Yesterday I took two telephone calls relating to the comments which had been submitted in association with my posting "Hen Harriers.......the lunacy must stop!" I had welcomed the comments from Mr Reece Fowler as I felt they represented a robust defence of the shooting fraternity and those gamekeepers who supported the law. Nonetheless , I remained unconvinced by the claims, as my response set out.
After my conversations yesterday I had a long, hard think on the issue (yet again ) and whether we were overlooking any crucial elements which might assist in eliminating the ridiculous situation which raptor persecution represents.
There are a number of statements within Mr Fowler's contribution which are of fundamental interest. Far from isolating his comments for forensic criticism I believe his comments contain a subject area which, if pursued, could result in major improvement. I have highlighted these statements below and comment on each.
Condemn the people who actually take part in illegal activities, not the overwhelming majority of gamekeepers who don't.
The gamekeepers who kill raptors are in a minority.
I condemn, utterly, the gamekeepers who resort to the killing, trapping, poisoning and disturbance of raptors. Full stop!! I simply don't believe such activities are isolated, but are more endemic than is being accepted. Remember too, the "record" is based on incidents reported on, not those which undoubtedly go unrecorded in the vast expanses of land which upland shoots extend over, where the likelihood of detection is minimised. Let's not delude ourselves and inject more inaccuracy into the debate.
The gamekeepers who break the law are shunned by the profession.
Quite candidly I'm worried by this statement. If the people concerned are being shunned, it suggests the shooting fraternity know which shooting estates and individuals are involved in these activities and that nothing is being done about it. Does this suggest that the fraternity are willing to see the activities go unreported when details should be being passed to the police? At least that is the impression it conveys, mistaken or not. Not to do so is to condone them and their actions in my book. Not to report them is also tantamount to a cover up and to be offering "protection" to those concerned. Shameful and hypocritical if such is true and not a position the industry can afford to adopt either.
It is in the interests of shooters to maintain a good reputation to maintain public support.
Well I think we can acknowledge " the reputation" is pretty rock bottom amongst many at the present time. In summary, shooting activities are seen as being the province of the privileged, who are exercising prejudice and practice in the form of raptor persecution. Many might take issue with this and claim their own practices fall precisely within the requirements of the law. What is being set aside is that it is the persecution actions of a debatable proportion and these are the ones responsible for the negative attitudes towards the shooting fraternity. Implicit in that statement is the fact that I don't believe a majority of people at the present time are against shooting if it is carried out responsibly. However, that situation could change if persecution activities go on unabated. Surely then the simple task is to put your own house in order if those involved in persecution are responsible and causing this "drawdown" in the public popularity of shooting. I suspect there would be an overwhelming declaration of support for the shooting fraternity if it embarked on actions to clean up the industry. Not to do so threatens even further adverse criticism and could be seen as a tacit acceptance of what is going on! I have to say though that, given grouse shoots act as commercial enterprises, even these "rogue" constituents must be receiving sufficient attendees at their shoots, which questions how robust and successful the "shunning process" is and how universal the condemnation is too within the shooting fraternity.
If the above situation is correct and "insider knowledge" is held which could significantly improve the situation, if acted upon, is this not a campaign which the shooting industry could mount behind closed doors?. I suspect even threatening to report matters to the police would certainly bring an automatic reaction from some! For the recalcitrant minority then I doubt they would receive the sympathy of anyone, inside or outside the "industry! Increasing isolation, coupled with being "named and shamed", would eventually begin to bite. Is the industry prepared to go that far in order to achieve an untarnished reputation? We shall see.
There must be views out there that deserve to be seen. Let's see them!! In the meantime, and certainly in the absence of any apparent improvement or progress by the shooting fraternity, I believe there is little alternative but to suggest regulation as a way forward and would ask everyone concerned to sign the E-petition aimed at this objective, the link for which is below. Thank you.
Licencing of upland grouse moors and gamekeepers.