Following on from my post yesterday about the Shooting Times opinion piece/feature by Roy Green, one of the comments by Alistair Balmain Editor of Shooting Times challenged me to think about why someone of 35 years standing in the game industry would change his position on the RSPB. To be honest I have deliberated over why some gamekeepers are so vociferous in their anti-raptor and anti-RSPB rhetoric. It might be easy to conclude that they are simply 'towing the party-line', ensuring that they are seen publicly to be supportive of landowners (and therefore their employer's) wishes in ensuring that the game businesses are operating at a high as return as possible.
Increasingly though I'm beginning to wonder if there are not other more human factors to play here. I spent the best part of 25 years working in businesses in 'management', for almost all of that time parts of the roles I held were about making changes, making whatever those businesses did more efficient. Working in an industry that was labour-intensive that inevitably often meant looking at how the same amount of work could be done by less people, or automated, or done in a different way that allowed people to be reallocated elsewhere. Almost without exception some individuals involved in the process would display classic resistance to change. They would be very keen to ensure that I knew certain things couldn't be changed, couldn't be done differently and that they, either individually or collectively were indispensable. Often this was, how to put it politely, bullshit, a smokescreen of self-perpetuation designed to ensure that their jobs were protected.
It is only natural I guess to want to protect your source of income, perhaps especially so when it may also involve your home as well as is the case for some gamekeepers. Often this resistance to change goes way beyond the emotional reaction
and fear of loss and stems from deeply entrenched cultural views. In an
industry where son often follows father, often in small rural
communities with little exposure to different world views and cultural values,
it is easy to see how individuals become steeped in the accepted way of thinking in an
unquestioning and obedient way.
Factor in the 'unions' or organisations that represent them (such as the National Gamekeeper's Organisation and Scottish Gamekeeper's Association) and this resistance often becomes a more pro-active defence stance of continual reminders of the importance and indispensable nature of the work of their members e.g. predator control. In the case of the NGO and SGA I would imagine most of their income is derived from individual memberships, less gamekeepers would equate to less members and a less financially sound footing.
So I would apply a great deal of caution when listening to those representing the game keeping fraternity. I would hope that when it comes to making good clear decisions on policy, laws, funding etc that government departments like DEFRA take a step back and make policy on the basis of independent research (if it doesn't exist fund it!) rather than listening to the burly voices of vested and self interest.
Whilst I support the introduction of vicarious liability in England, after all owners should be responsible for managing their employees in an appropriate way, we should also be very clear about the game-keeping profession and what they have to gain or lose when it comes to the extent of predator control. It is often their voices that are loudest in the calls for removal of protection on raptors.