Thursday, 21 October 2010

Into the lions' den

I've been drawing fire over at the Raptor Politics blog (scroll down to the comments section) - a habitat frequented by what might be described as the Provisional Wing of the RSPB.

Mention the word "gamekeeper" and these people start frothing at the mouth. In their minds, keepers are responsible for anything that goes wrong with any bird of prey anywhere. Even the ones eaten by eagle owls on the RSPB's own CCTV!

Now, we all know there are some unreconstructed old buggers who do still think anything with a hooked beak is "vermin". I've met one or two. Literally one or two, in 30 years of working in shooting journalism. And yes, some grouse moor owners are greedy wossnames who care only about how many millions their moor will fetch when it's sold - and they're not a great example of shooting's contribution to conservation.

But this lot, encouraged by years of campaigning by the likes of the RSPB, think every keeper, every shooting estate, is slaughtering birds of prey on an industrial scale. And they're blind to the huge environmental benefits of shooting across the UK.

I was encouraged by the comments of one Mike Groves, who says he is working with "several law abiding estates in the East of Scotland monitoring Merlin, Short-eared Owl and a wealth of other raptors. I am welcomed onto these estates and keepers are keen to pass on raptor sightings." All good stuff; it's interesting that it took some time before he felt able to stick his head above the parapet on a birding blog, such is the resistance to anything positive about keepers among these people.

Most of all, though, the whole experience left me thinking, surely we should have created a better overall impression than this? And are we (via our organisations or individually) doing enough even now to turn the tide?


Sooty said...

Sad that they should have a go at someone like you James,surely they ought to listen and see if they can gain anything.My guess is that the moderates in the organisations you mention would like to come to some solution if at all possible but the outspoken ones in each organisation do not want compromise and they cannot see that for centuries what they are demanding has not worked and with these big spending cuts what chance of things improving.
Think they need to study one fact which is that of all crimes whatever they are one in ninety six criminals go to jail,what sort of a deterrent to B O P crime is that.Some other solution just has to be found.

vicky said...

I don't know how good our organisations are at putting what we do across to the media. They could be issuing hundreds of postitive press releases, but the press can choose to ignore them. BASC did a lot to quell the hysteria surrounding guns after the Cumbrian shootings- but then everyone wanted to talk to them. A keeper building up his grey partridge and songbird numbers and managing a succesful commercial shoot which supplies local restaurants whilst living with a healthy buzzard population would never be headline news to the rest of the world no matter how loudly we shouted. The press like bad news....gamekeepers kill eagle is going to attract them more readers, listeners or viewers than gamekeeper doesn't kill eagle! We might get heard if our organistations fed the media nasty stories about RSPB reserves or nest failures but then we'd be sinking to their level....