The Cut, Halesworth, 20th October 2014.
Review by: Eddie Bathgate
As part of the Halesworth festival this year, Kathy Piotrowski arranged an evening event at The Cut jointly with the Waveney Bird Club. More than 200 people attended and the SOG stand was very busy with visitors. Viking Optics had generously donated a pair of binoculars for the raffle which was drawn by Kathy.
The main event of the evening were three talks.
Of the trio of well-respected speakers, the first two – author and former journalist Simon Barnes and RSPB senior investigator Guy Shorrock – spoke about raptor persecution, which has been the subject of a lengthy previous article in The Harrier, whilst Richard Crossley provided light relief with anecdotes from his travels compiling his unique field guides.
Guy Shorrock opened the event with a shocking talk detailing the scale of raptor persection in the UK. “A hundred incidents are reported every year, and this is believed to be the tip of a very large iceberg”. A horrific surveillance video showed buzzards being killed by a gamekeeper. “One hundred and sixty-four people have been convicted of persecution since 1990, nearly three-quarters of them gamekeepers”. Two of those convicted also had a ‘vermin’ diary detailing the killing of 102 buzzards, 40 ravens and 37 badgers during a spring purge of the shooting estate where they worked. Surprisingly, they were reported to the police by other keepers from the same estate, proving that, whilst persecution is clearly practised amongst the profession, it is not approved of by all.
The real target, Guy explained, is the employers who sanction raptor persecution. He went on: “getting these prosecutions is really hard work. Getting [the person] behind the gamekeeper is the real problem. In Scotland we have vicarious liability to try and make managers more accountable”.
Simon Barnes, in his thought-provoking speech to launch the Campaign Against Raptor Persecution (CARP) said that: “raptor persecution is against the law and is immoral”. He went on to underline that CARP wishes to cooperate with individual shooting estates and the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) in a non-adversarial way, in order to apply pressure to those bringing the sport into disrepute. Shooting estates will be invited to declare themselves “raptor-friendly”. Information on the campaign can be found here – CARP.
Richard Crossley’s task was to follow this sombre brace of talks and he did so with a lively and fun exposition of his travels. He expanded on many interesting experiences gained during the tens of thousands of miles he covered during the development of his revolutionary new field guides. He also talked enthusiastically about his Race 4 Birds Foundation, aimed at enthusing young birders in America (although British, Richard lives in the US) and his involvement in the Pledge 2 Fledge organisation, which encourages birders to take time to introduce others to nature through birding.
Both his innovative guides, ‘The Crossley ID Guide – Britain & Ireland’ and ‘The Crossley ID Guide – Eastern Birds’ were on sale during the evening. For a full review of his Britain & Ireland guide, see the previous edition of The Harrier.
Finally a huge thank you goes to Kathy Piotrowski for arranging the evening, which raised £1,400 for Suffolk’s farmland birds.