Save the Scottish Wildcat

Protect the Clashindarroch Forest! Sign the petition NOW!


I have supported the Scottish Wildcat Association charity and Wildcat Haven for many years. They have given us hope that the Scottish Wildcat can be saved  as a wild animal.

Then, almost 18 months ago, I announced the launch of a rival organisation that claimed to have the best interests of the Scottish Wildcat at heart. It was launched with huge funding and great razzmatazz. The main problem was that it was hard to see how an organisation that included such disparate interests as driven grouse shooting, the display for profit of wild animals and the felling of the very forests that the wildcat requires for its home and larder could serve the interests of the wildcat. Yes, they talk the talk, but could they walk the walk? Were they going to help the wildcat? Or did they plan to exterminate it in the wild and restrict it to a zoo animal.

The gamekeepers and the zoos have now been exposed as the nasty organisations that we always imagined them to be. Now it is Forestry Commission Scotland and its forest destroying agenda that is in the frame. Friend or foe of the Scottish Wildcat? The jury is out, but it does not look good for them.

It started with the discovery of an unexpected population of Scottish Wildcats in the massive forest of Clashindarroch.


Wildcat Haven has identified at least 13 wildcats living there, including the large wildcat which has been nicknamed the Beast. In the last few weeks, Wildcat Haven has highlighted the threat to this population of wildcats from the Felling Operations of Forest Enterprise Scotland who manage the forest for Forestry Commission Scotland – a partner in the Scottish Wildcat Action.

The Clashindarroch Forest was planted only recently, with the first trees being put in the ground before WWII. It covers a range of heights and soil types. Not all of the forest is suitable for tree cover. It is a mosaic including large areas of open ground, often rich in food for Wildcats, such as voles. This is normal for most forests and although there are large plantations within the forest which offer cover, there are also large areas of open ground which support large populations of prey species.

The only threat to the wildcat is the disturbance caused by large scale forestry operations. This disturbance is precisely what Scottish Wildcat Action is recommending.  But then including Forestry Commission Scotland in a wildcat organisation is a bit like including an SS Panzer Division in the Allied line of battle. Unlike Scottish Wildcat Action, Wildcat Haven serves no commercial masters worried about profits. Wildcat Haven Is fighting to save this last small population of Aberdeenshire wildcats.

The wildcats have survived since the last ice age in this area despite or perhaps because of the planting. However is is improbable that they will be able to co-exist with large scale mechanised timber harvesting.

Logging is taking place NOW, in the middle of kitten season, disturbing wildcat mothers, which could make them abandon or even eat their young.

The logging will tear the wildcat population apart, and threaten many other rare animals that live in the forest alongside them.

Save the Scottish wildcat by protecting Clashindarroch Forest! Sign the petition NOW!

Slaughter

I have posted before about my poor record as a vegan.  I am not as singleminded as most vegans and this was brought home to me earlier this year when one of the websites I follow, Go Vegan Scotland, published a post that made little sense to me.  It described an English school which had reared a group of four piglets to educate the children about animal husbandry.  Once they reached adulthood (5 months) they were returned to the breeder.  Allowing children to learn about farm animals and permitting them to consider their death and consumption as pork pies, full English breakfasts and ham sarnies was too much for some vegans who created a great deal of fuss. It is likely that the experiment will not be repeated, much to the detriment of the children and probably the pigs. Conditions in pig farms are often substandard IMHO and having kept and eaten pigs myself I know how fun loving and playful they can be if given space to run around and enjoy themselves – as I expect they did at the school.

Go Vegan Scotland went much further and argued that not giving in to Vegan demands to allow the pigs to move on to an animal sanctuary infringed the human rights of a child of vegan parents at the school. Frankly this sort of silly over-reaction simply makes non-vegans turn away from considering veganism as a sensible movement.

What would have been sensible would have been to lobby for the exercise to go to its logical conclusion, with the children following the pigs to the slaughterhouse and viewing the unpleasant reality of how farm animals make the transition from fun-loving personalities to sausages and mince. I worked on pig duodenum for several years and consider that visiting my local abbatoir and watching the “innards” slither down the chute to reach the men who processed the whiffy bits would do more for veganism than any amount of protesting about ” ‘uman” rights” by well-intentioned hippies.

Which leads us on to the question of animal slaughter in the UK. Frankly I am very concerned about several aspects of the process.  The loss of hundreds of small abattoirs has created longer journeys for the animals.  The trade-off should be higher standards in those that remain, but an increasing number of slaughterhouses making use of the religious exemptions from the requirement to avoid pain by pre-stunning offset any such gains.

In my ideal world we would all eat lentils, but I know that is not going to happen. Eating meat is in our DNA and most people will not let go of their lust for flesh.  My philosophy is simple. If we cannot prevent the raising of animals for consumption they MUST have a good life and a good death. That is all I hope for for myself and those I love. Why not for farm animals too. And let us not forget that most wild animals get neither and precious few humans achieve it either. However we can aspire to make it so for farm animals.

Compassion in Word Farming has the right idea on most things.  They  were founded  in 1967 by a British farmer and they campaign  to end factory farming.  However I have come to suspect that the biggest problem we now face in the UK is not the absence of a good life, but the reality of a bad death for an increasing percentage of animals. 

In 2015 the Independent newspaper reported on secretly filmed footage  showing British abattoir workers repeatedly hacking at sheep’s throats, hurling them into solid structures and kicking them in the face.

Other images captured during the filming of the Halal slaughter of 400 sheep over three days showed:
*Sheep being kicked in the face and head, lifted by their ears, fleeces or legs, and hurled into solid structures.
*A worker bouncing up and down on the neck of a sheep that is still conscious.
*Staff laughing over a sheep bleeding to death with spectacles drawn around its eyes in green paint.
*Knives being sharpened in front of sheep, which also saw other animals being shackled and hoisted.
*Sheep falling from a chute on to a slippery floor in the kill area and frequently thrown head-first into a solid upright structure, which is part of the conveyor.

Some of these abuses might also have been captured in non-Halal or Kosher abbatoirs but for the first time, for myself anyway, attention was drawn to the fact that some people were exempted from the laws that stop the rest of us from torturing animals.  Slit your dog’s throat and you will be prosecuted. Slit the throats of 400 sheep after mumbling some Arabic words and you get your pay cheque and a pat on the back from the boss.

Best practice requires stunning of the animals before they are killed. When stunning is done correctly, the animal feels no pain and it becomes instantly unconscious. When animals are not pre-stunned or when  electricity is used only to immobilize and paralyze animals to hold them still (as in so called pre-stunned Halal slaughter), a painful and slow death by exsanguination is inevitable. A quick search of YouTube will provide enough examples of the horrors of Halal slaughter to stop you sleeping for a month. I dare you to watch this video and still consider that Britain should accept the horror of Halal slaughter. Go on. Agree with me or watch this and never sleep again.

The solution is very simple. exemptions from humane slaughter that currently permit killing farm animals in Britain by methods which may have been acceptable to primitive desert dwelling nomads but which are no longer tolerable in a civilised society must be withdrawn. Nobody has to eat meat and if anyone’s belief system does not permit them to eat humanely killed meat then that is all to the good. The ranks of vegetarians and vegans will be boosted and these people will be healthier and happier for the change. Nobody has to eat meat and nobody should have the right to kill animals with pain and fear just because they believe they should be able to. We banned bull fighting, bear baiting, dog fights, fox hunting and much more besides to the horror and fury of those who believed they had the right torture dumb beasts. Religious slaughter is no different and it must be stopped.

In the interim and for the benefit of slaughter generally, mandatory CCTV may be the way forward.  Indeed recently  the government has launched a consultation on plans to make CCTV mandatory for slaughterhouses in England. It is proposed that cameras would be placed in all areas of the slaughterhouse where live animals are present. Slaughterhouse vets would have unrestricted access to the footage.

To my mind that only goes part of the way. Half of all slaughterhouses already have CCTV (According to the Food Standards Agency around 49 per cent of red meat slaughterhouses and 70 per cent of white meat slaughterhouses have some form of CCTV), but Animal Aid in a recent series of undercover filmings identified several abattoirs who were lawbreaking and had CCTV installed. The CCTV had not prevented these breaches of the law. I would require all slaughterhouses to stream the CCTV footage to the internet to permit the public to check they were complying with the law. Frankly I have little confidence in the slaughterhouse vets.

 

 

 

Jarndyce vs Jarndyce – an update

Since my last post on the subject of my peremptory summons to help Mr Wightman with his legal troubles, I have received a copy of the court’s transcript of the event which I now share with everyone.

Wightman Wildcat Haven hearing transcript 2018_03_30_10_31_27

I have to admit that I had rather forgotten about the whole defamation thing. Highland Titles is in a particularly good place just now – 2017 was our tenth year of growth with our highest turnover and profit ever. This provides us with an income that we can use to do much much more than we ever imagined when we hung out our shingle in 2006. The lucky 100 who are booked to attend the 2018 gathering will hear about our plans first. Those on our mailing list will hear next. It does keep me busy, but that is certainly a very good thing.

