Yes, this is a very early post covering both yesterday and today!! Both days will have been devoted to writing various articles and comments about raptor persecution and what is needed in the future!
Within 24 hours of my talking about such matters in Angus a Golden Eagle was found poisoned on a private estate within the county. Found, because it was fitted with a satellite transmitter that allowed the corpse to be located. Sad, because this individual was the one whose transmitter was fitted around two years ago at a site in the Highlands by Roy Dennis and whose movements have been followed and enjoyed by many via a web site link. Obviously the police will investigate and one hopes those who are guilty will be brought to book. Yet another demonstration of the targetted management activities employed on grouse moors gaining another victim! Strong words from politicians and lots of hand wringing from others , but what action will result to bring about change? A difficult problem admittedley but one that , quite frankly, is ludicrous if it continues . It's not just the fact that the law is being broken, but that is being broken deliberately and persistently by a minority who obviously believe they are above its constraints. Such arrogance usually precedes a major fall from grace in my opinion, however long one has to wait for the result!!
I'm fast coming to the belief that driven grouse shooting should be banned! Our immersion in looking for ways to limit or eradicate persecution is leading us all away from a main "component" in the overall equation. If an activity is persistently seen to involve the law being broken then it should be stopped! High handed? Tough!! Given the absolute lack of willingness on behalf of those causing the problem to offer any compromise strong action is needed. It's the only way as it avoids the mealy mouthed , insincere and hypocritical utterances that one sees from time to time issued in support of this grand activity that will culminate on the 12th August in a frenzy of killing! So we are seeing some of our most magnificent members of the avian raptor community killed to better accomodate the slaughter of endless other birds reared under " artificially" supported circumstances, i.e. the removal of any possible factor that involves a threat, be it mammalian or avian. This is the 21st Millenium , folks, lets get real about all this!
I shall have spent a lot of time within these 48 hours cogitating this problem. Realistically , it seems to me, that only if estates can demonstrate that their areas actively support populations of raptors should they be allowed to run shoots. A little while ago the RSPB proposed some form of licensing, details of which I'm still trying to get hold of. I suspect the initiative may have hit a few problems but the emergent lesson is that the thinking is maturing in the right direction. I have certainly no sympathy for upland or lowland shoot owners who deliberately encourage the law being broken. Instructions given " on the nod" are just as implicit as direct orders in my book. Perversely, I do have some sympathy for keepers who find themselves with a family, in a tied house, on limited earnings, against whose endeavours there are high expectations held from employer and clients alike. High fees, poor bags are not a combination those in charge of the sport appear tolerant about it would seem! And yet, in my book, anybody even able to contemplate operating a shoot is not likely to be drawing State Benefits ( well, not from the Post Office but possibly via subsidies!! ) and, therefore, should be willing to accept a reduction in bags that the presence of , say, a pair of harriers is held resoponsible for. Given some of them claim knowledge of absolutely everything they will, of course, be aware that prey/predator relationships are unlikely to result in them being knee deep in " the damned things" ( such, of course , are never referred to by name but by allusion ).
I've begun to openly advocate to colleagues that a full blown campaign is needed to bring a bout cahnge. A campaign that expresses the indignation of the general public, not just birders and conservationists! The question we must ask ourselves is whether we care enough or, as in so many instances, "they" are held to be the body that must sort it out. Our environment, its wildlife and their habitats, are a function of what we hold to be valuable, both as individuals and as a nation. I've little time for the "also rans", the "barrack room lawyers" and those whose silence at times when action is needed tells all about their real commitment and integrity. Time will tell, but in the words of Jeanette McKay the other day, "If the public really knew what was happening, there'd be an uproar".
As a feature within our modern day society raptor persecution is a tradition emanating from Victorian times and before, bringing no benefit to the ordinary man and redolent of a time when indulgent pastimes were the order of the day for those with time and wealth to enjoy them. In some aspects little, therefore , has changed.