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Animal Concern Advice Line News


Please find below a copy of our self-explanatory and highly critical e–mail to the First Minister and two of her Cabinet Secretaries in which we highlight their hypocrisy over the recent American Trophy Huntress who visited Scotland. While Larysa Switlyk paid to humanely and legally shoot a goat on Islay the Government was paying people to kill and maim thousands of geese on the same island. Hundreds of these birds were left to die a slow, lingering death from their injuries. The Government even has a word for this. They call it “crippling”.

A scientific paper published last month and other research findings which have yet to be fully published, highlight the cruelty and pollution caused by a public funded goose cull. We have also written to all MSPs asking them if they know the Government pays some farmers/landowners on Islay more than an MSP's annual salary to compensate them for not killing geese which graze on their fields while at the same time the public purse pays other people to shoot and kill thousands of those geese, leaving many hundreds more maimed to die slowly of their injuries.

John Robins of Animal Concern Advice Line states:

“The so–called management scheme of geese on Islay should be suspended immediately on basic animal welfare grounds. Respected scientists have condemned this very expensive slaughter as cruel, unnecessary and detrimental to the conservation of the geese. We also need an immediate total ban on the use of toxic lead shot

I have asked Government to instigate a total review of culling, hunting and shooting in Scotland. It is unacceptable that in the 21st century you can, without having to justify yourself to anyone or recording how many birds you kill, legally destroy an unlimited number of several species of wild birds simply by reading and following a General License published on a Government website.

Many years after I first asked for a close season to be introduced, seals, beavers and other animals can still be shot 365 days of the year, leaving dependant young to starve to death.

Forgive the sick pun but Larysa Switlyk has been made a scapegoat by senior Government Ministers. Those Ministers may have earned a place on her Trophy Room wall as their knee–jerk response to the social media posts of Switlyk posing, in full camo gear and full make–up, with the animals she killed, played right into the hands of the huntress. The free publicity enhanced the notoriety she relies on to promote her Canadian TV show and the wide range of merchandise she endorses and sells. My tongue was only half in my cheek when I suggested to Nicola Sturgeon she employ Larysa Switlyk to teach Government cullers to make a clean kill instead of causing extreme, unnecessary suffering to the birds they maim and leave to die slowly from festering wounds.”

NOTES FOR EDITOR: If you would like a pdf copy or would like to contact the authors of the British Wildlife paper on the Islay geese situation just let me know. My e–mail to the Government is copied below and contains shocking new info about the number of geese (20%) on Islay with lead shot in their bodies and figures showing the very worrying decline in the goose population.

Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP,
Cabinet Secretaries Michael Russell MSP & Roseanna Cunningham MSP,
The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road
Edinburgh EH1 3DG

Copy to Mairi Gougeon MSP, Minister for Rural Affairs and Natural Environment

Dear Ministers,

I write concerning statements each of you made regarding the recent visit to Scotland by trophy hunter Larysa Switlyk. It appears you were not only shocked by pictures of Ms Switlyk with her trophies but surprised to learn goats are shot by sport shooters in Scotland.

Given your current positions in Government and the fact that you Mr. Russell held the post of Minister for the Environment for two years, what I find shocking is that not one of you seems to have a clue about the commercial shooting industry in Scotland.

Goats have been on the quarry list of Scottish shooting tour holiday companies for as long as I can remember. Despite there only being around 1,500 wild goats in Scotland you can book an organised trip to shoot one for as little as £250. Several times in the last forty years I have been asked to provide newspapers with comments on incidents where it has become public knowledge that goats have been shot by paying guns in different parts of Scotland.

My calls for protection of these animals fell on deaf ears in Government circles but at least the RSPB responded by replacing bullets with contraceptive darts when they shoot goats on the shores of Loch Lomond. Something I have previously urged your Government to consider as an alternative to lethal culling.

A few years ago I had to comment on incidents in Fife where visiting Italian wildfowlers shot protected species of geese and left wounded birds to die a slow, painful death.

I am afraid this is happening again in Scotland and I ask you to act immediately to stop the unnecessary killing of thousands of protected geese and the wounding of hundreds of others every year. You will not have to go far to find those responsible as this cruel and expensive slaughter is being carried out by you, the Scottish Government, using public funds.

An article published last month in the respected scientific journal British Wildlife throws great doubt on the validity of this extremely cruel and expensive publicly funded cull. In case it may cause this e–mail to be rejected by Government security software I will send you a pdf copy of that article attached to a second e–mail.

Ms Switlyk paid to shoot a goat on Islay. Although totally unnecessary it was, as far as we know, a clean, humane kill. At the same time Government department Scottish Natural Heritage was paying people to shoot geese knowing that at least ten percent of the birds would be, to use the official term, “crippled”. Hundreds of wounded birds left to die a slow, painful death from festering wounds.

