Thursday, 22 February 2018

GAMEKEEPERS SEEK END TO 'TRIAL BY MEDIA' OVER EAGLE


The Scottish Gamekeepers Association has called for an end to the ‘trial by media’ over a golden eagle which has gone missing near Edinburgh.
Last week, BBC wildlife presenter Chris Packham issued a press release claiming a young satellite tagged eagle had gone missing just miles from the Scottish Parliament, in a wood in the Pentland Hills.
According to the Springwatch presenter, the tag was later found to signal in the North Sea, after appearing to stop transmitting for three days.
A video released to the media by Packham - who actively campaigns for grouse shooting to be banned- implied that the eagle, which has not been located, had been illegally killed.
The video the BBC presenter appeared in, pointed the finger at a grouse moor as it was geographically close to the wood and fields where the bird was understood to be.
Now the SGA has called for an end to what it describes as unsubstantiated speculation and for greater transparency over evidence.
Despite media claims that the area 7 miles to the south of the capital is managed for driven grouse shooting, the moor is used principally as a partridge shoot as quarry numbers are now too low to sustain viable grouse shooting due to high levels of public access.
The area is popular with hikers, dog walkers and mountain bikers from Edinburgh and beyond, with the Pentland Hills welcoming 600 000 visitors per year. *1
A Spokesman for The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: “Trial by media has already taken place. Now everyone who has been drawn into this needs the truth as to what happened to this eagle. 
“It is not enough for people to be implied as being criminals and those in possession of the satellite tag evidence to walk away, after presenting their judgement to the media, then say no one will probably ever know what has happened.
“If the tags are as reliable as everyone has been told, then the tag data will surely provide conclusive evidence. Many questions need to be answered including why it could not be located in the sea, if it continued to transmit locational data for several days. 
“There needs to be greater transparency because there are too many elements to the carefully stage-managed narrative which do not stack up despite its presentation as a fait accompli.
“If, by releasing this evidence, in full, to Police Scotland, it helps to bring this to a successful conclusion or prosecution, then the SGA and others would be satisfied that justice, as we have come to expect justice to look like, will have run its course. 
“In the meantime, serious allegations have been made against a community of people on the basis of a running commentary of media speculation, implication and suggestion which makes a laughing stock of what looks to be a live investigation.”
*1: Pentland Hills Regional Park annual report 2012/2013.
ORIGINAL STATEMENT ISSUED TO MEMBERS ON WEBSITE, 16th February 2018.
A Spokesman for The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: “If evidence is forthcoming to prove this eagle’s disappearance had anything to do with grouse interests and involved any SGA member, we will be quick to act and we will act with the appropriate force. The SGA has a very strict wildlife crime policy and will use it, where there is evidence to do so.
“Unlike other organisations, however, we are not going to convene a trial by media or trial by implication. Similarly, we will not label people criminals simply because something occurred within a geographic distance from their work. In no other walk of life does this happen.
“Beyond implication, no one knows what has happened to this bird so anyone with information should contact Police Scotland and we would encourage them to do so. We also feel that Police should attempt to search the water for the missing tag.
“The moor, which lies away from where the eagle was, is - like most in the Pentlands- the site of a very occasional 50-bird day now due to high levels of public access from Edinburgh. It is operated ostensibly for partridge shooting. Notions that this is an area managed for driven grouse shooting, therefore, are suggestive on the part of those making the allegations; people who campaign openly against grouse shooting. 
“Our understanding is that one of the individuals quoted in the media story works for a website (Raptor Persecution UK) which besmirches grouse shoot management, under the veil of anonymity, and seeks to ban it. We will, therefore, continue to investigate the allegations being made, as far as we can, rather than heaping more unhelpful speculation upon existing speculation.”