Wednesday, 29 January 2020

GAMEKEEPERS RESPOND TO GOVT ON DEER MANAGEMENT REVIEW


Today, SGA Chairman Alex Hogg has responded to the Deer Review Panel report on Deer Management, announced by Scottish Government. 
The report can be read, here, and the SGA recommends that all deer members read the report as soon as possible, giving their comments to the office, as we will be seeking urgent talks with Scottish Government. https://www.gov.scot/binaries/content/documents/govscot/publications/corporate-report/2020/01/the-management-of-wild-deer-in-scotland-deer-working-group-report/documents/the-management-of-wild-deer-in-scotland-deer-working-group-report/the-management-of-wild-deer-in-scotland-deer-working-group-report/govscot%3Adocument/Deer%2BWorking%2BGroup%2Bfinal%2Breport%2B-%2B19%2BDecember%2B2019%2B-%2Bpublication%2Bnumber%2B%25281%2529.pdf

See the Chairman's response, here: “If Scottish Government brings in the changes it signalled with the Werritty report into grouse shooting and some of the frankly damaging recommendations for deer in this report, it may find it begins to lose the delivery support and good will of a key rural sector. “We said in our own positive Deer Vision report, published before Christmas, that our members have killed close to a million deer in Scotland in the last 10 years.
“SGA members represent a significant portion of the skilled manual labour force on the ground, who will be necessary to deliver targets, whether they be for climate or biodiversity.
“This sector is getting tired of being kicked from pillar to post and this report, which basically signals a free-for-all on an iconic Scottish species, is a further hammer blow. We will be gauging the temperature within our membership over the coming days and seeking urgent talks with Government.”




To view 'SGA Deer Vision- the 10 years ahead', go to: https://www.scottishgamekeepers.co.uk/deer-vision/



*At the time the make-up of the panel was announced, The SGA told Scottish Government that it was not fully representative as it contained no one within the deer sector who was operating as a practising deer manager.


Thursday, 23 January 2020

SGA RESPONSE TO DEFRA TROPHY HUNTING CONSULTATION (UPDATED)






On Saturday, DEFRA's consultation on the import and export of hunting trophies into and out of the UK, closes. There is still time to respond so ACT NOW by clicking below: 

Update: (24th Jan): the consultation has today been extended by 1 month to 25th February 2020. Please respond.



https://consult.defra.gov.uk/wildlife-management/trophy-hunting-consultation/?fbclid=IwAR0PEjK60bNBovUlz53x8bp6kSNAF2ACIeVNG5wH6Dzgbwp-sBGc2ePznRg

We have been encouraging our members and supporters to answer this important consultation because it will have direct repercussions in Scotland - if the proposals lead to a ban on hunting trophies.
The SGA has opted for no change to current rules and, in order for those who may want some guidance to help complete the consultation, we are publishing the official SGA response, here, to the principal question of why we propose no change (Option 4).


"Well organised hunting can be as much a part of a sustainable future for threatened species as mainstream state aided conservation efforts, and in some cases even more so."


The views of The Scottish Gamekeepers Association is that what is taken away from the activity of hunting (ie: a trophy or souvenir/memento of a hunting trip) is of secondary concern to the the way in which that hunting activity is carried out. The focus should be on the sustainability of the hunting itself- and the welfare of the animals being hunted- and less on the trophy.
Most countries devise their own laws regarding how hunting operates and it is the responsibility of each nation to ensure the sustainability of hunting- and welfare standards- within its own borders and in accordance with its own priorities. The agreed definition of what is a 'trophy', for the purpose of international regulation and enforcement, is currently adequate. 
In our view, the greater spotlight on 'trophy hunting' as being a derogatory activity, or an activity worthy of societal scorn, could actually do more to endanger threatened species and communities than any organised hunting activity. As we see it, the debate on this has narrowed to emotional viewpoints, often advanced by celebrities or influencers, and there is now a real danger that hunting becomes synonymous ( in the view of the public) with poor moral values when, in fact, well organised hunting can be as much a part of a sustainable future for threatened species as mainstream state aided conservation efforts, and in some cases even more so.

We know, from our own experience, that the way to ensure rare species receive the appropriate level of awareness and funding, is to attach some form of connection or value to people. Some may find this slightly sad (that we cannot conserve without 'gain') and there is some sympathy for this viewpoint, but it tallies with human nature and we should not be overly surprised that there is less poaching, often more conservation funding and greater awareness of species' plights in areas where people have a financial incentive to keep animals at a sustainable number and in prime health ie: for the provision of controlled hunting and the accrual of accompanying financial gain.
While it is laudable that the UK is considering 'taking a lead' in this debate, there is a real danger that - in doing so- the UK becomes silently responsible for worsening the lives and living conditions of people in resource-poor communities, whose fates we do not have full cognisance of. 

