Gems from the written evidence 1 – Alan Stewart

The written evidence to the inquiry into driven grouse shooting has started to be published – but there are, I am told, hundreds more examples to come.

I’ll be quoting from and commenting on some of them here over the next week or so – although my ability to get connected to the internet may be a bit variable as I will be travelling.

Here are some extracts from the written evidence of Alan Stewart an ex police officer, ex wildlife crime officer, ex member of the National Wildlife Crime Unit and ex shooter;

  • ‘the volume of wildlife crime I saw that was clearly committed in the name of game management astonished me’
  • ‘The crimes I encountered or dealt with ranged from the killing by various means of golden eagles, white-tailed eagles, peregrines, red kites, goshawks, buzzards, ravens, badgers and otters to the illegal shooting of deer to reduce the tick burden on grouse. On one driven grouse moor all the deer were shot at night in a spotlight and the carcasses left on the hill. On another driven grouse moor the native trees beside hill burns were cut down to prevent the roosting or nesting of any birds that might predate grouse. Intelligence consistently showed that the worst areas were east and south-west Scotland and the north of England, all areas of driven grouse moors. Considering I was once part of the ‘shooting scene’ and used to shoot game this has completely sickened me.’
  • ‘The regular discoveries of poisonous baits or their victims present a real risk of serious injury or even death to anyone encountering and touching them. Most are found on driven grouse moors and sooner or later will lead to a fatality. In Scotland in the last five years at least eight satellite-tagged golden eagles have ‘gone missing’ in areas of grouse moors. This, together with a considerable number of hen harriers that have also ‘gone missing’ in grouse moor areas in Scotland and the north of England, strongly indicates there is no let-up in criminality.’
  • ‘Many landowners, sporting agents and gamekeepers on driven grouse moors … completely ignore the law’
  • ‘ some of these estates running rings around the law’

Alan Stewart’s whole evidence is well worth reading and he says some valid and interesting things about the economics of ecotourism too. But this evidence from a former wildlife crime officer is utterly damning of driven grouse shooting and entirely consistent with my written evidence.

Reading this evidence should bring home to any MP seeking to speak in the debate on 31 October that wildlife crime is endemic to driven grouse shooting – and that profits from driven grouse shooting are fuelled by wildlife crime. This also ought to be clear to the Defra minister Therese Coffey, and she needs to address the scale and extent of wildlife crime in her remarks on 31 October – and she must indicate that she intends to act rather than to wash her hands of this serious situation.



I’m asking you to write to your MP this weekend and ask them to attend the Westminster Hall debate on 31 October and make the following points:

  • wildlife crime is rife in the uplands.  This has major conservation impacts on birds of prey (see my written evidence).  Illegal killing of birds of prey is not caused by a few bad apples but is endemic to the activity of driven grouse shooting.
  • intensive management of our hills for driven grouse shooting causes many other problems (increased flooding, increased water treatment costs, culls of Mountain Hares, damage to protected habitats, increased greenhouse gas emissions) which could be tackled by stronger regulation and government should consider that as a serious option for those issues
  • but the government is not seriously addressing wildlife crime. The grouse shooting industry has shown no willingness or ability to tackle this issue despite decades of saying that it will. The status quo is not an option. Banning driven grouse shooting is the most effective way to end wildlife crime against birds of prey in our uplands and anything else will be weak and ineffective.

Please write to your MP and ask them to pass on your letter to Defra ahead of the debate if they are unable to attend and make these points themselves. Tell your MP that you will also write to them after the debate and that this is an issue about which you feel very strongly.

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20 Replies to “Gems from the written evidence 1 – Alan Stewart”

  1. I believe you highlighted Alan Stewart's evidence when he submitted it. I certainly remember reading it previously and it really is a damning indictment of the illegal killing that we all know is taking place. When I saw it again as I read through the evidence that has been published I printed it off and included it with the letter that I sent to my MP. Sadly I fear that she and many of her colleagues will close her mind and prefer the drivel trotted out by the pro-shooting brigade. I'll know when I get her response and see if she attends and makes a contribution to the debate.

