Members may have seen publicity recently about covert filming of a gamekeeper in summer 2011, as he dispatched crows in a cage trap. A representative of the animal rights pressure group “OneKind” (formerly Advocates for Animals), stated by them to have been there by chance, took the film and allegations were then made that the method of dispatch caused suffering to the crows. The Procurator Fiscal deemed the evidence inadmissible because it amounted to surveillance, and despite the impression given by the OneKind film there does not seem to have been a welfare offence nor has there been any prosecution.
Industry organisations such as the Scottish Gamekeepers Association are developing guidelines for dealing with animals and birds in legal traps and to stress that “welfare is the key issue and the animal should be despatched as quickly and humanely as possible”.
There is an ongoing issue over admissibility of undercover filming and whether it is in itself illegal . According to the OneKind website a case in 2004 was similarly thrown out after evidence collected by RSPB was deemed inadmissible, and that set a precedent which has been followed through in this case. A former Environment Minister is also understood to have said that such surveillance is unacceptable.
Land managers should be aware that the publicity generated by OneKind in the last week could lead to some people carrying out criminal damage to legal crow cages. OneKind have been careful not to name the estate involved or to incite violence or law breaking, but comments on their website such as “where is this trap so it can be destroyed” indicate that some of their supporters are prepared to take direct action. There is a growing problem with criminal damage to legal cages, traps and snares all over Scotland which Scottish Land & Estates is raising with the Partnership Against Wildlife Crime Scotland. Estates should be on the look-out and report any suspicious activity immediately to the police.