RaptorPersecutionUK wrote about this letter in the Shooting Gazette recently (see here).
Mr Davis’s main point, that shooting organisations need to get together and make a plan of attack (an interesting choice of words), just isn’t going to happen any more than it does at the moment. I’d say that the shooting organisations do quite well in organising themselves, probably better than wildlife conservation organisations, but they won’t do much better and that is partly because the organisatons (BASC, GWCT, NGO, SGA, Moorland Association and, I guess, the Countryside Alliance and Scottish Land and Estates) have different remits, different memberships, different purposes and that’s probably a good thing. And in any case, their problems lie in their very nature – killing wildlife for fun is never going to be a universally popular hobby and the way things are going it will become less and less acceptable to many people. And then there is so much crime against wildlife associated with shooting that the behaviour of shooters (no, not all shooters, but shooters not non-shooters) is so bad that they turn what would otherwise be the grudging indifference of people like myself into a passion for radical reform. And then there is the lack of honesty of a few individual shooters and of some of their representatives in those organisations of which Mr Davis writes, which just removes any lingering respect that many of us might have for shooting. An industry or a hobby which cannot recognise or admit its failings, and cannot act to reform itself, really isn’t going to win many friends outside of a narrow band of participants.
Although I am sure that Mr Davis really believes that only a handful of gamekeepers have let everyone down I don’t think that those organisations of which he writes really believe that – and nor do I. And nor does Prof Ian Newton FRS who in an interview in Behind the Binoculars said;
… many gamekeepers will be killing birds of prey habitually.
Mr Davis thinks that ‘a fraction of 1%’ of gamekeepers are at it whereas Prof Newton thinks that ‘many’ are ‘habitual’ wildlife criminals. That’s quite a gap.
If there are 5000 gamekeepers in the UK then 1% of them is 50 individuals. But Mr Davis tells us that a fraction of that number are letting the side down. I wonder how many that is? 30? 20? 10? Let’s imagine that it is 20. Gosh! Those 20 people are pretty busy since they are the main reason why England had 13 pairs of Hen Harrier in 2018 whereas the science suggests that the habitat exists for c330. So those 20 folk are really working hard to keep English Hen Harrier numbers down aren’t they? And they must go to Scotland too to make sure that there are hundreds of ‘missing’ Hen Harriers there too. And all those disappearing satellite-tagged Hen Harriers, scattered over wide areas of the country (including a few in Wales) – are we to believe that the 20 bad apples are touring the uplands of Britain with their guns, traps and poisons?
And they are doing a job on Golden Eagles, Peregrine Falcons, Red Kites and Goshawks too, remember. A fraction of 1%? I somehow doubt it, but if there really were that few, then there must be many people in the shooting community who know who they are. They must be seen popping up in strange places all the time and I’m sure people will know who are these well-travelled individuals.
I think a moment of careful thought would put the number of wildlife criminals a lot closer to Prof Newton’s estimate than Mr Davis’s.
A tree covered in apples – how many are rotten? Photo: Maseltov, via Wikimedia Commons