Monday, 11 December 2017

GAMEKEEPERS RESPOND TO 8 PERCENT DROP IN WILDLIFE CRIME


The Scottish Gamekeepers Association is once again pleased at continuing progress in terms of a further reduction in wildlife crime in Scotland, at a time when public scrutiny and awareness has never been higher.
As a body we have a strict code regarding wildlife crime which is fully understood by our membership. 
The SGA advocates and seeks only legal and adaptive solutions to resolving species conflicts.

We note Scottish Government’s intention to hold a review of grouse shooting in Scotland and will participate fully in what we hope will deliver sound evidence over implication or speculation.

Friday, 1 December 2017

INSURANCE INQUIRIES OVER FESTIVE SEASON

You can help these (very) hard working SGA stalwarts- and your guests- by  ensuring you call to arrange insurance before the office closes for Christmas and New Year.
The SGA office would like to alert members that, if you are looking into insurance for guests to participate in shoots over the festive period, please contact the office before December 22nd.
The office will be closed from mid-day on 22nd December until 9am on 4th January 2018.
No one would want anyone to miss out over the festive season so make sure you contact us in good time so we can process all inquiries.

Thanks. #TeamSGA.

WINNER OF 2017 SGA RAFFLE WITH POLARIS ANNOUNCED


One lucky individual is set for a very merry Xmas after being drawn in the SGA office today as the winner of the 2017 SGA raffle with Polaris.
The SGA has been inundated with entries for this year's draw, with a prize of an all-wheel drive, hard working Polaris Sportsman 570 up for grabs.
The SGA is delighted to announce that the winner is Ewan Archer from Carrbridge, who has been notified of the outcome.
We would like to congratulate Ewan on his success and to thank Polaris for providing such an excellent prize, as well as the many hundreds who bought tickets. Your support is vital and welcome to the SGA. Thank you.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

NOTE TO MEMBERS: OFFICE SYSTEMS BEING UPDATED TOMORROW (UPDATE 2.25PM)

UPDATE: 2.25pm. ALL OFFICE SYSTEMS NOW BACK UP AND RUNNING. Thank you for your patience and sorry for any inconvenience caused.


Dear SGA members. Please note the office computing systems will be down for a large part of tomorrow (Nov 30th) as the IT team update the office systems to Windows 10. 

The telephone systems will be functioning as normal but if members do call with renewal or joining inquiries, please have membership number and postcode to hand to allow for ease of processing. 

Full service will resume on Friday 1st December. Thank you from TeamSGA.



Wednesday, 15 November 2017

ADVANCED WARNING: OFFICE CLOSURE

Due to an unfortunate bout of staff illness- and on doctor's orders- we regret to say that the SGA office will be closed on Thursday and Friday this week (16th and 17th November).
We are sorry for any inconvenience this may cause members. Normal service will resume again on Monday November 20th.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

SGA SEEKS STRENGTHENED CODE FOR WIND FARM MONITORING

Shoot Beater below a wind turbine in Scotland.  Tightened monitoring and reporting could end the 'blame culture' should anything happen to wildlife.


The Scottish Gamekeepers Association has called for monitoring and reporting around wind farms to be tightened up to provide greater transparency regarding wildlife impacts.

The representative body, which has 5300 members, believes an agreed code could replace a ‘blame culture’ should raptors or other wildlife disappear.
Gamekeepers on grouse moors were implicated this year when a report concluded up to 41 out of 131 satellite tagged eagles in Scotland may have disappeared over 12 years.
At the time of publication, The SGA noted its dissatisfaction with findings on wind farm impacts but chose not to speak out, focusing instead on condemning wildlife crime.
Now, however, with more and more highland windfarms in existence, many overlapping with grouse moors, the gamekeeping body believes new monitoring codes will be needed.
Their call comes after a September report by BTO, RSPB, Birdlife International, IUCN, Cambridge University, University College London, Imperial College London, University of Stellenbosch and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee showed raptors such as sea eagles and golden eagles to be at the highest risk to turbine mortality of all bird species (1).
Gamekeepers have witnessed raptor mortality at wind farm sites and have themselves located stricken birds in vegetation outlying turbines.
SGA Chairman Alex Hogg says the body has no issues with renewables, with many estates now augmenting sport shooting with wind farms or hydro schemes.
However, its members feel post-construction monitoring codes need to be revisited so causes of bird mortality are clearer.
“A code for on-going monitoring of windfarms, for wildlife impacts would be helpful. Checks exist but are inconsistent and organised by operators themselves, often using maintenance crew. There is no statutory duty to report bird collisions in Scotland.
“We said at the time we were not convinced by the wind farm element of the satellite tagged eagle report but we didn’t want to detract from our condemnation of illegal behaviour.
“We have, ourselves, expelled 6 members in 5 years for wildlife crime convictions.
“However, we disagreed, and still do, with the report’s assumption there would be little motive for wind companies not to report downed birds. Our members have witnessed dead raptors under turbines and up to 200 yards from turbine masts- way beyond the 50m radius operators are recommended to search and report. Most have felt duty bound not to speak because turbines march onto land they manage.
“The report also said turbines could not be seen as a major cause of missing eagles because no final tag signals were within 1km of a turbine. But we know signals only register a limited number of times per day. Also, when a missing Hen Harrier’s tag’s final signal was found to be on an RSPB reserve, at Insh Marshes, the public were told last signals were only an ‘indication’ of a broad general area the bird was in (2). We feel there is insufficient data to corroborate.
“By speaking out there will be people all too ready to damn us but, as a representative body, we see it as our duty to defend our members’ right not to be assumed as guilty until proven innocent for the disappearance of every bird that flies over a moor in Scotland, when other factors may or may not be at play. By agreeing codes for monitoring, there would be greater transparency.”

