The Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) today urged the Scottish public to take an evidence-led view of bird of prey deaths in Scotland.
RSPB Scotland yesterday released the report, The Illegal Killing of Birds of Prey in Scotland 2011.
SGA Chairman Alex Hogg said: “The Scottish Gamekeepers Association has an unequivocal stance against the abuse of birds of prey and will continue to work hard, as it has done, to keep bringing these figures down. This practice has no place in wildlife management and we have been hugely encouraged by the attitudes and actions of the vast majority of estates who find such abuse cases abhorrent.
“However, we also feel it is necessary to bring to bear some perspective so the public understand the full story.
“The foundation of this report is the 2011 SASA (Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture) statistics, which are independently verified by government. (see link below). We welcomed these figures in March 2012, as did the RSPB, when they were released for the first time, and again in September 2012 when they were released for a second time. This is now the third time the SASA statistics for 2011 have been released to the public. However, in this case, 4 more incidents of abuse have been added compared to the 16 reported in March and September.
“People have a right to question why this is the case and what independent verification exists for the other figures in the report.
“We notice also SLE, another partner in the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime (PAW), has also questioned whether the statistics have been independently verified as they have not been verified by other PAW members.
“It was generally accepted by the RSPB and all partners in the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime, including the SGA, that 2011 marked the lowest incidence of bird of prey abuse cases in Scotland since mapping techniques were started four years ago. There were also more cases investigated than ever before, with less abuse cases found.
“This is at a time when raptor numbers are, in many cases, the highest ever recorded and more and more people are losing increasing number of livestock to birds of prey, putting jobs and families at risk in a difficult time for the Scottish economy. Given that background, partners were rightly encouraged that the huge amount of work that has been done to educate and raise awareness, is working.
“Much work, of course, remains to be done but abuse cases have declined significantly. Up until the end of June 2012, only two cases of abuse had been confirmed by SASA.
“We are, therefore, seeing a confirmed trend. For example, more birds of prey were killed by electrocution from power lines or trauma collisions with pylons and vehicles during the same period.
“No one wants to see abuse of birds of prey but similarly the public must make its mind up whether the policy of persistently tarring an industry as illegal killers because of the wrongful actions of a tiny minority is getting to the heart of the conflicts which exist. The shooting industry is worth £240 million each year to the Scottish economy and the SGA would like to work with government, and others, to try to solve conflicts.
“To begin this, the process must be fair and independently verified information should underpin this process. There is an acknowledgement at political level that this should be the case. We hope that this can now be acted upon.”