Dear First Minister

Poisoned White-tailed Eagle. Photo: Police Scotland

Dear First Minister and Cabinet Secretary

I am writing to you about the poisoned White-tailed Eagle that was found on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park.  I’m sure you’re getting lots of emails on this subject and I know you will read very few of them. No matter, somebody will read this and be keeping count of the numbers for you.

Let me introduce myself – I’m a scientist by training who has worked in nature conservation for over 30 years.  I live, and vote, in England but I have strong links with Scotland. My first paid job in nature conservation was as the summer warden of the National Nature Reserve at St Cyrus in the summer of 1976. My first experience of research was as a field assistant on the Red Deer Project on Rhum in 1977 and 1978. My PhD is from the University of Aberdeen. I started my career with the RSPB, for whom I worked for 25 years (13 of them as the UK Conservation Director) working in the Flow Country of Caithness and Sutherland. I met my wife in Scotland, and my son, who has a PhD from Edinburgh University, got married just off the Royal Mile two weeks ago and we enjoyed a socially-distanced wedding breakfast of champagne and take-away pizza on the grass near the Scottish Parliament building while some Peregrine Falcons from Arthur’s Seat flew overhead.  I am engaged with Scotland, its people and wildlife.

Let me go back to my opening sentence:

  • poisoned – poison has been illegal in the countryside for many many years and yet a report of another poisoned bird of prey is hardly news, the scale of law-breaking is so huge
  • White-tailed Eagle – a wonderful bird and a fully protected species. It’s a species reintroduced into Scotland painstakingly over decades and I played a very small part in that myself but hundreds of people have spent huge chunks of time restoring this magnificant bird to Scotland’s skies. The photographs of it lying dead in the heather are so sad, but also so maddening.
  • grouse moor – a Victorian anachronism of a highly intensive management regime which is the way it is solely so that a few can shoot Red Grouse for fun or profit. As I think you know, intensive grouse moors are the source of many of the crimes against Scotland’s eagles, hawks, kites and falcons but also mammals such as Pine Marten, Wild Cat and  others.
  • Cairngorms National Park – how sad is it that many UK National Parks, in Wales, England and Scotland are not places where wildlife thrives but are wildlife crime hotspots which besmirch the title of National Park? 

I know that the SNP’s policy is to license driven grouse shooting, and I know that you are considering the slightly feeble Werritty report (why is it taking soooooo long?) but surely you must act soon? I would like to see a complete ban of driven grouse shooting across the UK and have been associated with two UK-wide Westminster petitions which have easily passed the 100,000 signatures needed for debate. In both cases Scottish signatures were slightly overrepresented compared with population and of course those signatures from Scotland far outnumber the support for any petition for licensing. So please consider an outright ban of driven grouse shooting, but if not, then please get on with the putting licensing in place even though it is the feeble compromise option.

I admire you both as politicians and if you were ever on the ballot here in my constituency of Corby I would happily vote for either of you.  Admittedly we have a pretty poor crop of politicians down here in England!  But you are increasingly looking weak and unprincipled on the issue of protecting Scotland’s wildlife from criminals.

I watched Braveheart on TV recently and despite its historical inaccuracies I was reminded that it is a very entertaining film. One of the most memorable scenes is when the Scots turn their backs on the English and lift up their kilts to present their bare backsides to the English King and army. Did that ever happen? Well, its like is happening nowadays. Every poisoned eagle, shot harrier or trapped hawk is the grouse moor industry showing you their backsides to show that they have no fear of you, or respect for you. They are taking the mickey mightily out of you.  And every gamekeeper you meet who greets you with a smile, just wonder how often his backside is on a Landrover seat taking poisons up into the hills. And the  besuited landowner from the New Town of Edinburgh who greets you with a smile, just think how he counts his grouse moor income with his backside smoothly placed far from the hills in a comfortable office. When they smile at you they are really laughing, and in their breaking of the law they are showing everyone their backsides.  How long are you going to let this go on?

Please act now.

Dr Mark Avery

If you are maddened or saddened by the level of wildlife crime in Scotland’s Cairngorms National Park then please write to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon ( and copy in Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham (


55 Replies to “Dear First Minister”

    1. Lyn – I’m sure your emails were great. Every one counts (and most will be counted not read!). Thank you for standing up for nature.

  1. Fab email Mark. It makes my two look rather feeble but hopefully numbers will count.

    1. Leslie – thank you for your first comment here.

      I am absolutely sure that numbers count more than length. And the emails wll be counted rather than read, I bet.

      Thank you for emailing – now ask your friends to do so too, please.

  2. The Animal Interfaith Alliance has written as per your suggestions, Mark. We always support you/Wild Justice.
    Thanks for galvanising us all into action.

  3. I wrote to both of them last night. Nowhere as elegantly as you did Mark, but polite and heartfelt & just had to do it/say it, even though I was busy I stopped to get those emails and words out. Power of one…if we all write yes, it’s the impact & numbers that count as much as the words.

