A JUVENILE WHITE TAILED EAGLE
The news that a Sea Eagle had been found poisoned in Donside has dominated the headlines. It makes me
personally sad and angry. We were quick to condemn it yesterday, as soon as we heard the news.
When the SGA formed, one of the first things we discussed at our earliest meetings with Government at
the new Parliament was how we could get on top of poisoning in our countryside, which was getting way
out of hand.
We can judge things differently today but anyone who has been in land management for any length of
time will know that pesticide was used fairly liberally at one time. Sheep farmers, if they are honest
with themselves, will nod to that and, in our industry, we knew it had to stop.
The SGA made a commitment at our AGM that we, as a newly formed organisation, were firmly opposed to
the use of illegal poisons and that we would work to stop it.
Through my feelings of anger yesterday at this incident, I was also rippling at the suggestion from
many online commentators that the SGA had not been able to control its membership when it came to
There are a lot of good land managers in the area in question who I know would not have touched that
bird. I know them and their management. That leaves unanswered questions and I hope the Police get all
the support they need to find the culprits and bring them to justice.
Obviously, judgement has already been delivered in the courtroom of Twitter. I am not saying I or the
SGA know anything different, because we don’t, but we certainly want to establish facts and hope the
Police find those facts so we get more light as opposed to endless heat.
Secondly, the SGA has been a very important player in the successful reduction in illegal wildlife
poisonings in Scotland. The official, verified figures (apparently now less important than figures
produced by campaigning NGOs) show very clearly how land-management related poisoning has dropped
dramatically in Scotland.
Incidents, these days, tend to be isolated and we welcome that, wholeheartedly.
That is why yesterday felt like a return to a different time. We have acted with zero tolerance when
it comes to poisoning and, while our many critics prefer to ignore the official statistics, the numbers
still speak for themselves.
When these incidents happen, amidst the anger and emotion, we tend to forget how far we have come
from the 2010 figures showing 32 poisoning incidents in Scotland.
Again, many people will bat this away as irrelevant. To me, the figures are important. These are
figures approved by the Scottish Government’s appointed toxicologists.
Wildlife crime continues, of course, and that is rightly met with scorn. Opponents of shooting,
particularly grouse shooting, say tactics have changed.
The SGA acknowledges that some tagged birds have been illegally killed and this is unacceptable. We
can make that message no clearer. We continue to work with Police Scotland and, for a small mostly
voluntary body, commit a lot of our organisational time to wildlife crime related issues.
However, we do not believe that the numbers suggested are the truth and the proliferation of
non-independent NGOs involved today in wildlife crime investigations makes it extremely difficult to get
to the truth.
This, sadly, is now a politically weaponised field and that is why we petitioned Scottish Parliament
last year for independent monitoring of satellite tags. The type of neutral information which bodies
like SASA can deliver would be invaluable in getting to that truth, where there is nothing else but fury
As with this poisoned Sea Eagle, we want the facts. If you can help Police Scotland, do so by calling