The RSPB periodically pays lip service to working with shooting estates and organisations. On occasions, you'll even see them paying tribute to a gamekeeper who has dobbed in a miscreant, or acknowledging the cooperation and valuable conservation work by shooting estates.
And then just when you think they can't be all bad, they stick the knife in. As with their "Vision" to resolve the hen harrier / grouse shooting conflict.
The RSPB is one of several partner organisations in the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project, designed to look at just that subject. It's a long-term project, in its early stages. There's an understanding among the partner organisations about not running off to the press shouting your mouth off, taking a tiny sliver of the results totally out of context, and failing to give credit to all the other organisations involved in the project.
Which is exactly what the RSPB has gone and done, so far as I can see. How can you work with people like that?
On top of which, their "Vision" is misleading and disingenuous in the extreme. The harrier problem is hugely complex, and there are many many reasons why you might find fewer "recorded" harriers in this or that place than the RSPB in its wisdom decrees suitable.
For instance, I've recently spent a fortnight in Scotland's Wild West. It's a land of wind, rock and water, where the law hardly reaches more than 10 yards from the main road. Far up a glen, a harrier nest was destroyed last year. Trampled. By persons, or perhaps animals, unknown. The chicks were crushed. The RSPB have done such a good job of maligning shooters, that the primary suspect was "shooting interests". But there aren't any. Except me and my dad, who walk-up perhaps 3 brace a year between us. And we have better things to do with our time than go round stomping on harriers. Actually we rather like watching the little blighters.
In the event, the "evidence" rotted before anyone got around to sending it off for analysis. The case was forgotten, perhaps an accident, perhaps a deliberate act by one of the local farmers who stand to make a small fortune out of the new windfarm, and might have seen harriers as an obstacle to their new found riches. We'll never know. Without a "shooting estate" to blame, no-one, least of all the RSPB, gives a monkey's.
I could tell you similar stories about the golden eagles that nest in that glen. Year after year their nests mysteriously fill with rocks. Until quite recently a good few of them ended up poisoned too. And shooting had nothing to do with it.
I could help the RSPB get to the bottom of what's going on in that remote spot. Because I know every crag, every clump of heather, every pool of the burn, like no-one else on earth. And I'm not going to. Because I can't trust them not to double cross me and grab another opportunity to shaft shooters. I wonder how many other shooters are in a similar position?
The RSPB won't be losing any sleep over it. Their Scottish membership figure has just broken another record. Due, in large part, to the lies and misinformation they spread about shooters.