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In a move calculated to counter the media preoccupation with wildlife crimes against birds of prey, the Scottish Government last week launched a major initiative to highlight the equally significant impact of poaching of deer, gamebirds and hares in Scotland.

The new plan, launched by Scotland’s environment minister Michael Russell MSP last Thursday, addresses three main areas (prevention, intelligence, and enforcement) and is led by the Scottish Rural Property and Business Association (SRPBA), backed by BASC Scotland and the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) with Tayside Police.

The NWCU, launched exactly two years ago, is a UK-wide initiative with the support of key bodies including the Home Office, DEFRA and HM Revenue & Customs. It has identified a rise in both hare coursing and poaching, and has sought support from members of the SRPBA and BASC with the hope of securing more convictions.

At the launch of the new initiative, Michael Russell explained that Scotland’s Government is committed to escalating action against wildlife crime, saying: “While much media coverage has been focused on bird poisoning, we must not lose sight of the fact that shameful practices such as [illegal] hare coursing are carried out all too regularly in Scotland. Poaching, too, is still a problem, and I am pleased to see the SRPBA being proactive in dealing with the issue, working with the police to put a stop to these crimes.”

The SRPBA is taking a direct role in efforts to combat poaching. Douglas McAdam, its chief executive, said: “Poaching and illegal coursing ranges from wide-scale criminal activity undertaken on a commercial scale, to one-off incidents often involving animal cruelty on the urban fringe. Whether for illegal “sport” or for commercial gain, such offences interfere with the activities of the land manager and are often coupled with other criminal action and rural crime.”

The rest of this article appears in 20 November issue of Shooting Times.

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