Clearing the way to country sport riches

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In response to the recent article, Preying this will stop (TheSouthern, September 8), there is an urgent need to clarify the reasons behind the numerous cases involving poisoning of birds of prey.

A news item on BBC Radio Scotland on September 14, highlighted the number of golden eagles and other raptors being found poisoned – a number that is, according to RSPB Scotland, just the tip of the iceberg based on the actual populations of these obscenely-persecuted animals.

The report, as in so many cases, failed to mention the reason behind the poisoning.

Game shooting, in particular, the shooting of captive and woodland reared grouse and pheasant, is big business for many landowners, mostly in the Highlands and Southern Uplands, but also on a number of the larger Borders estates.

The overwhelming number of dead raptors are found on such estates, as is the overwhelming evidence in the form of poisons such as aldicarb and carbofuran, both banned substances in Scotland and the rest of the EU.

Practices such as trapping and poisoning non-protected bird species, the use of sheep to “absorb” deer ticks, so that they do not infect birds with disease, as well as over-zealous heath burning, are considered to be acceptable by many landowners to maximise the density of game birds.

All of these practices are legal; whether they are morally acceptable is another matter. The poisoning of protected birds of prey is neither morally acceptable, nor legal yet for commercial reasons this practice is carried out and covered up to maximise estate revenues, and often ignored by certain parts of the media to avoid upsetting the landed classes too much.

The more people know what is carried out in the name of profit, the less easily it will continue; there is more to life than money, and certainly a lot more to the life of a magnificent raptor than an untimely end at the hands of a wealthy landowner.

Keith Farnish

St Boswells