But Mr Wightman was brought to my attention again last week when I received an email from a friend alerting me to a tweet (below). It appears that Mr Wightman will be dusting off his begging bowl again.

What a difference a year makes! Eleven months ago the news of his crowdfunder appeal for a modest £10,000 electrified Twitter.  318 hearts and  592 retweets.  Wow. This year the request for an additional extraordinary £120,000 created a massive social media yawn.  One heart and a comment from Cathy. Hopefully she will be donating the full £120,000 because nobody else appears to be interested.

One possibility is that people realise that trying to defend the indefensible is an expensive and futile ambition.  Surely it would be better to apologise and try to set the matter straight?

To spend so much money on lawyers which could be better spent on a million diverse good causes is arguably the behaviour of a man who knows with unwavering confidence even beyond conceit that he’s benefitting everyone around him.  He must be saved at all costs no matter what damage he may have caused to the little people. He cannot be seen to have erred.

His statement on his website that the court date “may well be a year or more away”, taken in context with his previous delaying tactics, suggest that his strategy might be to try and make the other side (a small wildlife non-profit) run out of money as their legal fees steadily increase.  He states “The estimated duration of the hearing is 8 days”.  Quite frankly this is ridiculous. The case is a simple open and shut case which I am advised could be concluded in two or three days.  His desire for an 8 day hearing would result in increased costs and massive delay.

If he had wanted to get his day in court, I cannot but wonder why he turned down the offer(s) of free legal help that he received.  Rather than represent himself, accept free help or turn to any number of well-intentioned “legal” friends who would surely have been pleased to represent him for a modest fee, Mr Wightman, possibly sensing the truly impossible job of making black look white, turned to one of the more expensive advocates at the Edinburgh bar, Roderick W. Dunlop Q.C.

https://twitter.com/AJacksonScot/status/863725455492476930

As I have made very clear under oath to the court (see transcript above), my only connection to Wildcat Haven (and Wildcat Haven Enterprises), is that a company that I represent as a director, Highland Titles Limited, has been funding it since WH was formed in 2015.  Before that we funded the  Scottish Wildcat Association.  Highland Titles have poured well over £100,000 into wildcat conservation and I do not begrudge a penny of it.  We plan to donate considerably more as do other organisations.

But nobody gives away money without making checks that hard earned cash will not be misused. We met with the principals of both organisations before funding them and undertook due diligence. We are well aware therefore that Mr Wightman has got many of his facts wrong as indeed he has done for Highland Titles.  The court will eventually determine whether these factual inaccuracies amount to defamation and if so what damages are due to Wildcat Haven Enterprises.

This leads me to observe that Mr Wightman, in his latest blog update on his website, has been just a teensy bit mendacious – it is called lying by omission – in his description of the case against him – perhaps unintentionally done. He states:

Wildcat Haven Enterprises CIC claims that statements that I made in the two blogs are defamatory. I do not accept that they are. 

Yet my personal opinion is that his tweets have been far more defamatory than his blogs and he fails to mention that they are also part of the case against him. Mr Wightman has elsewhere drawn attention to his difficulty in responding to the six pages of his tweets (as well he might).

I note that AW has deleted his blogs. He does not appear to have deleted his tweets. Time will tell whether that was a schoolboy error. Hopefully not a very, very, very long time.

 

Land Registration

Highland Titles sells souvenir plots of land, so we take a keen interest in the subject of land registration. In a previous post, I discuss the law concerning land sales in Scotland so I will try not to repeat myself.  Persistent followers of Highland Titles, lawyers Malcolm Combe and Jill Robbie have argued that the “sterilisation of land should not be encouraged”, but I believe this to be very much a minority view.

Most people believe that land ownership should be spread more widely.  The Scotsman reports that analysis by land reform campaigner and now Green MSP Andy Wightman has estimated that half of the privately-owned land is in the hands of 432 people. An hour with Google will prove that the general opinion is that ownership of land should be spread around more people rather than less and that protection of tracts of countryside by placing it into multiple ownership would be a good thing.

As I have clarified earlier, Scottish law was forced to restrict registration of souvenir plots by the Registers of Scotland, who lacked the capacity or will to register small low-value pieces of land.  This is explained in “Registration of Title Practice Book The Policy and Practice of Land Registration in ScotlandAs is so often the case, the wants of the rich and powerful rode roughshod over the equally valid wants of those who only wished to purchase a token size piece of land for sentimental or commemorative purposes.

Our souvenir plots are purchased by people all over the world for a wide variety of reasons.  We know who they are and they can choose whether to make their details public on our Scottish Land Register. Should they wish to transfer ownership to a new owner then the register can be updated to show the new ownership.

