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False claims from RSPB
Author and Journalist, Port Ellen, Isle of Islay,
Filed 11 Aug 04
Ian Mitchell kindly provided Land-Care
a copy of the letter he sent to
the editor of the Press and Journal (Aberdeen) on 9th August 2004.
You published today an article about the RSPB,
repeating two of the Society's many false claims about itself: first,
that this year is the Society's 100th anniversary; secondly, that
the RSPB has been "in Scotland" for a hundred years.
The RSPB was founded (as the SPB) in 1889, which
is why in 1989 it celebrated its centenary by, amongst other self-congratulatory
operations, publishing Tony Samstag's book about itself, "For
Love of Birds" (ISBN 0 903138 28X). 1904 was the year the Society
received its Royal Charter, which is what has provided the opportunity
for another "centenary" with all the publicity likely
to be associated with such an event, including your own article.
Secondly, and more importantly, it is quite untrue that the RSPB
has had "100 years of being in Scotland", as you quote
its spokesman, Andy Myles, as saying. In fact, the first office
was opened in this country by George Waterston, the Edinburgh ornithologist
who later bought the Fair Isle, in 1947. The first Scottish reserve
was not bought until many years after that.
Your article started with ospreys and made much of the protection
they have received at the RSPB's Abernethy reserve. In fact, the
first ospreys to breed there did so in 1934, while the first ground
the RSPB acquired in the vicinity was bought in 1975, a bit late
for any honest claim to have had any influence over the species'
recolonisation of Scotland.
Many people in rural Scotland have come to associate
this sort of statistical sleight of hand with the RSPB's way of
doing business. Who can trust an organisation that has two centenaries
within fifteen years of each other?
Despite much trenchant criticism, the RSPB sails
on apparently unassailed by guilt, though it appears to think others
should feel guilty about their own behaviour. The opening passage
of Mr Samstag's book makes this clear: "Man as a species is
born in sin, and conservationists are the high priests of a religion
whose solitary premise is guilt. Guilt is the beating heart of the
RSPB ... [Members] are among the saved, yes, but they are also the
enemy, the devil incarnate, man the destroyer." With such a
misanthropic attitude, it is perhaps not surprising that there are
many in modern Scotland, like Mrs Macleod, who hope that this centenary
will be the RSPB's last.
86 Lennox Street
Isle of Islay PA42 7BW
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