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Gamekeepers who flout the law are playing into the hands of politicians

A change of Government at the next general election could spell disaster for fieldsports, so wayward keepers must not add fuel to the fire warns Lindsay Waddell

hen harrier with nest

Those who illegally persecute hen harriers and other raptors have little thought for the consequences of their actions

With monotonous regularity I read or hear of yet another misdemeanour by a member of the gamekeeping fraternity, which — when there is at least one murder per week in our local paper — makes far more inches in headlines than it merits. I can only conclude those gamekeepers are not giving the slightest thought to those who come after them. As we should all be aware, those who hold the power in the various institutions in Scotland and Wales seem determined to get rid of shooting as a pastime, and that means the end of gamekeeping as we know it. (Is Wales moving towards a ban on all fieldsports?)

No excuse

Those politicians have already demonstrated that they need no excuse to do what they have already embarked upon. The removal, bit by bit, of the management tools keepers need to do their job is all the example you require to come to that conclusion. Their decisions are often in direct opposition to guidance from their own advisers regarding the economic and social impact of the policies, and will have serious consequences for many species that conservationists are already concerned about. That, though, matters little to the few who can, and will, do as much damage as they can to rural life, culture and economics.

Flouting the law

On the other hand, the gamekeepers who flout the law, seemingly with little thought to the consequences, are playing into the hands of those politicians, who it must be said need no excuses, as they are driven by ideology. They will never have caught their own breakfast, lunch or dinner but relied on others to do the killing for them. They will never have nurtured birds or animals, with great care it has to be said, for those same birds or animals to become food for their families or others at a later stage in life. They will know nothing of the feeling of companionship a day in the field or by the river with like-minded individuals can give, and the good it does for your wellbeing.

When I began my journey into gamekeeping 60 years ago, the doom-mongers told me I would not get my working life from it as it would be banned. Well, that has not happened yet. I see young men and women coming into fieldsports with the same enthusiasm as I did all those years ago. I just hope that reason prevails over social media, false information and ‘Disney culture’, and that wildlife managers are allowed to continue looking after our wildlife for the good of the wider environment, not just the fluffy bits of it.

To date, the real damage has been done in Scotland and Wales. But make no mistake, there is a possibility that we will see a change in the complexion of Government at the next election, and there may well be those coming into power who have their own axes to grind regarding land use and what management they will tolerate. A parliament in which the odd Green candidate holds sway, as in Scotland now, would be a very dangerous one, not only for fieldsports but sadly for the very wildlife the Greens would say they are protecting. In the meantime, I shall continue managing the land I have responsibility for and take great pleasure from watching a very good number of endangered species rearing their chicks, which, it would seem, some politicians would rather I didn’t do. Where is the logic in that?