(1) https://www.bto.org/research-data-services/publications/peer-reviewed-papers/2017/bird-and-bat-species-global

(2) See 'Update' at the foot of link: http://www.rspb.org.uk/community/ourwork/skydancer/b/skydancer/archive/2016/09/27/second-2016-hen-harrier-goes-missing.aspx

Beaters lined out below turbines marching moorland in Scotland. Land uses, side by side like this, are increasingly commonplace today in Scotland.



Wednesday, 1 November 2017

COMMENT: BBC REPORTS FROM RSPB

Comment from SGA on stories relating to a BBC report from RSPB on bird crime.

"As the report introduction itself says, the figures quoted are taken from a collation of bird crime 'incidents' reported to RSPB.
"The official records of verified crimes in Scotland, authorised by Police, SASA and Scottish Government agencies are published annually and represent the authoritative figures on the extent of bird crimes in this country.
"The latest figures showed bird of prey poisoning to be down 40 percent on 4 years ago, and birds illegally shot to be roughly halved over the last three years. Whilst, regrettably, there was a small rise in crimes by 2 last year, the official data runs contrary to the narrative RSPB is following from its own unofficial report of incidents.
"There are many bodies involved in tackling wildlife crime. Our own organisation has a strict code  governing our members, with a tiny percentage having been convicted of wildlife crime.
"We will continue to work with the Police and Scottish Government on this important issue in the hope that the significant recent improvements in the wildlife crime picture continues in Scotland."

Friday, 27 October 2017

GAMEBIRD SECTOR CUTS ANTIBIOTIC USE BY 36 PERCENT


ORGANISATIONS involved in shooting and gamebird management have welcomed a big fall in the amount of antibiotic used in the rearing of pheasants and partridges in the UK. 
Figures endorsed by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) have been released today showing that antibiotics used in gamebirds were brought down voluntarily by 36 per cent in 2017 compared to 2016, including a 53 per cent reduction for those administered in gamebird food. (Gamebirds are reared in the spring, which is why the 2017 results are already complete). 
The 36 per cent fall comfortably exceeds the 25 per cent official reduction target for gamebirds in 2017, developed by the sector and agreed by the VMD earlier this year. The actual reduction was calculated from veterinary records. Vets are responsible for prescribing all antibiotics administered to gamebirds.
The encouraging results come at a time when all livestock sectors have been asked by government to reduce their use of antibiotics in the face of global concerns about antimicrobial resistance – the evolution of bugs that will not respond to treatment with antibiotics.
A spokesman for the shooting and gamebird management organisations said: “These large reductions have been achieved voluntarily and in just one year through the hard work of game farmers, gamekeepers, the veterinary profession and the game feed trade. We welcome today’s results as an excellent start to our continuing campaign for antibiotic reduction.”
Professor Peter Borriello, Chief Executive Officer of the VMD, said: “The significant reductions achieved in 2017, the same year that the sector started to collect and scrutinise its antibiotic usage data, highlight the strong commitment of the game bird industry to bring down antibiotic use. The reductions achieved in 2017 are to be highly commended, and are an encouragement to all to continue the good work.”
John Fitzgerald, General Secretary of RUMA (Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance), whose conference, ‘Facing Up to the Antimicrobial Resistance Challenge’ was held in London today, said: “We congratulate our colleagues in the game sector on their excellent 2017 antibiotic reduction results. The enthusiasm and commitment with which the whole sector has engaged with this process is exemplary and we have every confidence that they will achieve further reductions in future years.”
Antibiotics are used in gamebird rearing, as in other livestock sectors, for the treatment of natural diseases. Their use is sometimes essential for welfare reasons but administration of antibiotics can be reduced through good biosecurity and correct management, in close liaison with specialist vets. 