The very high maiming rate of geese on Islay may be due to guns being fired too far from their targets in a scattergun approach to bring down as many geese as possible. Perhaps the Scottish Government should employ Ms Switlyk to teach SNH cullers about the concept of a clean, humane kill? It may also be advisable to check if there is any truth in rumours circulating on Islay that one of the SNH cullers had his shotgun certificate suspended following a police investigation into an incident he was involved in.

Incidentally while Ms Switlyk and her party were eating their trophy animals SNH shooters were taking those geese they could be bothered recovering and dumping them in a landfill site.

This is perhaps just as well as new research indicates 20% of live geese on Islay are carrying lead shot in their tissues. This may result in slow death by lead poisoning and the subsequent cruel death of rare raptors and other animals which feed on the carcasses.

Over the years of goose culling the Scottish Government is paying people to put tonnes of toxic lead shot into the environment. I ask yet again for your Government to totally ban the use of lead shot in Scotland. As you cannot even be bothered to follow the example of over half of Scottish local councils and ban the release of balloons and sky lanterns, I hold out little hope of seeing the long overdue ban on lead shot in my lifetime.

Other new research by the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) shows the Greenland barnacle goose population to be in dramatic decline across its range. Dropping more than 10% from 81,000 in 2013 to 72,000 this spring (Mitchell and Hall 2018). Productivity of young in 2018 (just over 3%) has been the lowest recorded since 1992, making a further 10% reduction in the population likely.

Cruelty aside, the drop in the goose population alone should be enough to warrant an immediate suspension of culling. I believe the cull costs the public around £1,000,000 a year with most of that going to mainly wealthy land owners and farmers whose property the geese land on.

Cabinet Secretary Cunningham, in a letter published in The Herald on November 1st you stated on behalf of the Scottish Government;

“… the central point of our animal welfare legislation and regulations, is to ensure that where animals in Scotland are going to be killed this should be done legally and as humanely as possible to minimise suffering.”

Given the large–scale extreme cruelty inherent in the Islay goose cull I ask you to stand by your statement of 1st November and suspend that cull first thing Monday morning.

I also find your statement highly hypocritical when your Government has totally ignored my numerous requests to ban the killing of seals, beaver and other animals during their breeding seasons. What can be more inhumane than deliberately killing animals knowing it is obviously going to result in their young starving to death?

First Minister Sturgeon, in a statement issued via Twitter I understand you said of Trophy Hunting:

“scotgov will review the current situation and consider whether changes to the law are required.”

That would be nice but far more important is the long overdue review of the situation regarding culling and all sports shooting in Scotland.

Few people, including politicians, know about the General Licensing culling scheme. Under this, just by reading and following on–line instructions, anyone can kill unlimited numbers of around 22 species of native birds.

Using traps and guns farmers and gamekeepers kill tens of thousands of native birds every year. Much of this killing is to artificially increase numbers of non–native pheasant so they can be shot for fun by paying shooters.

General Licenses also allow domestic householders to set magpie traps in their gardens, killing the birds by bashing their brains out against a wall.

I have been calling for a full review of the General Licensing scheme for years with a view to scrapping it. However, all we get is the annual review of what birds should be included in it.

Your Government allows, and sometimes encourages and pays for, the killing of dozens of species of birds, grey squirrels, harbour and grey seals, rabbits, hares, numerous species of deer, stoats, weasels, hedgehogs, goats, beavers and even wallabies. The lack of value you put on much of our native wildlife allows a certain Victorian mentality to persist with some people regarding even protected species including hawks, falcons and eagles as vermin to be killed by shooting and the use of illegal poisons and traps.

We urgently need a full review and overhaul of culling, hunting and shooting in Scotland. As part of that It is time to license and control shooting estates, put a real end to fox hunting, ban the use of lead shot, stop disguising mass slaughter of native animals and birds as “land management” and get rid of the culling culture which is rife within SNH, Forestry Commission Scotland and Marine Scotland.

You spoke strong words because Larysa Switlyk published a photograph of a dead goat. Please turn those words into strong actions to put an end to the far crueller slaughter of vast numbers of wild animals and birds sanctioned and often encouraged by your Government year after year.

Yours sincerely,

John F. Robins,
Secretary of Animal Concern Advice Line

I urge you to read the following articles on this issue:

John F. Robins on Government hypocrisy over hunting and culling and why Larysa Switlyk may have your photographs on her trophy room wall:

The Ferret on the Islay Goose Cull:

Please Note: Viewing the link to The Ferret will constitute one of the three free views of articles the site allows each month. You might want to consider subscribing to The Ferret to support investigative journalism into many of the issues which are important to you and our planet.