    1. Joyce – thank you very much for taking the time, making the effort and hopefully making a difference.

  4. Thanks Mark. I have sent an email this morning to Nicola and Roseanna – I do hope it helps. I am appalled that this is going on.

  5. Hi Mark,
    I have sent a email to The First Secretary asking her to intervene.

    Rich Harris, Southam & District Owl Conservation Project (Glos)

    1. Richard – thank you for your first comment here and thank you for adding your voice. Every email will make a difference.

  6. Mark
    What a marvellous and eloquent email – thank you being so inspiring to us all…
    I have emailed too – and asked friends to email. As an ecologist, wildlife artist and writer I am fully behind this campaign. The killing and blatant disregard for our beautiful wildlife must be stopped and stopped now – enough is enough… Thank you.

    1. Steve – thanks for your first comment here – although it’s not your first appearance on this blog.

      And thank you so much for emailing. Every outraged email makes a difference.

  7. A very good e mail Mark. One hopes, that the Holyrood gov’t gets off its backside and actually acts rather than talking about acting but I’m not sure they will. Whilst I admire Ms Sturgeon and wish we had more of her ilk in Westminster I’m afraid that SNP is a one trick English bashing pony. We shall see, I’m not sure what angers me more the complacency and inactivity of governments in Scotland and Westminster or the smiling double talk and blatant lying of the likes of Tim Baynes for SLE, Amanda Anderson and Duncan Thomas in England. Then I’d like to see eagle and harrier killers locked up for 10 years. I thought I was hardened to this but a pathetic bundle of feathers that was once a magnificent WTE with all its life before it has shown I am not, calling the culprits bastards hardly suffices.

    1. Seems I’m attracting the dislike cowards again. Must be getting something right then.

      1. ‘SNP is a one trick English hating party’
        ‘Hating’ ? Lets just say that we have a few reservations about them – enough to post the odd dislike when they show their tendency to assume that it’s always all about them.

        1. I didn’t say hating and nor would I. I can fully understand some of Scotland’s antipathy to England and the English or indeed the same from Wales where I live. Having said that I treat people personally as I find and I find most are most affable. I said bashing and that is something the SNP are wont to do even if I agree when its Boris bashing.

      2. Damn right Paul. Once again, they show themselves for what they are. They grab a couple of their pals to join in, but even mob-handed they’re still too chicken-shit to explain themselves; just what we all expect from perverts who abuse defenceless animals for kicks.

  8. A very comprehensive and eloquent message, I too number myself amongst those who have emailed. As you say they will read very few of them but hopefully the numbers will send the message. Given the length of time that is being taken in supposedly considering what action the Scottish government will take I am somewhat sceptical but maybe, just maybe, this will be a turning point.

  9. What a BRILLIANT email which deserves to be read . mine by comparison is hopefully another to add to the numbers.

  10. Hi Mark,
    I am in awe of your email that depicts the continued illegal persecution of all wildlife not restricted to Scotland but the entire UK.We together, must continue the pressure & campaign to achieve our goal.Immediately responded to your request.
    Well done Mark!

  11. Dear Mark, Love your letter. Sadly I am definitely beginning to realise that if these Ministers were buried in letters nothing will make them take notice. Everything down to money. Always has been. They don’t care about our wildlife.
    I will write today – I didn’t see your letter till very late last night.
    I really thank you and Wild Justice for your efforts, but I am not hopeful.

    1. Anne – do email them please – thank you.

      ‘the only yhing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good people do nothing’ – you have said you will do something.

  12. Fantastic email as always Mark. Well done and thank you for leading the way for so many of us to follow.
    They will shortly have another email from me to add to the discarded pile, but also to the final number, which will raise eyebrows.

    This latest ‘discovered’ killing will be the tipping point for many birders NOT to return to Scotland for their annual trip, drawn there by the Eagles more than any other birds, or anything else.
    Millions? of birders mark a trip to Scotland on their calendars and work their year around making that trip happen.
    Our collective spending during these ‘birding holidays’ is a huge boost to the Scottish economy. Each killing affects these trips and holidays (and the economy) with birders reaching their ‘tipping point’.

    The Scottish Government need to realise that the current pandemic will mean millions of birders and their families will ditch their foreign holidays this year and holiday in the UK.
    The potential boost to the Scottish economy is enormous.
    However, the constant killing of raptors will add up to many of us deciding to take action and sack their annual trip up north and head south instead.
    The subsequent loss to the Scottish economy is potentially a crushing blow for so many who rely on us and our families.

    Landowners (with DGS) and their keepers will massively contribute to a greater loss for the Scottish economy year on year.

    So, what are the Scottish Government going to do about it?

    #Keeperskeepkilling #Manthemoors #BanDGS

    1. Collective punishment for the Jocks. Mmmm. A ‘crushing blow’ for the Scottish economy should certainly do the trick.

  13. I would encourage everyone to write just a short email. It doesn’t take long. You don’t have to spend the time Mark has. He obviously wanted to inspire everyone else, which he did excellently.
    To quote John Stuart Mill
    “Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.”

