GWCT called out over spin

The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust is in serious trouble over its spin.

See this series of tweets from Jeff Knott, RSPB Director of East England (and former species policy officer at The Lodge).

All the above tweets come from current or past RSPB staff (one of whom was also an ex-GWCT staff member). I hope Jeff Knott doesn’t get into any trouble from his tweets as they appear to be factual apart from what was clearly a strongly-held opinion about the quality of science and senior management in GWCT. And they are good to see because in organisational life, as well as in private life, it is sometimes necessary to call out serious misdemeanours. I hope RSPB senior management will do some more of this in future.

See also this blog from Raptor Persecution UK which covers similar ground on the same RSPB report.

And have a look at this blog on the Wild Justice site which was published yesterday and points out the mealy-mouthed statement by GWCT on Pheasant impacts.

It is worth looking too at this blog on the Wild Justice website which is about the GWCT’s evidence on the general licences – the third paragraph which includes the words ‘they fail to disclose’ and although it is all technical scientific stuff the general message is that the GWCT are deliberately or carelessly giving the impression that predation by birds listed on the general licences is a serious conservation problem when they know, and it is clear, that the evidence does not support that for many species.

Where GWCT are, in my opinion, is that their best science is behind them, and of course perhaps in front of them, but it isn’t with them now. And it really doesn’t matter how good your science is, or was, or might be, if you don’t communicate it perfectly honestly. Cherry-picking, mealy-mouthedness and avoiding unpalatable truths are just as much bad science as doing bad science in the first place.

I no longer trust or respect the GWCT, as an organisation – but maybe you do. They have fallen a long way in a decade or two. Yes, they have some good apples in their organisation but their public face no longer inspires confidence. I blame Teresa Dent and the GWCT’s board of trustees but it is difficult to know whether they have caused this terrible situation or have simply failed to notice or correct it.


24 Replies to “GWCT called out over spin”

  1. GWCT have lost all credibility . Who on earth will listen to their rhetoric now . I hope there is much dissent amongst their ranks . Maybe someone within will pull the rug from under them .

  2. How valid is a report from 2010 either way? Surely that report was based around the number of game birds released at that time. It seems that numbers released have risen significantly since then which I would have thought would affect in some way the ecological impact of such releases compared to 2010. A new report is obviously called for to remove any confusion………..

  3. With all this mis-information promulgated by spin merchants it’s time that ‘sport’ of this nature was like any other, regulated and licensed. It’s time that there was accountability for publication of erroneous information. Quoted statistics need to be validated by evidence and source otherwise credibility is at risk to a ‘brand image’ already under scrutiny. The more they perpetuate the divisive dribble the wider the audience becomes and the public begins to see what is actually happening out there in the countryside.

    If releasing millions of non-native gamebirds into the countryside is good for conservation and has no impact on the natural ecology then what’s the problem with undertaking a genuinely independent assessment?

    Aside from the ‘impact’ issue, what’s the problem with licensing and regulation in line with other ‘sports’?

    Shotguns are licensed (although the full cost is not borne by the user, it is subsidised by the public) so it seems reasonable that businesses carry insurance for accidents caused by their ‘sport’?

    1. Some people say the same thing about my particular ‘sport’ – cycling – they want compulsory insurance, road tax, number plates – cyclists banned from roads near a cycle path etc etc.

      I can’t help but think that what they really want is less cyclists.

  4. This was bound to happen GWCT have been cheery picking and being foolishly selective with data for years. the few real scientists still there ought and probably must be furious as this spin doctoring has completely destroyed the organisations credibility with all but the totally blinkered in the shooting cabal. Once lost credibility and reputation are very difficult sometimes impossible to restore.

  5. Your comments on whether Jeff will get into trouble -it is perhaps the senior managers who need a rethink. There seems to be a blind faith in working together, communicating etc etc, all very creditable, but failing to recognise that there are people and groups exploiting their reasonable position – shooting, the current Government and the ontensification end of farming to name a few.

