[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Thursday, 30 August 2007, 15:36 GMT 16:36 UK
Wildlife crime crackdown pledged
Golden eagle, PA
A spate of poisonings has prompted the Scottish Executive move
A hard line on bird poisoning and wildlife crime has been promised by Environment Minister Mike Russell.

Convictions could result in the removal of firearms licences or cutting farm aid payments under measures being considered by the Scottish Executive.

Mr Russell confirmed the government was looking at such moves after a recent spate of poisonings.

In particular, he said he had been "absolutely appalled" by the killing of a golden eagle in Peeblesshire.

Mr Russell made his statement while shadowing two of Scotland's wildlife crime officers in the Borders.

"Birds of prey are magnificent creatures and wonderful assets for Scotland's biodiversity and tourism industry," he said.

There should be no doubt that the Scottish government is determined to stamp out this shameful and barbaric practice which has no place in a modern, civilised and environmentally friendly country
Mike Russell
Environment Minister

"Their welfare is the responsibility of all of us.

"Like everyone else in Scotland I was absolutely appalled by the recent spate of poisonings, especially that of the golden eagle in Peeblesshire."

The minister said that while work was going on to tackle the problem, there was more that could be done.

He said one possibility was the loss of a firearms licence for anyone who had poisoned an animal which Mr Russell said could be a "potentially huge disincentive to anyone working in the countryside."

"I will also look, with the justice secretary, at how best to use the new offence of knowingly causing or permitting the unlawful killing or injuring of a bird," he said.

"Another sanction which I would like looked at is cutting the Single Farm Payment for estates implicated in bird poisonings.

'Financial penalties'

"There should be no doubt that the Scottish government is determined to stamp out this shameful and barbaric practice which has no place in a modern, civilised and environmentally friendly country."

Labour's environment spokeswoman, Sarah Boyack responded warily to the proposals.

She said: "We back calls for greater use of financial penalties against landowners, however we would caution against targeting gamekeepers.

"Responsibility and accountability should lie with the estate and not with individual workers."

Conservative spokesman John Scott agreed wildlife crime was a serious matter but warned of the danger of being "heavy-handed".

He said: "In particular, the proposition that Single Farm Payments might be cut is not one that we could agree to, although we accept that all these suggested measures are to form the basis for further discussion and are not necessarily definite commitments."

'Decisive action'

The call to look at how such crimes are punished has been backed by the Animal Concern Advice Line.

Secretary John Robins said it was important to hold landowners or shooting syndicates responsible for the action of their employees.

"Those people who pay gamekeepers to kill protected birds should risk going to prison along with their criminal keepers," he said.

"Raptor persecution has gone on for centuries but Mike Russell could put an end to it now if he takes decisive action and doesn't just double the fines levied on the monkeys.

"He has to jail the organ grinders."




SEE ALSO
Eagle chick expected to survive
23 Aug 07 |  South of Scotland
Fresh appeal over eagle killing
21 Aug 07 |  South of Scotland
Global outrage over eagle killing
14 Aug 07 |  South of Scotland
Illegal poison kills golden eagle
13 Aug 07 |  South of Scotland
Wind farm 'is threat to eagles'
03 Jul 07 |  Highlands and Islands
Golden eagle symbol fails to fly
05 Dec 06 |  Scotland

RELATED BBC LINKS

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific