I was ignorant. That was my first mistake.
Don’t get me wrong- I consider myself to be a nice person and constantly strive to say the right things and do my best at all times, trying my hardest to generally be a decent member of society. I’m sure I speak for most people when I say this... We all want to be good and do good things, don’t we? That was my second mistake. I assumed that everyone thought like me. I was wrong.
As a naturally optimistic, happy person, I have spent virtually my entire life getting on with raising children, marriage, work, houses, etc, skipping metaphorically through the meadow of life’s existence, living from one day to the next, as you do. Happy as Larry, you might say. Sure, bad things happen, but that’s someone else’s issue, right? My third mistake.
A few years ago I decided to volunteer for the RSPB at the local red kite centre, which was lovely...talking to all the nice visitors and feeding the beautiful kites in gorgeous surroundings. It appealed to my sense of doing what was right and giving something back, and- as I have blogged about before- I see volunteering as chicken soup for the soul. Everything was great.
Photo Brad Chappell
I continued to wear my rose-tinted glasses until this spring. This spring everything changed. My eyes finally opened. I awoke.
On the 18th/19th of March this year someone thought it would be a good idea to lace some meat with illegal poison and kill 16 of our beautiful red kites and 6 of our iconic buzzards, only two miles from my front door. The locals were shocked. The RSPB was in shock. Everyone was in shock, when body after body was discovered over the next few days. It was a big story and it was reported nationally in every newspaper and tv channel in the land.
Photos RSPB Scotland
I was in shock too. I was utterly devastated that someone could do such a thing, terribly sad for the poor birds that the RSPB had striven to reintroduce to the area, but more than that, I was angry.....how DARE someone do this? What gives them the right? How can they get away with it?
I began to see the occasional kite whilst driving towards Inverness, gracefully flying above the Leanaig, not with joy in my heart as I used to, but with sorrow. Glad that it survived the massacre, because that’s what it was, but sad that many others had perished.
The instant I learned the news that fateful day I knew that I had to sit up and do something. Something to prevent anything like this from happening ever again. Something meaningful. So, I read about raptor persecution, clued myself up about gamekeepers, farmers and conservation and made it my business to know about the bad stuff, made it MY issue, not someone else’s. I attended a protest about the incident, organised by the RSPB, I set up a local campaign Facebook page and Twitter page, read about the existing and proposed legislation regarding wildlife crime and I started a petition in order to better protect our vulnerable Scottish wildlife. I organised searches of the local woodland to get a truer picture of the number of birds killed, and by doing this my son and I found a dead buzzard. Heartbreaking, yet merely another statistic.
Photo Andrea Goddard
Roll forward a couple of months and here I am, writing this blog. Our two resident kite couples are breeding for their 3rd consecutive year at Tollie, so I still do my bit up there. I'm trying hard to push my petition on social media, in local newspapers and at events, it has become my raison d’être, my purpose in life. I feel empowered, as if I have a legacy to leave behind. And it won’t stop there. Once the petition is presented to Paul Wheelhouse MSP on 21st August I will move on and push in another area.
Do you know what? I may be one person, just a mum and a wife who leads a normal life, but I no longer wear my rose-tinted glasses. I had an epiphany. I know now that the bad stuff that happens is OUR issue, OUR problem, and if we don’t sit up collectively, and as strong individuals then nothing will ever change and the persecution will continue.
I really feel that I have awoken from my ignorant slumber. I really do.
This youtube video, produced by a friend of mine, captures beautifully the strength of feeling over what has happened.
I now live in Florida USA, but I am saddened to read your blog about the Kites. I find it very difficult to imagine this kind of behaviour. It really takes a warped mind to do something so despicable, it also makes my blood boil, but alas I am powerless to physically do much about it other than sign your petition. I wish you well in stopping whoever is doing this terrible deed.