The lessons learned from this year’s rearing season will be collated during November at a meeting of vets being hosted by the Game Farmers’ Association. Advice arising from that meeting will be provided free of charge to all game-rearers in anticipation of further antibiotic reductions next year. 

Thursday, 26 October 2017

SGA SEEKS TALKS ON UNSUSTAINABLE TRAP VANDALISM


The Scottish Gamekeepers Association is to seek discussions with Police and Government Ministers over an escalation of vandalism and interference with legal traps by activists and the public.
Members of the gamekeepers’ representative body are reporting increasing incidences of intentional damage to predator control traps and snares operated as part of their employment.
In the past fortnight alone, legal Fenn traps have been vandalised, rail traps smashed, wires cut and traps left in the open air in Tayside, Perthshire, Angus, Speyside, Grampian, Tomatin and the Great Glen area.
In one incident in Angus, 22 traps, approved for legal predator control by Scottish Natural Heritage, were damaged in one afternoon.
The SGA, which represents 5300 members in Scotland, believes the number of incidents is now becoming unsustainable and that lawful businesses are being targeted.
They feel specific offences need to be worded to tighten up ‘wooly-ness’ around vandalism and interference and are seeking discussions with Scottish Government and Police Scotland.
Licences to control predators legally are subject to regulation by Scottish Natural Heritage and gamekeepers are trained to operate traps and snares legally, using approved equipment.
Predator control has been scientifically proven (1)* to benefit ground nesting game species and threatened birds such as the red-listed Curlew.
SGA Chairman Alex Hogg said: “Members are extremely worried. The situation can’t go on like this. The biggest problem is the law, as written, and the lack of a specific offence. 
“Every time damage or interference is reported, Police say no crime has been committed. Yet, if a trap was interfered with by a member of the public and a non-target animal was caught in that trap, a gamekeeper could lose his General Licence and charges would be brought yet the law wouldn’t touch the person committing the interference. That surely cannot be allowed to continue.
“The Police have given some members explanations as to why they cannot act, which we welcome, but it seems their hands are tied as well.
“Some people might not agree with some things, and predator control might be one of those things, but that doesn’t legitimise people vandalising people’s work tools, or worse, rendering them illegal.
“If a gamekeeper’s snares are tied up or someone has smashed a boulder through a Larsen trap, that gamekeeper cannot perform his duties. It would be like a bus driver expecting to drive a bus with tyres removed.”
Under the Land Reform Act, it is illegal to enter land and commit crime and the SGA hope to discuss possible routes forward with authorities.
Gamekeeper and SGA member, Andy Smith, provided video recordings to the Police of a member of the public releasing a call bird from a Larsen trap on a farm, leaving the trap vulnerable to catching a non-target species, which itself could lead to a charge against the operator.
“If a gamekeeper or farmer failed to comply with the General Licence in the operating of that trap, the licence would be withdrawn and charges brought,” said Mr Smith. “The owner of the land could also be liable for punishment and heavy financial penalty under Vicarious Liability law.
“The member of the public who made the trap non-compliant, on the other hand, can walk away.
“Everyone has a responsibility to wildlife and that should mean members of the public as well.
“There is also the possibility now of people removing traps then setting them incorrectly elsewhere. There are far too many loopholes which can threaten the employment of people operating their business within the law.”

ENDS.







Game shooting is worth £200m a year to Scotland’s economy. PACEC Report 2014: http://www.shootingfacts.co.uk/pdf/The-Value-of-Shooting-2014.pdf









Tuesday, 24 October 2017

MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD ON FIREARMS LICENSING


An online questionnaire has been launched by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland designed to gather views from all those who have applied to have firearms licensed or renewed in the last two years.
This is an opportunity for all those who have gone through the process, to comment on their experience ahead of an investigation on what is working well and not so well.
The SGA has had a lot of engagement with members who are having issues with firearms licensing and would encourage all members and supporters to take the time to fill this out and register their feedback with those investigating the process.
Full details can be found here: https://www.hmics.scot/firearms-licensing-questionnaire

The closing date of November 3rd is fast approaching but the questionnaire takes 10 minutes to complete and could make a big difference.