‘You’re all talk!’ That familiar phrase that most of us have either heard or used during our lives, meaning that someone makes a statement, indicating that they are going to do something terribly interesting, impressive or exciting and then, of course, never actually do it. I think if we have a think, we all know of someone who we might attribute this phrase to. But what is the relevance of being ‘all talk’, in relation to this particular article? Well, in general, it refers to the statements and promises we receive from government and politicians, stating what they are going to do about wildlife crime, and in particular, raptor persecution. The most recent example of this is the statement by the Scottish Environment, Secretary Roseanna Cunningham, on the poisoning of a White-Tailed Eagle in Aberdeenshire. If you haven’t read it, I won’t ruin it for you, but it uses phrases and words such as ‘disgusted and angered’, ‘condemn’, ‘extremely serious issue’ and ‘wildlife crime will not be tolerated’. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Or at least it would if we hadn’t heard very similar things so many times before. After these strong words, the statement then went on the outline what the Scottish Government is already doing about wildlife crime and the changes they have made over the years to improve the situation for Scotland’s wildlife. Again, that’s great, but then, it does beg the question as to why there hasn’t been any change in these illegal activities?
‘I’ll do it later!’ Something both my siblings and I used to say to my parents when we hadn’t done something that we said we would. Looking back, of course I had never spared a thought to tidying my room or such like and I was very unlikely to do so in the future. Of course my parents saw right through our claims of ‘doing it later’ and demanded and insisted we did it now. We did it. Why? Because we knew not to mess with mum and dad. However, had mum and dad sprouted strong words in the past about what would happen if we misbehaved and then proceeded to do absolutely nothing at all when we did not behave, I think it is very unlikely we would have done as we were told. They could have used all the strong words they wanted ‘I condemn you for this!’ for example, or ’this will not be tolerated!’, but when we realised that actually it would most certainly be tolerated, we would have done what we wanted! Free rein, no fear! That however, was not the case. Relevance? An analogy. Albeit a slightly loose analogy, but apply such a situation to raptor persecution and wildlife crime in general, it is no wonder the law continues to be so flagrantly broken.
Poisonings, shootings and trappings of birds of prey are all too common in the UK. You can barely go a week without a new case coming to light. Unfortunately, a large majority of these killings occur on upland red grouse shooting moorland, where there is a lot of money to be made through sport shooting. In the eyes of some individuals, our raptors pose a threat to red grouse shooting as a sport, as they may predate on the grouse and reduce the amount available to be shot for fun and therefore reduce the amount of money to be made. An absurd notion in my book and the books of many, indeed raptors will obviously predate, but the sheer volume of red grouse bred and kept on these moorlands is in the thousands! The idea that a few raptors in the area is going to decimate the population is quite simply, ridiculous. The shooting and gamekeeping communities would have us believe that persecution is the fault of ‘a few bad apples’, but perhaps they have never heard that one bad apple spoils the bunch? Direction and action has to come from those in power, our ministers and our government, otherwise, the clear and blatant flouting of laws will continue and our raptor populations will continue to suffer. Statements are not enough. Maybe there was once a time when they were, but when inaction followed, they quickly became stale. The use of the word ‘could’ in these statements highlights their weakness. ‘Could face up to five years in jail’ (but they probably won’t because there won’t be enough evidence, ahem). Again, going back to my childhood, if my mum had said to me, ‘you could be sent to your room if you do that again’, my immediate thought would have been ‘aha! So I might not be!’ In other words, I’ll take my chances!
Putting it simply, it’s just not good enough. Statements, words and empty promises have been the way of it for years now and it cannot continue. Those who stand up against such obvious breaking of the law and those who champion our wildlife have seen through it and we will not be kept silent. This issue is not going to go away for us, just like wildlife crime is not going to go away unless decisive action is taken and punishments fitting of such crimes are put into place, punishments that make the crime not worth the risk.
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