Letter: Cool down the raptor debate

SCOTTISH sporting estates have received media interest following a BBC2 documentary, Fair Game?, a programme that was referred to in Scotland on Sunday's article 'Landowners demand right to cull protected birds' (News, 8 May).

It is regrettable that a misleading picture is being painted with regard to the control of raptors. The impression readers and viewers may get is that landowners are seeking licences to control rare protected species such as golden eagles or hen harriers. This is not the case.

In the view of many land managers and gamekeepers, common raptors such as buzzards and ravens have now reached excessive population levels and as a result are beginning to have a significant negative impact in some areas on both game birds and other protected wild birds such as waders, black cocks and songbirds, not to mention regular agricultural livestock such as lambs. There is now therefore a need for a management tool or process to enable an effective balance to be reached in how we manage our wildlife in Scotland.

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Over the past two years, two working groups comprising industry and Scottish Government representatives have looked at the raptor control licensing process. The RSPB was fully represented at these discussions and worked with landowners to agree and sign off the standards and guidelines which would be employed for licensed control of these species.

Society cannot hide from the abhorrent fact that golden eagles have been poisoned and everyone agrees such killings must stop. However, we must look at the causes of crime in this area to understand why this is happening and in so doing cut through the propaganda that is seeking to deflect the truth away from the legitimate and diligent operations of sporting estates.

Douglas McAdam, chief executive, Scottish Rural Property and Business Association