ONCE again the animal rights lobby and their followers display a stunning lack of knowledge of the countryside and its workings (Letters, February 7).

John F Robins's pejorative comments against gamekeepers conveniently ignore the findings of the British Trust for Ornithology which showed that gamekeepers played a very important role in the conservation of all moorland birds and not just red grouse. He states that they are allowed to kill vermin to protect a wide range of species, which conveniently ignores the fact that organisations such as the RSPB also practice vermin control on their reserves for the exact same purpose. His comments about birds ingesting lead shot instead of grit strikes me as being laughable, as he assumes that birds are so stupid they are incapable of differentiating between the two entirely different substances.

Allow me to introduce some facts into the discussion. Gamekeepers are immensely proud of the diversity of species on the moors which they steward. Unkeepered moors are sterile, lifeless tracts bereft of most moorland species. Numerous studies have shown that gamekeepers perform far more conservation work than all the animal charities put together. Persecution of raptors is always unacceptable but figures show that wildlife crime has been reducing year on year for more than a decade.

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In your sister paper the Sunday Herald Mr Robins claimed that he understood the lives of countrymen because he had lived in an area with unmetalled roads. I would suggest that I have lived by the sea and indeed paddled in it, but it gave me no insight into the lives of fishermen.

David Stubley,

22 Templeton Crescent, Prestwick.

IT is no surprise to see the RSPB did not like the evidence provided by the Scottish Government on hen harriers (“Botham: Put gamekeepers in charge to help protect hen harriers”, The Herald, February 5). Roseanna Cunningham’s data shows that of 1,279 hen harrier nests in Scotland only 35 per cent of those on RSPB reserves were successful while 51 per cenrt of nests elsewhere were. Sir Ian Botham suggested this was due to a lack of fox control – something which gamekeepers excel at. His point was perfectly confirmed by the RSPB telling The Herald that Islay is as an example of where the charity is succeeding with hen harriers. It is fox free.

Ian Gregory (Sir Ian Botham’s campaign manager),

16 Hildred House, 74 Ebury Street, London.