    1. Cracking idea about printing off Alan Stewart's comments and giving them to MP. I'll do the same. Mr Stewart is brilliant, when you do get a genuine WCO, not a plant from the shitty shooters they are fantastic - breathtakingly competent, dedicated, intelligent and articulate. That makes the phonies all that much harder to bear.

  2. I can only repeat what I have said before. A national newspaper needs to publish Alan's evidence in full. This needs to be told to an animal loving nation.
    We are way past the time when a mention here and there on a blog or in a bird magazine is enough. The shooting fraternity will never worry about 123,000 of us knowing, but if it were to become known nationally, surely it could only end in a ban.

    Would any paper be brave enough? Would a tv channel run with it. Is it possible to find an editor that hasn't got their nose in the debased trough that is DGS?

    Or shall I just go back to cloud cuckoo land?

  3. An interesting contrast from the opinions of another former wildlife crime officer ie Duncan Thomas of BASC. According to him this sort of crime against nature is all a 'moorland myth' which is totally preventable by the expulsion of any perpetrators from their sporting association!

  4. I am delighted to hear that Alan has stood up and been counted here..what has been missing all too often in this long fight against wildlife crime in our countryside has been the lack of insiders having the courage to tell the awful truth of the sheer scale and "routine" nature of the killing. Criminality protected by a wall of silence against outsiders.

  5. I think it is important to make it explicitly clear to MP's when writing, that our position is based on sound, well recorded and tested evidence and point out that the CLA, MA and NO etc talk in hyperbole and vague statements which are only supported by hearsay and false rumour. There is a distinct difference in the qualitative nature of the evidence that they are being asked to consider.
    If they accept the empty rhetoric... we will be asking them to explain themselves and run the risk of being found wanting.

  6. Mark, as a number of contributors on your blog have commented, it's all very well sharing all of this damning evidence with your followers who mostly violently agree with everything that written, but it needs to be projected outwards to the voting public. What, if anything, is being done to that end? If efforts are being made what obsticles are being presented? I think your supporters should know!

      1. Anand, so what is it that's being done to reach the wider public? I can't see the evidence and neither can a few others judging by previous posts.

        I'm writing to my MP, at Marks request, who also does not respond. If there were several million people aware of these issues and writing then maybe he (my MP) and his colleagues would be rather more exercised.

        If this petition turns out to be a damp squib do to the lack of genuine pressure I think there will be quite a few campaigners (and they don't actually number that many) who have given up time and effort to support Mark in HIS initiative left just slightly disillusioned and where would that leave the fight for the wider issue of nature conservation?

        1. PD - you're right to say that you don't know the evidence. You are quick to criticise but uninformed in that criticism. You started with uninformed criticism of me for not contacting bird clubs. You are now bemoaning lack of national media coverage - you may have been asleep for a while and missed some of it. Keep your eyes open over the next few days is my advice.

          You used to comment on this blog but have taken a few years break.

          Here are a couple of your previous comments for context:

          ‘Finally, I'm absolutely appalled by my own uselessness and so will make this my final word.’

          ‘Thereby, one presumes you're not too concerned about seeing good law abiding game keepers turfed out of their career of choice and possibly ending up in some brain numbing alternative job or worst?’

          1. Yes Mark, if I can't see evidence for myself I usually ask - a bit like you with "freedom of information requests etc" - you often don't respond - a bit like Geoffrey Clifton-Brown who hasn't responded to my requests for him to contribute to the debate on your behalf.

            Useless in the sense of being (historically) unable to influence my fellow "nature watchers" to actually campaign for what they write about (eg Bird Atlases documenting the decline of many species not just Hen Harriers) and people like yourself who produce a fantastic body of evidence - both substantial and circumstantial - but appear to be content to keep it amongst you blogging and book buying friends rather than reach out to the people who'll actually make or break your campaign.

            If we are about to be blitzed with a mainstream (tv and media campaign then maybe I've finally gotten through to you, but its been thin on the ground to say the least up to this point.

            And then there is the style thing - you ridicule and mock your opponents some of which - me included - are essentially on side in most respects. I want to see the status quo altered to alleviate the flood risk to communities like Calderdale and others and I'd like to see wildlife crime eradicated. I just think it a shame that you undermine the excellent work you do with (for example) calling Viscount Ridley "The Not So Talented..." etc etc etc, What does that achieve exactly? Please do tell.