  14. Thanks Mark for galvanising us into action. Your email is brilliant, mine not so, but least I have sent one.

    1. Claire – thank you for taking action – I’m sure your email will count for just as much as mine (but I did quite enjoy writing mine!).

  15. Done and a plea for others to do so added to my FB page. I will send a tweet on the topic anon.

  16. I have just put the following on RPUK site, please excuse the cut and paste.

    We are all aware that the only thing politicians really understand is money. That being the case, could I please ask that anybody who is still planning to write include a line or two about tourism. With the lives of our birds of prey at stake it may seem like an irrelevance, I can assure you it is not.
    Scotland makes a lot of money out of tourism, it’s a huge part of the economy, and it brings in far more than DGS ever will. Further, if the huge amount of land given over to DGS were find a better use, it would benefit wildlife and increase tourism still further.
    This will have even more impact if you are writing from outside Scotland.

    Also, my email was forwarded to 9 wildlife companies, the six green SMPs and The Scotsman. Today I intend to fill the mail boxes of each SNP MP. Independent hotels will also be a target, don’t assume that the owners already know of this matter. Yes it takes time but do we really want this Eagle’s death to be for nothing?
    Please write today.

  17. There does seem to be a fair few people upset over this, but unfortunately it will mainly be the ones upset over the last incident, and the one before that.
    Some while ago, an advertising campaign, posters in the street etc was discussed , now that would be a good use of donated money.

    1. Trapit – You don’t say whether you have written yourself – have you?

      And have you got some donated money then?

  18. Thanks Mark – v well written as always. Have emailed myself. I’m 50% Scot (who knew!). Best wishes. James

  19. Thanks for all your efforts, Mark. I sent the following yesterday. No doubt full of flaws but I wanted to encourage you by showing you that the message is getting through and more of us than ever before (who would previously have done nothing) are now demanding change.
    Best wishes
    Stuart M
    Another Scottish bird of prey found illegally killed on a grouse moor
    Dear Ms Cunningham,
    I am writing to express my concern at the news that yet another Scottish bird of prey (on this occasion a White-tailed Eagle) has been found dead on a Scottish grouse moor. At the time of writing, it appears that the bird died of poisoning.
    Briefly, here are some concerns and observations I would bring to your attention.
    (1) Scottish birds of prey represent a considerable asset to the Scottish people, not only in the way they symbolise wild and exciting landscapes (creating a highly marketable “image” for the Scottish tourist industry) but also in terms of the cost of putting them there in the first place (many are the result of expensive re-introduction and/or protection schemes).
    (2) The setting of poisoned bait in the Scottish countryside (in this case, a National Park) is a reckless and illegal act. Although relatively unlikely, there is nevertheless the possibility that a domestic animal, a pet or even a child could have been exposed to this poison.
    (3) Scotland has a disgraceful past (and present) record in the persecution of its birds of prey. Often (as here), that persecution has been associated with estates maintained for the shooting of grouse. The time has surely come when these estates must be licensed, so that proper sanctions can be imposed upon their operators in the event of repeated breaches of the law.
    May I respectfully request that you do all within your power to prevent this situation from ever happening again.
    Yours sincerely

  20. Hi Mark
    Great letter – and good to be reminded how William Wallace and his crew faced off their opponents! I’ve replied to Nicola Sturgeon and bcc’d you in.

    1. Edward – thank you for your first comment here but much more, thanks for emailing thew First Minister.

  21. Hi Mark. I will indeed send an e mail but I do find it a little frustrating that the real political change we require will only come from a radical politician. Jeremy Corbyn was such and look at the reaction he got from the powerful and privileged, and some of the general public. You even got a taste of it yourself from the Tory MPs at the Parliamentary session on the petition.Until we are all ready to challenge the status quo I think it is unlikely that the Tories/ SNP will put the needs of the public over that of party donators and Corporate lobbyists. Still, I agree we should fight on and that finally the pressure may one day count.

  22. 4 e-mails went from this household last night. Great idea to put it out immediately on Wild Justice.

  23. We sent an e mail to Nicola yesterday. As well as stating the obvious to her about the persecution of wildlife we mentioned the holiday angle. Twenty odd years ago we went mostly to the mainland, mainly to see the wildlife. Over the years we have learnt a lot about the persecution and now go to the Inner and Outer hebrides. No wildlife slaughtering there as far as we know. It is unlikely we will visit the mainland again. We go to see Mountain Hare, Short -eared Owl, Hen Harrier but this has become so difficult now.

  24. Just wanted you to know how inspiring you all are at Wild Justice.
    In my 53 years on this planet I had never written to a politician. About anything. Ever.
    Until now.

    1. Susan – thank you for your first comment here but thank you so much for writing to Nicola Sturgeon. Together we are stronger than apart.

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