Not very nice

If anyone out there is thinking of killing me, please choose something quick.

Whilst at the RSPB I had very few death threats (far fewer than my boss – goes with the territory) but they were mostly because of our position on ruddy ducks.  It is ironic, with the passage of time, that those who care passionately about animal rights are the ones most likely to threaten to kill you!  But they clearly were more nasty than really life-threatening.

On another occasion, I gave a talk to a wind energy conference and a friend of mine in the audience told me that he was sitting behind two men who were listening to my talk and soon after I had pointed out that large numbers of  recently discovered red-throated divers in the Thames Estuary might cause problems for windfarm development one man turned to the other and said ‘We ought to organise a car accident for this guy‘.

That was many years ago and I’m still here and the point of telling the story is that a bullet in the brain, a crashing blow with a blunt object or a high speed collision would all be preferable (though not in anyway welcome) to a slow lingering death by poison.

I have no idea whether a golden eagle’s or a red kite’s death from poisoning is as lingering and unpleasant as mine or yours would be but poison is the coward’s weapon.  Today the RSPB release a report on the ongoing, unpleasant use of poisons to kill wildlife.  It is often not known whether birds of prey are actually the intended targets for these poisons, though they probably often are, but they are the completely predictable victims.

The RSPB say ‘The RSPB Birdcrime 2010 report reveals there were 128 reports of illegal poisoning in the UK, and the early figures for this year suggest a similar pattern. In 2010, 20 red kites, 30 buzzards, two goshawks, eight peregrines, five golden eagles, one white-tailed eagle and one sparrowhawk were found poisoned in the UK. The RSPB believes that the number of recorded incidents is way below the actual number. ‘.

Not very nice at all.  And it’ll probably be just the same next year, and the next, and the next….


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24 Replies to “Not very nice”

  1. It really is time that the unjustified posssession of the poisons that are being used to kill our nations wildlife is made illegal. I believe that steps have already been taken to do so in Scotland, why not in England? I do not see any reason for prevarication. Benyon, Paice or Spelman why don't they act now? Greenest Government Ever, what a load of Maudes!

    1. Boris - thank you and I agree. But it is also the role of the devolved adminstrations as (Mr) Benyon, (Mr) Paice and (Mrs) Spelman can't be blamed for crimes outside of England. They could be making the running faster than England if they so wanted - and in some cases they are!

  2. I once had a chance to push you down the stairs, but I didn't.

    Part of the problem to me, seems to be the remote situation in which these crimes take place. Perhaps if some of these beautiful birds, faces filled with tales of an agonising death were thrown at the door of No.10 we'd see real pressure to stamp this out.

  3. The thing that always worried me and the apologists for persecution always ignore is that we must be finding only a small proportion of the birds illegally killed - maybe 1 in 10 ? Certainly no more. Working back from what the habitat can hold might give us a better picture of the impact of persecution. Ian newton's work, for example, shows that Goshawk do best in a landscape of well wooded farmland - so why are almost all of England's Goshawks in big, solid (usually FC) forests ? RSPBs continuing battles in the Peak District stretch back into the mists of time when nest robbers held the first re-established Gos population in check for years - until some birds found their way to Kielder and the Welsh Forests & the population took off. We've seen the poisoning issue in particular brought into very sharp focus by the Red Kite re-introductions, with them romping away in some regions, whilst in others multiple and very visible losses to poison have drastically checked population growth and heaped shame on the landowning community.

  4. I am afraid the problem is pan-European and not confined to the shores of the UK. Very strict control or a total ban on these abhorrent toxins should be put into place by all EU member states. Here in Andalucia we have seen Egyptian Vultures pushed to the very edge of extinction by the cowardly and perverse use of poison baiting. Time for enforceable legislation that carries with it real deterrent value, not only for the perpetrators but also landowners where poison baits are found.

  5. As one whom very recently received a text informing me a bullet had my name in it I understand Marks predicament. Again if it's going to happen I hope it's quick.
    Raptors. We know within reason who's at it and credit where it's due the Scottish Gamekeepers are now coming down on the tiny minority like a ton of bricks.
    The only way it will stop is when our side shun and black ball these "companies".

    1. Andy - thank you for that comment. Shocking text! If Scottish Gamekeepers are doing what you say then all power to them!

    2. There is clearly a tendency to demonise gamekeepers and this is exploited by some organisations with a political axe to grind. The truth about gamekeepering is the same as the truth about almost anything which is that there are good and bad aspects to it. Same with people. Just lumping a whole bunch of people together as the 'enemy' is a very unproductive approach.