    I certainly don’t remember that in the RSPB and NCC position over the Flow Country- they rightly said it was wrong, had to stop and got it stopped.

    1. Roderick – I was surprised that Mark even raised the possibility that Jeff Knott might “get into trouble” as a result of telling it like it is. I’d be amazed if he did.

      I think your view of the positions RSPB takes is far too simplistic. They are based on the best science available and what falls within the charitable objects. RSPB have to make realistic judgements on the best ways to achieve the best outcomes for conservation, how best to spend their money – and they have to keep a million plus members on side. If governments don’t want to listen and act, they won’t. A huge issue at the moment is what environmental protections we will have if we leave the EU – RSPB won’t get what nature needs there by trying to kick the door down or throwing the toys out of the pram.

      1. Thanks Bob W and Roderick.
        I’d be amazed if I get into trouble too. In my 12 years, RSPB has never been anything other than a whole heartedly supportive organisation to work for.

  6. I’m not sure about ‘laughable cherry picking’. It’s a tweet – and unlike an academic treatise it is severely limited in length.

    1. The executive summary (on page 1) has a sentence covering the good and bad, which is tweet length. I agree it takes more than a tweet to summarise the report’s conclusions fully. I took four.

      1. Well if you are using just one tweet from the GWCT to represent their entire position you are clearly doing exactly what you accuse them of aren’t you? Does the GWCT never acknowledge that there can be good and bad practice?

        1. You can’t have two sciences! Mark Avery and Chris Packham’s Science is the right one – of course any other perspectives are half arsed and fake science. It’s not ‘spin’ to say that it’s a simple fact. All contributions from the GWCT should be dismissed out of hand as lies. The time for engagement is over now is the time to fight for the one truth and for Wildlife Justice!

      2. @jeff – how about this comment from a key Wild Justice member about a report part funded by the RSPB:

        “half arsed ‘science'”

        is that what you’d call “spin”?

          1. The debate about the uplands much like many debates about complex and nuanced subjects is plagued by people over simplifying things for political purposes. Of course Packham will simply dismiss the report out of hand even though it presents valid data collected, provided and funded by members of his own organisation.

            You aren’t “scientists” you’re rabble rousers marshalling your little armies of bigots. Both you & Packham and the moorland association are just sides of the same coin.

            *****************************************the Hunting Act was such a disaster. [irrelevant to this post]

            ************************** the Hunting Act when flushing wild mammals is justified [irrelevant to this post]

            *********************************** [irrelevant to this post]

      3. You should be aware that Giles Bradshaw refuses to kill deer on his farm. He’s a ****** and **** Wildlife Criminal who allows wildlife to continue living because he thinks he knows better than the law. [Mark writes – please be polite]

  7. As for ‘serious trouble’ – does some people commenting on a tweet one has made really constitute ‘serious trouble’. I sometimes wonder if these things are over exaggerated. If this is ‘serious trouble’ what words are we going to use for actual serious trouble?

      1. It seems to me what the GWCT have done is rather similar to saying that ‘the’ science shows that ‘the’ cause of something is X – that’s basically spin if in reality science shows that the cause of something may include X, Y and Z and possibly other factors. So basically dressing up a complex issue as a simple one in order to make a political point is spin.

        Not that you would ever also do that Mark!

        1. Giles Bradshaw is a self acknowledged Wildlife Criminal – why is nothing done about this? It seems to me that no one is fully committed to enforcing wildlife law. This man regularly takes his dog out and refuses to kill the wildlife he flushes. Why isn’t Wild Justice shouting from the rooftops about this deliberate infraction of the law. If Bradshaw can get away with not killing wildlife the next thing will be that the hunts and every other Tom Dick and Harry do too and then where would we be?!! We’ll be in a situation where it is possible to disturb wildlife when out with a dog without having a gang of gun men standing by to kill it. This CANNOT be right – it makes me shudder to think of all those deer over the years that have been allowed to live.

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