Maybe that’s why

I didn’t see many eagles on my holiday in Scotland.  I did travel down the A82 through Bridge of Orchy, and very pretty it was too.

Last week a farm manager from Bridge of Orchy was convicted of possessing Carbofuran, an illegal poison whose use has been banned since 2001.  A dead golden eagle had been found on a remote hillside near Bridge of Orchy in June 2009.  A post-mortem found that the eagle had been poisoned with Carbofuran.

Carbofuran is banned throughout the EU.  It is used elsewhere as an insecticide for potatoes, soya and corn.  But anyone using this banned chemical ought to watch out – it is highly toxic to humans, is a neurotoxin and can reduce testosterone levels and increase the levels of female hormones.  Any gamekeeper’s wife whose man is showing rather too much of his feminine side should ask a few questions about what he may have in bottles in the barn.

Certainly someone had been sloshing it about a bit near Bridge of Orchy as the body of a Carbofuran-poisoned fox and a sheep carcass laced with Carbofuran were found nearby.

A farm manager pled guilty to the possession of this poison and was fined £1200.

Commenting on the sentencing Ian Thomson, RSPB Scotland’s Head of Investigations, said:

RSPB Scotland has invested considerable resources in assisting Strathclyde Police in the investigation of this significant case. We heartily commend the efforts of the police in their rigorous follow-up to the illegal poisoning of the golden eagle on Beinn Udlaidh, leading to this successful prosecution.

We are very disappointed that, at the conclusion of the investigation, no-one has been charged with the poisoning of this golden eagle, one of our most vulnerable and iconic bird species, or with the laying out of poison baits in the open in our countryside.

While we welcome the conviction, yet again, we are dismayed that the final result of a high profile enquiry poses little in the way of a deterrent to those who continue to flagrantly disregard our wildlife protection laws. The illegal killing of protected birds of prey remains a persistent problem in some parts of Scotland, with, for example, six further golden eagles confirmed as illegally poisoned since this incident, including one in Lochaber earlier this year. We call upon the Scottish Government to urgently review the penalties imposed by the courts on those who break our wildlife laws.

Quite right too (apart from a couple of split infinitives)!

News coverage here, here, here and here.


21 Replies to “Maybe that’s why”

  1. No birds of prey on your land which should be there – no payment of agricultural subsidies to the owner or the tenant.

      1. How about conviction for poisoning birds of prey on your land or possession of illegal poison by one of your employees = no payment of agricultural subsidies to the owner or the tenant? Assessment on the strength of a conviction (proved beyond reasonable doubt) rather than absence of top predators (highly suspicious but just short of conclusive).

        And while we’re at it obviously there would have to be a ban on shooting and release of birds to be shot on that estate, together with revoking general licence for “legal” control of anything else, for a period depending on the seriousness of the offence. To finish we’d have to have the estate cough up for the full costs of conducting the investigation on top of the fine (which seems lenient to put it mildly in this case).

        Whilst it would be great to see wildlife murderers locked up and the key thrown into a vat of Carbofuran, realistically with our jails are already full the chances of appropriate custodial sentences are probably as remote as the hills where the golden eagles should be but aren’t.

        1. You can’t just ban shooting. A lot of people forget that managed estates also promote habitats for endangered birds especially ground nesting birds. Carbofuran maybes should be banned, but you can’t try and stop shooting and pest control, the RSPB seem intent on doing so, even though they claim they want the best for all these garden birds, endangered birds etc. Your being a bit rediculous to be honest

  2. Given the pathetic sentencing and the increasing cost of housing inmates, how about a wee nip of carbofuran for the perpetrator as part of the sentencing? The figures speak for themselves – how many women have been convicted of crimes against wildlife vs. men? Maybe suppression of this testosterone dominated crime may reduce repeat offenders and send a message out to those ‘manly’ individuals who are hell bent on killing our nation’s wildlife in the pursuit of their business interests?

  3. He should be locked up along with his boss – the landowner. Until the penalty is a real deterrent it’ll keep on happening. If it’s going to be stopped, the law needs to start handing out tougher penalties – not paltry fines that his boss will pay out of his small change.

  4. No chance of things improving quickly as probably like one judge said it takes courage to be a burglar.Think the judges probably think it takes courage to poison and shoot defenceless birds.

  5. This is the definitive work:-

    J Wiley – 300+ pages Nov 2011

    “This cutting-edge title is one of the first devoted entirely to the issue of carbofuran and wildlife mortality. It features a compilation of international contributions from policy-makers, researchers, conservationists and forensic practitioners and provides a summary of the history and mode of action of carbofuran, and its current global use.

    Check out eBay for Contents – but it’ll cost between £75 – £90 !!

  6. I’m really surprised at your dismissive attitude, Mark. Have you read it or are you judging it by its cover? Sure, it’s over-priced (so order it through the library) and quite dry in places (it’s aimed at an academic audience mostly) but it’s an incredibly informative book. The level of detail provided in some of the case studies is second to none – the studies in Kenya are especially informative and very, very shocking. It’s not all doom and gloom either – there’s some great work going on in Spain and our governments could learn a lot from reading that chapter: special task forces set up to deal specifically with poisoning incidents so none of the long investigative delays we see over here, trained sniffer dog units that routinely patrol areas of land and not just when a bait has been found, compulsory (temporary) closure of areas where bait has been found…. It’s refreshing to see what can be achieved with a bit of political will. Seriously, I’d encourage you to read this book.

      1. I do, but that’s not why I’m recommending you read the book! I doubt you’ll learn anything new from my bit; it was written for those without much of an understanding of our persecution problem so you’ll already be more than familiar with that stuff. It’s the other chapters that I think you personally would find interesting.

  7. “Looks a bit worthy and dull to me!”

    A far more interesting book, IMHO, would address the techniques for growing potatoes, soybean and maize at Bridge of Orchy …

  8. Ruth hit the nail on the head when she said”its refreshing to see what can be achieved with a bit of political will.
    What would we give for some political will from our spineless politicians.

  9. Gongfarmer’s suggestion is quite ingenious !

    It’s worth remembering that at least one gamekeeper has been killed handling illegal poison – but fired up on testosterone, I don’t suppose many perpetrators stop to think it could be them next.

  10. Ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law. I heard or read recently that a lot of people who passed their test in not-so-recent years didn’t know that regularly-spaced streetlights are an indication of a 30mph speed limit. “I didn’t know it was a 30mph limit” would be no excuse regardless of whether it was true.

    Similarly, continuing to own substances after they have been banned is unallowable regardless of whether or not the user realised they had become a banned substance. I’m not talking about their use – simply their ownership.

    But what happens when the HSE doesn’t bother to change their official guidance for several years?

    Cymag was banned in 2004 but I understand it was several years later that a member of the public alerted HSE that their downloadable guidance to gamekeepers specifically referred to cymag as if it was still legal, therefore supplying entirely misleading information.

    There is no professional body that has everyone in a profession within its membership – some people will always be outside of organisations and therefore challenging to keep updated on changes to law. But UK laws and are the laws for everyone and it’s entirely reasonable to expect that if you look on a government website for information that relates to your situation, that you will find correct information.

    In the 3 months between being alerted to the misinformation and changing it, someone was fined for possession of cymag.

    The HSE kept their mistake pretty quiet.

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