            As I commented previously the stars of the select committee session where Jeff Knott and Amanda Anderson who clearly have a grasp of "How to Win Friends and Influence People". There is a famous book by that name - Dale Carnegie I think. I must read it sometime - you have no excuse given the "Standing Up For Nature" role you've taken on!!!

          2. PD - if you review your comments then you will find that you don't ask, you assume. That was my point.

          3. Mark, I am deeply flawed. I should read Carnegie asap.

            Now what about Viscount Ridley, Philip Merricks, Keith Cowieson etc etc who you tend to mock seemingly because they, to varying degrees, disagree with you in some shape or form.

            There was a certain line of questioning on the select commitee along the (implicit) lines that you are a class warrior and this petition is your attack vehicle. Do you not think your style leaves you open to this and thus undermines your ability to actually win?

  7. Slightly OT, but on the subject of written material, the November edition of the beloved of the Aged Middle Classes magazine The Countryman has two very good articles on wildlife preservation which even touches on raptor crime. Sadly the very last word, just before the adverts and the pages of jokes at the end, is given to someone called H. Woolridge of Kidderminster (to tie into the topic, if this person's name comes up in the written it might make an interesting read) who blames raptors and rooks for wiping out all other songbirds and gives an emotive account of a less than one day old duckling being predated by a rook. H. Woolridge of Kidderminster then calls for the Gamekeepers to be allowed to shoot all these birds (the predators, not the ducklings; boy will H. Woolridge of Kidderminster be surprised if they look in a trap or two) and stops only just short of calling on people to do it anyway.

    It is a very calculated letter in many ways, hitting all the emotive buttons that the usual suspects try to hit. That they specifically mention phesants among the list of songbirds and ducklings is a real eyebrow raiser in that regard; as is the denigration of bird protection charities whih H. Woolridge of Kidderminster accuses of only looking after raptors. It is troubling that the last word in the magazine is given to such a vile letter. I'd encourage anyone who wants to contact The Countryman's letters editor:
    The Countryman Letters
    The Water Mill
    Broughton Hall
    BD23 3AG

    And let them know how appalling that letter was, how close to the wind it is sailing regarding inciting people to shoot raptors, the placement in the magazine as the final word on the subject, and of course the general dubiousness as to its veracity given how it so very neatly hits all the emotive buttons while praising keepers and promotion of pheasants as a countryside bird.

    I wonder if a copy of H. Woolridge of Kidderminster's letter to The Countryman will also show up in the written? And under which name.

  8. Richard May's testimony was amusing. A case of mixed cherries.
    High Moor with "with a spring population of around 60 birds and a maximum recorded count of 255 birds" and
    "To maintain a healthy stock and gene pool on High Moor it is essential to 'drive grouse'".

    Driving 60-255 birds, right! Even Amanada Andesron claimed that DGS could only occur with high grouse numbers.

    For an encore
    "Driving grouse with beaters flushes coveys led by old birds towards a line of guns, resulting in old birds being predominantly shot."

    1. Another gem from Stephen Wrigley. Find the elephant on the moor:
      'During my life, while shooting grouse, I have seen golden eagles, ravens, merlin and red kite (August 2016, near Aviemore): I know of no instance on any of the estates visited where raptor persecution has occurred or has even been spoken about; in recent years I have also seen black game, ptarmigan, lapwing, pipits, fieldfares (on lower ground), curlew, snipe, mountain hares, red deer as well as innumerable bees, spiders etc., not to mention healthy wild heather and other local vegetation, including bilberries, crowberries etc.'
      I don't think i have yet read anyone against the ban who has mentioned Hen Harriers apart from at least two who want raptors killed legally.

      1. "I know of no instance on any of the estates visited where raptor persecution has occurred or has even been spoken about"

        Yeah right - because if they had been carrying you criminal acts you would expect them to be blabbing about it to all and sundry, wouldn't you?

        1. As i read more i also found a couple who do mention Hen Harriers and both of them reckoned that Hen Harriers were helped by gamekeepers. Brilliant.
          Also came across at least 2 that were copies of each other so possibly cut and pasted from some lobby instructions.


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