don’t know do you? You don’t have a clue? If you had the faintest idea about what you write here then you would know that the science funded by Songbird Survival gives no support to your ill-informed views.  Sir Max or Mad Max?

Sir Mad Max recounts a conversation he says he had with the director of the RSPB when she, so it must have been allegedly, Barbara Young, and it must have been at least 13 years years ago, said “We have to consider what our members will put up with.”.  This may have been exactly what she said but Sir Mad Max is a remarkable journalist to have remembered over 13 years the exact content of this sentence.  And what Sir Mad Max doesn’t point out is that the RSPB has carried out predator control of crows and foxes at Abernethy for the benefit of capercaillie for many years.  This is presumably what he wanted when he told Barbara that ‘destroying vermin’ was essential.

For Sir Mad Max, and I am afraid for so many others, anyone who sees that the science shows that badger culling could make things worse for many farmers, and anyone who looks at the evidence and sees no clear role of raptors in songbird declines because the science points elsewhere, is an ‘urban sentimentalist’.

I guess the problem is that the FT, possibly the most urban paper of the lot, has no real understanding of these issues and so has allowed its Contributing Editor to bring down its normal level of rational argument.  Can you imagine the FT allowing such irrational emotional prejudiced nonsense to be written about the economic issues about which it knows most?  It must be the silly season, or the mad season.



7 Replies to “The raptor haters – Sir Max Hastings”

  1. The editor of the paper is to blame for this article. If ‘Mad Max’ wants to blame game keepers for killing birds of prey why has he not seen that it is the responsibility of the owner of the shooting estate to make sure these birds of prey are protected or he/she himself may end up in court thanks to the Scottish parliament making that agenda. Given the £millions we now pay these estates it is time the law actually worked or the future of shooting might be the next agenda and who would be to blame! And three words for all the other species he wants to have culled – White tailed Eagle

  2. Sadly because the FT is a “reputable paper” there will be those who read this crap , sorry but that is the only word for it, and believe, there will be others who feel justified in continuing to believe the same rubbish because it has appeared in print. Well done Mark for challenging it. It deserves an appearance in the Saturday Guardian “Bad Science” column. Actually I’m alarmed about the number of raptors I don’t see in most areas managed for game shooting and until I see kites everyday there will not be enough, they eat carrion! Lazy journalism based on prejudice means its seriously bad journalism and its also bad for the birds.

  3. I believe the article was intended for the News of the World after being refused by the Sunday Sport as being too far fetched to be believeable

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