Justice must swoop on bird poisoners

With another golden eagle being the latest victim in an ongoing stream of poisoning of birds of prey on or close to shooting estates (Southern, August 16), it is surely time for something to be done to stop this illegal activity.

Despite the efforts of conservation and animal welfare organisations and police wildlife crime officers, they seem almost helpless in the face of this determined illegal persecution of our wildlife. In 2004, the Scottish Executive claimed that new legislation to tackle wildlife crime would “.... help those who want to protect our natural heritage and provide a serious deterrent to wildlife criminals”.

Recent cases of gamekeepers found in possession of illegal poisons have resulted in fines of 100 and 50 – hardly much of a deterrent. Earlier this year, another gamekeeper was sentenced to 220 hours of community service for using live pigeons and illegal pesticides in “a systematic attempt to wipe out birds of prey”.

It must be hoped that the authorities are able to trace and charge the perpetrator of this latest offence, and that they will receive the full support of the justice system.

Any landowner who connives at poisoning on his land must surely also be called to account. If such persecution is deemed to be an integral or inevitable consequence of maintaining a shooting estate, then surely a national debate on the future of this industry is needed.

ROSS MINETT

(campaigns director)

Advocates for Animals

Queensferry Street

Edinburgh

Like many people in the Borders, I am shocked at the poisoning of a golden eagle on a Peeblesshire estate.

I am also shocked that in 2007 the mindset of so many gamekeepers and landowners remains firmly in the 19th century.

The eagle episode is but the tip of an iceberg and police officer Mark Rafferty is doing a wonderful job, but he is hamstrung for hard evidence with which to prosecute because so many shootings and poisonings of protected species takes place in relatively-remote areas.

Landowners and gamekeepers know they are breaking the law and I am sure that if I poached their grouse, pheasants or salmon, I would be savagely prosecuted. Why then do they think they can flout our wildlife laws?

The landowner will say with hand on heart that he did not tell his keeper to use poison – but he will have made it abundantly clear that he wants lots of pheasants and grouse for him and his friends to shoot. This puts the keeper in a difficult position, particularly if he believes in his heart of hearts that the only way to have plenty game is to destroy predators (that this is very often a mistaken belief is another story).

It is the responsibility of the landowner or employer of the keeper to know what he is up to. It is no excuse to plead ignorance.

For this reason, I believe that in any prosecution, both landowner and keeper should feel the full brunt of the law.

JIM LOCKIE

Crosslee

Ettrick

I was horrified and very angry to learn of the golden eagle’s death.

Sadly, the mounting catalogue of evidence over the years – eagles, harriers, peregrine, goshawk and various mammals killed – leads me to conclude that persecution of our wonderful wildlife is endemic in the Borders, at least on shooting estates.

I hope that the vast majority of decent citzens in town and country, also local media such as yourselves, will take a stand and condemn the actions of this criminal minority in unequivocal terms. Perhaps these ignorant and selfish people lack the wit to look to places such as Mull and see the potential for tourist revenue from our dramatic wildlife?

Andrew Sandeman

George IV Bridge

Edinburgh

The correlation between poisoning and grouse moor must lead one to believe that those doing the poisoning have a financial interest in reducing the number of raptors on the moors.

If that is the case, I would suggest that the moor owners be fined hefty fines where raptors are found poisoned on their estates, regardless of proof.

The reasoning being that they should have the responsibility to keep their estates poison free.

I would imagine that the number of deaths would dramatically decline if the fines were large enough.

Susan King

Sorrowlessfield Farm

Earlston

As a Scottish Borderer, the news regarding the destruction of the golden eagle by person or persons unknown has sickened myself and countless others.

My heart goes out to the little fledgling and its dad, who has been left to support the little one.

Laws have to be reinforced to maintain that an an incident like this never happens again.

Whoever has taken the life of this beautiful bird has not only robbed our generation, but future generations by carrying out this despicable crime.

Elise Williams

Ashkirk

I am appalled at the recent illegal and indiscriminate poisoning of the only female golden eagle in the Borders.

In theory, culprits face a sentence of up to six months in prison, as well as a 5,000 fine – but, to date, no one has been jailed in Scotland.

It is fanciful to believe that a landowner is unaware of his gamekeeper’s actions, and 200 hours community service, as in a recent conviction in the Borders, can hardly be seen as an effective deterrent.

If a sentence of imprisonment is established in law, surely the employing landowner should be responsible for his gamekeeper’s actions, and himself serve the sentence – a much more effective deterrent.

IAN W. FINGLAND

Edinburgh Road

Greenlaw