To the surprise of almost no-one a large quantity of banned poison has been found on the Leadhills Estate, a South Lanarkshire shooting estate notorious for wildlife crime (though no doubt somewhere in the offices of the SGA they’ll be considering saying it was a plant). The poison was discovered by a League Against Cruel Sports investigator carrying out general field research in July last year on ‘Deadhills’ as it’s been dubbed (and anyone who’s visited this depressingly silent slab of grouse moor and wondered where the hell all the wildlife was, will understand why).
Police Scotland has confirmed the poison was – again to the surprise of no-one – the ‘professional’s’ weapon of choice against birds of prey, a banned substance hazardous to humans and wildlife alike which is illegal to keep or use in the UK: Carbofuran. As we and countless others have pointed out, just a few grains of carbofuran sprinkled on to a rabbit corpse makes for an illegal but cheap and highly toxic bait.
As Robbie Marsland, Director of the League Against Cruel Sports, Scotland describes it: “Carbofuran is deadly in even the smallest of quantities so to find such a large amount in the countryside is extremely worrying. The amount our investigator found has the potential to kill many hundreds of people, not to mention the harm this could have caused to wildlife. Fortunately this time the illegal, toxic poison has been disposed of by the police but this is not always the case with carbofuran often responsible for a number of wildlife killings including protected birds of prey.”
Leadhills Estate is currently subject to a three-year suspension of its hideous ‘general license’, a government-backed and poorly-monitored scheme that trades wild birds to landowners and shooting estates so they can ‘protect’ their profits. Leadhills’ licenses were revoked in 2019 as a ‘punishment’ for the illegal deaths of a Short-eared Owl, two Buzzards and three Hen Harriers. Scottish Natural Heritage concluded that: “There is clear evidence that wildlife crimes have been committed on this property [dating back to 2014]. Because of this, and the risk of more wildlife crimes taking place, we have suspended the general licences on this property for three years.”
Cleary that hasn’t stopped the estate from hoarding Carbofuran. It’s difficult to see how threats to withdraw licences under the forthcoming licencing system for grouse moors in Scotland would stop estates from hoarding Carbofuran either – it is, after all, banned now and there was a well-flagged government amnesty in 2015 which asked for banned pesticides to be surrendered. Yet here the vile stuff is – again…
This was not the first time Carbofuran has been found at Leadhills. A stash was again found by the League back in May 2019.
It’s been recognised for many years now that wildlife crime underpins the grouse shooting industry. This is well understood. Again, as Robbie Marsland puts it: “Raptor persecution and other illegal poisoning of wildlife is just one part of the circle of destruction which surrounds grouse moors, painting a depressing picture of the lengths some individuals will go to in order to protect grouse for sport shooting.”
Police Scotland are quoted in the Daily Record saying, “It is extremely concerning that this substance was found in a location which is accessible to the public. Anyone with further information about this incident should contact Police Scotland on 101.”
Depressingly, though, the case has now been closed by Police Scotland after it found no evidence to link the poison to any person or persons. Clearly someone on the estate knows who ‘the person or persons‘ is/are, but as is so often the case with the closed world of killing wild birds for entertainment, they’re not talking…which is almost as shameful as keeping Carbofuran to kill birds of prey.
The chances are that neither much-needed change will come about anytime soon.