Now I know what you’re thinking, yes they are fabulous, but what on earth do ‘The Four Tops’ have to do with wildlife? Well, if I’m honest, not much. But it is not actually these musical genii that I want to talk about, even if I have stolen one of their song names for my title. My reasoning for the picking of said song is simply because I felt it was fitting. Indeed, our raptors keep being subjected to their very own ‘same old song’, and the lyrics of their particular tune, are all about persecution. If your feelings are anything like mine, you will be finding this record a little tedious by now. Though I fear that the use of the word tedious may undermine the severity of the situation. That is not my intention at all, I merely mean that the mentality of those who support raptor persecution is rather tiresome and at times, utterly soul-destroying.
Recently, reports have surfaced about a raptor persecution case that occurred in 2013. The crime was callous, but it did not go entirely unpunished, which, when considering wildlife crime, is not always common place in this country. Stirlingshire, Scotland found itself as the backdrop of this crime, which was committed by the gamekeeper of a man who owns one of the ‘top’ shooting and stalking agencies in the UK. Graham Christie, of Dunmhor shooting, has recently been ordered to pay £3200, after the court recognised that his gamekeeper was ‘pressurised’ into targeting ‘vermin’. Vermin is a term which, according to the gamekeeper, in Christie’s opinion, includes raptors.
The victim? A common buzzard. The bird was caught in an illegal gin trap on the 5000 acre estate. Held by the leg, the trap had been set near a pheasant pen, which was baited with a dead roe deer. Discovered in March 2013, the bird was found by a dog walker. Realising that the buzzard was too injured to fly, the man took the bird home and contacted the SPCA. However, the buzzard had suffered massive blood loss and had severe wounds above its foot. The veterinarian concluded that the bird would be in ‘extreme pain’ and that the wounds would have taken ‘several days’ to occur. Unfortunately, after failed treatment, the bird was euthanised on welfare grounds.
But this was not to be the end of the this particular branch of the never-ending story. After the case of the buzzard was reported, police went to the scene of the crime and made further discoveries of what was described as a ‘small factory’ of traps and snares, all of which are illegal in the UK.
Although the estate is actually owned by Sir Archie Orr Ewing, he has since commented that the estate has ‘no involvement in the sporting management of the land.’ Going on to claim that the gamekeeper, convicted in May, has no connections to the estate, as he was employed by a third party, Graham Christie.
Although this is a success story in terms of convictions, Christie is only the second person in the UK to be convicted and held responsible for raptor persecution as a landowner or manager. The law states that whoever has shooting rights over land can be found guilty of crimes committed by an employee. These laws were only introduced in 2012, but as the second conviction, this crime is certainly not the second case of persecution since 2012. The gamekeeper was punished with 240 hours of community service.
So, in total, we have a fine of £3200 and 240 hours of community service. The perpetrators have been ‘punished’, but is it enough? Would you class that as a strong enough deterrent? 240 hours of community service for wildlife crime? Enough to stop you from doing it again, or just ensuring you do not get caught again? And £3200 to a man who owns one of the top shooting estates in the UK? I am guessing, he could afford it.
Whenever we hear about stronger laws in the UK against wildlife crime, we celebrate. After all, the punishments could not get any weaker. Compare our punishments to a country such as Spain however, and it all becomes a little embarrassing. Recently, after laying out 9 poisoned baits, a spanish farmer was convicted of poisoning 6 imperial eagles and a fox, and has had to pay a much higher price for his crimes. Literally. He faces 18 months in prison, a 3 year disqualification from hunting (after his release), and a fine of 360,000 Euros.
…I think we have some catching up to do.
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