Hunting can provide a way for people to live in remote areas and provide for their families when other alternatives for meaningful employment or trade are few or virtually non-existent. When people live in these communities, the environments tend to be looked after and invested in. The hunting 'issue', therefore, is multi-factorial, with many shades of grey, and the current debate, often played out on Twitter, does not begin to scratch the surface of what is at stake for species or communities. 
For this reason, The Scottish Gamekeepers Association , which represents 5300 members in Scotland, feels that interfering in this complex area, would be best left to situations where there is a necessity to do so ie: if cross-border enforcement is demonstrably not working. As far as we are aware, this is not the case.



Given the complexities and, in order to respect the right of individual countries to determine their own laws on sustainable hunting and animal welfare, we propose no change to present proposals. Hasty law, on the basis of emotion or an impression that there is a 'need to do something', could very well lead to a chain of unintended consequences which could be much worse for both animals and fragile peoples.
There is an argument to say that conservation funding can be sourced from hunting alternatives such as eco tourism and photo journalism. We do not hold the view that it is one or the other. 
The reality, from those who have trialled both models, is that a mix- and some pragmatism- is often best. In areas where there are large densities of visible animals, photo tourism can attract visitors and funds. However, this is not everywhere and, in other circumstances, having smaller parties or hunters paying higher prices can be better for habitat preservation, can mean less disturbance and less requirement to provide built tourist infrastructure in fragile habitats.
In Africa, for example, 70 percent of wildlife occurs outside of full protected areas and nature tourism can be unviable in these areas because of remoteness and lack of accommodation. Again, this debate is not about the secondary 'trophy', it is about how a balance is struck, in regulation and other ways, by people on the ground in the countries directly affected.
Where we have acute concern with this consultation is with Option 3. We refer to our own situation, here, in Scotland. 

We are very fortunate, as a nation, to have a visible presence of native wild herbivores. Deer are important aspects of our culture and identity, they help support 2520 jobs in remote areas and are regularly voted the favourite animal of the Scottish people. 
Skilled deer management is necessary to regulate populations and ensure the overall health of wild deer and their habitats. This management provides employment, healthy food and habitat protection.
A percentage of the annual cull of deer is undertaken by visitors, often from overseas, who pay a lot of money to shoot deer under the expert guidance of a deer stalker or other trained deer manager. This money then circulates through communities (often in sparsely populated areas), providing crucial business whilst essentially providing a service which is necessary anyway (the management of deer populations to be in balance with their environments). 
Many visitors who travel a long way to Scotland will want to take a memento of their trip back home with them so they can talk about it to their friends or simply cherish the memory. Often antlers will be taken back to other parts of the world.






"Deer are important aspects of our culture and identity, they help support 2520 jobs in remote areas and are regularly voted the favourite animal of the Scottish people."

As an organisation supporting the lives and interests of professional deer stalkers and managers, we cannot support any regulation which could act as a disincentive to others to travel to our country and take part in sustainable deer stalking experiences. 
Strict firearms laws as well as the personal decisions of some carriers not to carry hunting arms into the UK has already led to headaches for legitimate sporting businesses in Scotland and further moves which could reduce visiting hunters could impact on employment in rural areas. 
At a time when the climate is in the spotlight internationally and there are moves to increase mitigations such as tree planting, the ability to manage wild deer populations increases rather than diminishes and moves which could restrict such management in Scotland will provide a net loss for conservation. 
We do not believe that this outcome is what is intended by this consultation but, should option 3 proceed, we fear that this is what will happen.
As there is a requirement to select a second choice, we have opted for Option 2 although, ideally, we would not have answered anything other than Option 4. While option 2 sounds good in theory (everyone wants benefits to be ensured) it will be extremely difficult to police in reality and adds a further layer of difficulty likely to outweigh any potential gain.



Monday, 20 January 2020

AGM 2020: SPEAKER NEWS AND UPDATES

The SGA Committee is delighted to announce that the 2020 Annual General Meeting with Grahams of Inverness will be held in the highland capital on Friday March 6th.

As ever, we have a varied programme of UK and international speakers lined up for the showpiece event at Caledonian Stadium, home to Inverness Caley Thistle FC.

We are also delighted to welcome the generous support, as Principal event sponsor, of outdoor clothing and equipment specialists, Grahams of Inverness, who have been supplying our members with shooting and fishing gear for many decades. 