      1. Giles - I'm not sure which organisations you mean who 'have a political axe to grind'. the truth about gamekeeping is that there are good and bad - like good and bad birdwatchers. See tomorrow's blog for more on this subject.

      1. Not very. But sometimes causing some suffering is justified imo. Not with raptor poisoning though. I think the issue of cruelty to wildlife is actually clouded by the anti 'killing for fun' argument. One might use terriers on rats for example partly for sport however that might not make it more cruel than putting down poison indeed it might be less cruel and more fun. So any law against cruelty should balance suffering against necessity. Cruelty is causing unnecessary suffering.

        We have a wild mammals protection act however that only prohibits certain actions if they are cruel. Why not extend that to prohibit all deliberate acts which cause unnecessary suffering? And why not extend it to birds too?

        1. Giles - yes i agree that sometimes causing suffering is justified. We ought to think about it, and weigh up the suffering, and then different people may weigh it up differently. I agree with you. thank you for some very good points (not just because I do agree with you).

  6. As somebody that discovered one of 2010's poisonings I can assure you that a raptors' death by poisoning looks like a pretty horrific one. The birds found dead right beside the poisoned bait- their talons gripping the ground tightly as the poison took effect. The safety equipment the police officers wore when removing the birds gives a clue to the toxicity of the substances they had consumed.

    I'm with you Mark- make it a bullet or blunt object

  7. Can anyone above explain when & how can suffering be justified? If something needs to be despatched why can it not be done quickly, humanely & without suffering?

    1. Val - welcome. That would, of course, be ideal. but just imagine brown rats - how do you catch and kill them without any suffering? Not saying that unnecessary suffering is anything other than bad but is there a level of necessary suffering greater than zero? Genuine question.

  8. Mark - I don't think there should be, no. Rats don't bother me at all but I understand your point. It's just that if a life has to be taken then it must be swift.

    1. Val - it's a perfectly fair point of view. i think it is a bit idealistic in practice but that is the place to start. Swift is so much better than slow in this particular case.

  9. Hi Mark / all,

    Persecution of raptors is a very emotive subject, for me personally the politics of raptor protection are almost as hard to swallow as the illegal destruction of such beautiful creatures themselves.

    Every time a study is released or a paper is written, there is an almost instantaneous counter claim, and denial issued by the very people who are supposed to be working to eridicate the problem from within, instead they seem to prefer flatout denial of the problem or to try to spin it out that the problem is not as bad as is being reported.

    I can't comment from personal experience on other areas but I can comment on the Dark Peak, here there has historically been a continual campaign of destruction of raptors, the excellent habitat ensures that new birds arrive every spring, but here they often meet their doom.

    On more than one occassion, gamekeepers (the custodians of our countryside) have been successfully prosecuted for raptor persecution and associated crimes, adult nesting birds simply disappear and the young are found starved in the nest. Now are we to believe that somehow we are unlucky in this area and keep employing "bad apples"?
    You could be forgiven for thinking that in this area at least, some people are being encouraged or possibly put under pressure to ensure that medium to large raptors are absent from the Grouse moors.

    Even when information is readily available we find that the details are suppressed!

    The collapse of the Goshawk population in the Derwent (where Gamekeeper Glenn Brown was recently successfully prosecuted for the illegal use of a cage trap) is one example of just how successful these "bad apples" have been, of 25+ breeding territories in and around the north peak we had 1 successful nest monitored this year producing 2 young.

    Last year was worse the Peak Nestwatch survey monitored early breeding of
    Peregrines, Goshawk and Buzzard with up to 14 sites established. The resultant success produced just four Goshawk chicks from 2 sites, three of which were found dead after fledging, lying side by side, with their BTO rings removed. the full report can be read at Peak Nestwatch 2010 , the soon to be released 2011 report makes for no better reading.

    Finally I would suggest that this article Tip of the Iceberg be considered before the the discussion moves on

    1. Mike - thank you for your views which are very interesting and seem well informed. I attended a day of the Glenn Brown trial - I believe there is an appeal waiting to be heard by the courts? Some of the points you make in your comment mirror my follow-up blog today on the reaction of the National Gamekeepers Organisation to the RSPB report. And I see that Robin Page is having a go at raptors in the Daily Telegraph today too - i will come back to that next week.

  10. Hi Mark,

    It would indeed fit better into your latest blog post, I had written most of this it late last night and finished it and posted without seeing that update.




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