After making the arguable claim that gamekeeping is a ‘profession‘ the NGO makes the obligatory nod in the direction of upholding the law and then talks about the ‘surge’ in birds of prey numbers and pats its own members on the back for their ‘tolerance’ despite the ‘problems’ that birds of prey can cause. It then seeks to shift ground completely (very wise since it was standing on shaky ground) by saying that many less ‘photogenic’ birds are doing very well on moorland managed by gamekeepers. No outright lies in any of that but it sounds very much to me like a ‘profession’ which is in denial over the harm that its members are doing, illegally, to our wildlife.
It’s stuff like this that makes it very difficult for me, and many others, to take seriously the repeated claims that there are just a few bad apples causing all these problems. If there are so few bad apples then why don’t the many good apples say something like: ‘We’re glad that the number of poisonings went down a bit last year but we agree with the RSPB and the police that there are far too many. We’re a bit ashamed of ourselves really because we can’t seem to root out these illegal practices which give us all a bad name. Please don’t think we are all ‘at it’ because we aren’t and we are just as angry about it as the RSPB and other wildlife conservationists.’? The NGO didn’t really come very close to that did they?
If the ‘good apples’ are always sticking together with the ‘bad apples’ then how can you blame anyone for chucking out the whole barrel?
In an article in this month’s (November) issue of The Field (which doesn’t get even a mention on their website so I don’t really know why I’m plugging it) I wrote of being affected by being told that people like me should take greater care to differentiate between the good apples and the bad – and that is a perfectly fair point. But something similar applies to the NGO and the shooting community. The rottenness and the canker are amongst your peers – sort it out!
But Andy Richardson – an ex-gamekeeper with whom I spent some time back in August – posted a comment on this blog yesterday which said amongst other things ‘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”. ‘. Thank you and well done Andy! We need to hear more of that sort of thing from those who shoot. The more remarks like that come from the shooting community the more that conservationists can believe that there is hope to banish poisoning from our countryside and make it easier for nature conservationist and fieldsports to reach an easier relationship.
If the NGO would like a guest blog here on the subject of raptor persecution, to put their side of the case, or to clarify what their position is, then they are welcome to get in touch.
And almost as an afterthought:
The coverage of this ‘story’ in the Daily Telegraph makes interesting reading. The raptor-hating (that’s the impression it gives me) Telegraph knows about photogenic species – on a story about dead birds of prey it uses a picture of a live curlew! And I wonder whether the NGO did use the word ‘bias’ as does the Telegraph in paragraph 3? ‘Bias’ isn’t in the NGO statement on their website and it isn’t in quotes. Maybe the Telegraph spoke to the NGO and someone used that very word or maybe the Telegraph just thought they would strengthen what the NGO said a little bit. And what did the RSPB do in paragraph 6? Apparently they ‘admitted’ something whereas I expect they ‘said’ it – what’s to admit? In the seventh paragraph ‘But Martin Harper…’, why ‘But’? What’s the ‘But’ for? And see how the three paragraphs of the NGO response are given such prominence high up the piece, including the irrelevance of photogenicity (!), rather than the actual report on poisoning. This story could be used in media courses as an object lesson (as well as an abject lesson) in subtle insinuation.
I prefer this coverage by the BBC.