Wildlife groups: shooting industry must be regulated

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Goshawk is among the species heavily persecuted by shooting interests

​Charities welcome calls to licence game bird shooting

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26th May 2017 by Graham Martin 0 Comments

Wildlife conservation groups want a “progressive partnership” with the shooting community, to develop a licensing scheme for gamebird hunting in Scotland.

The Scottish Raptor Study Group (SRSG), the Scottish Wildlife Trust and RSPB Scotland want to see a regulatory system introduced that helps tackle wildlife crime while delivering a range of public benefits, and would like to see the shooting industry play a full role in this approach.

This follows the Scottish Parliament’s Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform (ECCLR) Committee’s consideration this week, of a petition lodged by the SRSG calling for gamebird shooting in Scotland to be licensed.

The committee recognised that the illegal persecution of birds of prey, which has been reported on extensively by TFN, remains a widespread concern and has voted to write to the cabinet secretary, Roseanna Cunningham MSP, recommending that the Scottish Government commission an inquiry to explore how such a licensing system could work.

All three wildlife groups welcome the ECCLR Committee’s decision and its view that a fresh approach to address the issue of persecution and the associated unsustainable land management practices is required. 

SRSG and RSPB Scotland had previously provided detailed evidence to the committee.

Logan Steele of the SRSG said: “The ECCLR Committee has made a thorough assessment of the evidence put before it, and clearly concluded that raptor persecution has not been dealt with by the gamebird shooting industry.

Shooting license revoked on Raeshaw Estate

Wildlife groups: shooting industry must be regulated

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has today announced that it has revoked a licence to control wild birds at Raeshaw Estate as a result of on-going concerns about wildlife crime. 

In response, RSPB Scotland’s Head of Investigations, Ian Thomson, said: “Unfortunately, this comes as no surprise at all in relation to this particular estate. These latest multiple breaches found by SNH on the Raeshaw Estate can be added to a long list of confirmed poisoning, shooting and illegal trapping cases in this area dating back over more than a decade.

“The fact that there is an ongoing criminal investigation here, despite the sanctions previously imposed by SNH, echoes a pattern of repeat offending that occurs in a significant number of areas of Scotland where intensive grouse moor management is the main land use.

“While we welcome SNH’s revocation of the individual licenses issued to this estate’s employees, it is clear that current legislation and the available penalties are no deterrent to the continued criminal targeting of protected wildlife. The time has come for a robust regulatory regime, including the licensing of gamebird shoots, where wildlife crimes with a proven link to estate management could lead to a loss of shooting rights.”

“I warmly welcome the committee’s decision to write to the cabinet secretary, recommending that the Scottish Government gives consideration to implementing a licensing system for shooting businesses. The Scottish Raptor Study Group accepts that many within the shooting industry are law abiding and are as keen as we are to bear down on the criminal element within their ranks.

“A government-sponsored inquiry, into how a licensing regime might work, presents an opportunity to work in partnership with forward-looking representatives from the industry, and other stakeholders, towards creating a sustainable upland environment where our birds of prey can thrive alongside legitimate shoot management.”

Jonny Hughes, chief executive of the Scottish Wildlife Trust, said: “We fully support this call for a constructive and broad partnership to provide expertise to a much needed inquiry into licensing of gamebird hunting in Scotland.

“Now is the time for all interested parties to come together to address what is clearly still a significant problem in our countryside. Shooting organisations should not see this as a threat, but more as a real opportunity to put differences aside and ensure that the best long term interests of nature and enhanced rural employment are at the heart of such discussions.”

RSPB Scotland director, Stuart Housden, who is due to retire, said: “Throughout my 23 years in this role, the illegal killing of our birds of prey has been a constant stain on the reputation of our country, with no evidence to support claims that these crimes are diminishing in large parts of our uplands in particular.

“The body of evidence – including many peer-reviewed scientific studies have demonstrated very clearly that our populations of golden eagles, hen harriers, red kites and peregrines are still being significantly impacted by poisoning; the illegal use of traps; shooting; and destruction of nests, particularly in areas intensively managed for driven grouse shooting. This simply must stop if the grouse shooting community is to enjoy public confidence in the future.”

A spokesman for the pro-shooting Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) said: “We respect the vote of the ECCLR Committee and will continue to work constructively with Scottish Government.

“However, as a representative body, we take our responsibilities to our law abiding gamekeeping members – who are in the overwhelming majority – seriously, and will defend their right to go about lawful work free of fear of having their livelihoods threatened by those who will be emboldened by the potential of seeing licences revoked. 

“The SGA will not defend wrongdoing, and has taken action when its position on wildlife crime has been breached. But we also believe honest working people deserve to have their rights to  employment protected.

“Any decision which could ultimately see a business – in any field – ended, with resultant loss of employment, ought to be taken on the appropriate, substantive standard of proof rather than on the basis of suspicion. We view this as a fundamental right.”