Animal Aid


Posted 19 May 2008

Regular listeners to the long-running radio soap ‘The Archers‘ will be aware of this topical storyline.

William Grundy is the head gamekeeper for the dastardly shoot operator Matt Crawford, a dodgy property developer. Together with the morally selfish Brian Aldridge, he is a director of Borchester Land. After a tip-off, Natural England, accompanied by the police, investigated a poisoned Red Kite found on the shoot. Compounding the suspicion of locals, it was discovered that William buried another dead Buzzard to avert further investigation.

The Archers’ agricultural storyline editor is bang up to date with this old tale of gamekeepers persecuting raptors. Even if William Grundy is later revealed to be innocent, there is no other group with a motive to poison these magnificent creatures. This is the view of his friends, family, employers and neighbours. The small number of successful prosecutions for illegal raptor persecution represent a large and ugly malpractice that is confined mainly to the vicinity of grouse moors and other game bird shoots.

William Grundy comes from a family that is always cruising the line just above illegality but it is the attitude of his employer, Matt Crawford, that is most revealing. Crawford blames William, not in case he poisoned the birds but because he was caught. In real-life gamekeeper prosecutions, the employer escapes prosecution himself and sometimes, after a period of suspension, the gamekeeper resumes his employment.

In 2005, the Shooting Times published a list of 30 ‘pests’ that were billed as injurious to game shooting. It contained the Golden Eagle, Goshawk, Red Kite, Falcon, Osprey and Peregrine Falcon.

In August 2007, the shocking news that a Golden Eagle had been found poisoned in the Scottish Borders stunned the Scottish Parliament into action. The bird was one of the only pair of Golden Eagles breeding in the Borders. As a result, the investigation and prosecution of offenders has hardened in Scotland. Mike Russell, the Scottish Environment Minister, has called for sanctions against landowners and for state subsidies to be withdrawn. The first such withdrawal has already occurred. Only by such appropriate measures will wildlife crime connected with the shooting industry be curbed.

William Grundy's story highlights a crime against Britain’s wildlife. It would be a nice surprise if he was found to be innocent. It would be even better if the true villains were exposed and Brian Aldridge and Matt Crawford lose their Single Farm Subsidy payment.

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