Established in 1857, Grahams is a household name and go-to place for all gamekeepers, stalkers, ghillies and wildlife managers, as well as country sports enthusiasts, and the SGA is delighted to continue our association with the store and brand. Find out more about Grahams, here: https://www.grahamsonline.co.uk

With so much change potentially afoot in our profession, the 2020 AGM is set to be a key one and seats are expected to go quickly, making prompt booking essential (See the foot of this story for how to book your seat).
The Werritty review into grouse shooting (https://www.gov.scot/publications/grouse-moor-management-group-report-scottish-government/ ) is set to change the landscape for moorland keepers and the reports of SNH ( https://www.nature.scot/sites/default/files/2019-11/Publication%202019%20-%20SNH%20Assessing%20Progress%20in%20Deer%20Management.pdf ) and the appointed Deer Working Group will also bring deer issues further to the fore over the coming weeks (https://www.gov.scot/groups/deer-working-group/ ).
These issues, and more, will be the focus of SGA Chairman Alex Hogg’s keynote speech to attendees in Inverness.
There is political focus around pheasant releasing down south and, in Scotland, our famed salmon rivers are having to cope with a declining stock which threatens the fabric of our wild fisheries.
At the time of writing, the speaker line-up is still being fully finalised but already confirmed to travel from Iceland is Jon Helgi Bjornsson, a landowner with an insider insight into how the prolific salmon rivers of Iceland are continuing to hold stocks and retain anglers.
This will be of keen interest to our ghillie members and everyone with a stake in the health of our rivers.
Wild Deer Best Practice, and the need for everyone to reinvigorate it, will be the subject of a talk by SNH’s Alastair MacGugan before the day switches to two major health concerns in rural areas.
Dr Sally Mavin, Clinical Scientist at Scottish Microbiology Reference Laboratory at Raigmore in Inverness will be updating the floor on new research regarding Lyme Disease and early diagnosis. (https://www.hps.scot.nhs.uk/web-resources-container/scottish-lyme-disease-and-tick-borne-infections-reference-laboratory-user-manual/ ).
We then welcome Jim Hume, Convener of the National Rural Mental Health Forum with Support In Mind Scotland, who will be discussing work to support the mental health of rural workers ( https://www.ruralwellbeing.org ).
“We may yet have some additions to the speaker roster but, already, we have a varied programme and we are looking forward to being back in Inverness.
“The last time we visited the highland capital on AGM day, our members had to brave the ‘Beast from the East’ and, naturally, attendee numbers were a bit lower as a result, with the speaker programme also having to be pared back, for travel reasons.
“That said, it was still a great event with fantastic speakers and a really engaged and enthusiastic audience. It is important, as a sector, for us to get together and be able to discuss the challenges- particularly the political ones- that we are all going to face in 2020 so we are looking forward to getting feedback from the members on the day,” said SGA Vice Chairman, Peter Fraser, who has been putting together the programme for some weeks.
The member-only day will begin with registration at 9am and the usual introductory refreshments. 
Anyone wishing to attend must register their place with the SGA office on info@scottishgamekeepers.co.uk or by calling 01738 587 515, to enable the staff to plan seating and catering.
Lunch will be served at the close of the speeches and members will be made aware of menu choices when booking their place.
See you in Inverness!

Thursday, 9 January 2020

AGM 2020 DATE ANNOUNCED


The SGA Annual General Meeting will take place on Friday 6th March 2020 at Caledonian Stadium, Inverness, IVI 1FB.
All members are invited and speakers for the event from the UK and overseas are expected to be finalised shortly, with full details to follow.
Please put the date in your diary and note that booking a place is essential.
We are looking forward to seeing as many of you as possible on the day.

If you intend to come along, please contact the office on 01738 587 515 or info@scottishgamekeepers.co.uk




Tuesday, 7 January 2020

MEMBER VIEW: MIXED MESSAGES ON CLIMATE CHANGE

A member wanted to highlight high carbon travel ads
A member called the SGA office after reading a copy of the RSPB member magazine, Nature’s Home. She said she was impressed with the glossy mag, Spring edition, but wanted to highlight ‘confusing messages’ about climate change in the publication. 
“It seemed like a case of do as I say, not do as I do,” was her view.
Also a member of RSPB, she said she enjoyed the conservation articles but felt the climate messages sat badly alongside ‘excessive’ pages advertising expensive and exotic foreign holidays involving high carbon travel.
There were adverts for tours to Africa, Asia, Australasia, the Americas, Canada and Patagonia despite a parallel single page on RSPB’s eco friendly travel partners.
Adverts included high carbon emission combined fly-and-drive holidays.
The main leader comment article in the magazine by the Chief Executive talked about how the charity took part in September’s global youth and climate strikes, while lamenting that evidence of our impact on the planet was all around us.
There were further articles talking about ice floes melting and new records for CO2 emissions, with pleas for politicians at the 2020 London Climate Change Summit to put the world’s future before their own interests.
Conservation Director Martin Harper used part of his column to talk about the need for urgent action to tackle climate and ecological emergency.

According to the Scottish Green Party website, "Air travel is the most polluting mode of transport by far- the amount of carbon emissions generated is significantly higher than any other common consumer behaviour.”

* On checking for accuracy, the 100 page magazine carried 14 and a half pages of international travel adverts with a further 5 pages of UK tours potentially requiring flights for those outside the British Isles -  a fifth of the magazine.
The advertising from overseas travel companies would be worth a considerable amount of money to the RSPB.

RSPB Vice President Chris Packham campaigns with Extinction Rebellion whilst also financially benefitting from overseas tours on his official website.