Shooting groups outraged at gamekeeping slur.
Animal welfare charities in Scotland have been accused of “stooping to an all-time low” after it was revealed that they used talks and props to demonise estate workers during presentations to primary schools.
The Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association (SGA) has urged education minister Mike Russell to investigate after the RSPB and Scottish SPCA (SSPCA) admitted giving children toy guns, tweed hats and a fake bottle of poison to represent the gamekeeping profession, and telling them that estate workers use illegal traps to kill and maim wildlife.
SGA chairman Alex Hogg said: “Every parent should be shocked that these charities are using classroom time to indoctrinate impressionable young children and twist their minds against genuine country people. These organisations are clearly intent on demonising a legitimate profession and trying to outlaw legal tools such as traps and snares.”
The complaint followed revelations in The Sunday Times that the SSPCA had created a “wildlife crime scene” during a presentation at Strathdearn Primary School in Invernessshire by cordoning off a section of a classroom.
It had also used props such as a snare and a bird’s nest.
However, unfortunately for the charity, two of the children who attended the presentation were the sons of gamekeepers.
One later asked his father why he put out illegal traps and snares.
The other child said he was “angry and embarrassed” at what he regarded as an attack on his father’s profession.
SSPCA chief superintendent Mike Flynn was unrepentant.
He said: “We run a hugely popular and free Prevention through Education programme for Scottish schools which regularly receives excellent feedback from teachers, pupils and parents.”
“We have been approached in relation to a talk we gave on wildlife crime with apparent concerns with regard to gamekeeping. While our talk recognises there are rogue elements within the gamekeeping profession, it is balanced and emphasises the positive role the vast majority of gamekeepers play in our communities.”
“Having discussed this with the school and parent teacher council involved it appears our talk has been misinterpreted by a small number of parents. This has been clarified and we understand the school in particular is satisfied.”
However, Alex Hogg revealed that a complaint is being lodged with the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator over the use of a toy gun to illustrate rogue gamekeepers’ persecution of birds of prey.
He said: “The wildlife management we practise every day brings enormous benefits and valuable tourism to the Scottish countryside but these organisations are not interested in presenting a balanced argument.”
“They are simply intent on banning country sports. Their tactics, including taking toy firearms into schools, need to be urgently investigated by our education authorities.”