Our Plot Register is available now available for all to view  (even Green MSPs) at www.highlandtitles.com/find_plots/  There is no charge to register land or to search the register.

Since we launched the land register, uptake has been significant.  A few plot owners still prefer to keep their plot ownership a secret, sometimes to the chagrin of those who hope to discover the extent of their land holdings.  However I believe that the Highland Titles Land Register goes a considerable way to fulfill Mr Wightman’s campaign to “End the Secrecy”.

Green MSP Andy Wightman makes use of the Highland Titles Land Register

Winter Bird Feeding

The snow has finally arrived here in Scotland and our thoughts turn to the welfare of the birds that decided not to fly south. Feeding birds in winter is both rewarding and enjoyable.

In winter the temperatures drop and the natural food supply dries up. You can now expect to see more of your garden birds at a well stocked table. As well as food, they need fresh, unfrozen water for drinking and bathing.  They need fatty foods such as fat balls as well as seeds. Also why not leave some hedges and ivy for shelter.  Plant berry bearing trees such as hawthorne and rowan and you may be lucky enough to see waxwings and other winter migrants.

Blue tit

To attract the greatest number of species in the winter, it is important to have a number of different bird feeders available. The feeders you use during the winter should have several characteristics in common.

Your bird table should be covered so seed does not get buried during snowfalls or blown away in storms. The cover should extend several inches over the edge of the table to ensure protection from all but the most serious storms.

Ideally, winter bird feeders should be placed in sheltered locations out of the wind. Placing feeders closer to the house will be effective and will help keep the birds visible for indoor birdwatching.

Most birds that visit gardens in snowy weather feed on seeds, since insects and fruit are harder to find naturally during the winter. The best foods to offer birds in colder weather have a high fat or oil content that will provide abundant energy for winter survival. Nutritious winter foods for birds include:

Sunflower seed
Peanuts
Thistle seed
Peanut butter
White millet seed
When choosing birdseed and other foods for winter feeding, take into consideration which bird species are present in the winter and what foods they prefer to avoid excess wasted seed.

Meal worms are also appreciated by most garden birds, especially robins and blackbirds.  Fat balls  are a great energy boost and tend to be made of lard/suet, nuts, cereals and sunflower seeds, so are densely packed with essential energy and fats for birds.  Tits love fat balls as do  sparrows, starlings, blackbirds and black caps.

Often neglected, is household food waste, which can often be a great wildlife boost.  Soft fruits,  uncooked porridge oats, grated cheese, cooked pasta and rice, soaked currants, raisins and sultanas, biscuit crumbs and pastry crumbs are all great foods to feed to birds with in the winter.  Finely chopped unsalted bacon, and fats from other unsalted meats are all fine.  Potatoes, mashed, baked or roasted are also welcomed by birds.  Anything salted should be avoided on your bird table, as should any margarine or soft fats. Never offer food which is moldy or rancid. Remember that food scraps should always be placed on a bird-table as sprinkling on the ground can attract rats

Final bit of advice.  Once you start feeding birds, please continue to feed them throughout the winter, as they will come to rely on your offerings.

Jarndyce v Jarndyce

Dave Carpenter, Condé Nast Collection
Dave Carpenter, Condé Nast Collection

Some of my readers will be aware of a civil case for defamation that is proceeding slowly through the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

Pursuer – Wildcat Haven Enterprises (WHE)

Defender Andy Wightman MSP

Neither I nor any organisation linked to me has any legal interest in the case – though because it involves one of the many good causes to which Highland Titles has given money, it is certainly a matter of some personal interest.  In a nutshell, Mr Wightman has been accused by WHE of making stuff up and maliciously publishing it so as to cause massive damage to WHE.  Mr Wightman has said, in so many words, that perhaps he did, but he is a very important person and everyone loves him, so you can hardly blame him for having a bit of fun at the wildcat’s expense.  Besides, everyone was laughing and he just couldn’t help himself. Or,  in the more precise words of his lawyers, he claims that his comments were “fair comment on matters of public interest, and/or covered by qualified privilege”.  Interestingly he is NOT claiming that the nasty things he said were true (veritas), only that for some reason he should have been allowed to say what he said and WHE just has to suck it up and put up with being damaged.  Good luck with that…..  However, I don’t need to take sides because at some stage Mr W will have to stop prevaricating and go into court to face justice.  Then everyone will know the truth.

Para 7 of Mr Wightman's "Form of letter of request" addressed to me.
Para 7 of Mr Wightman’s “Form of letter of request” addressed to me.

So, you might ask, why have I written this blog post?  Well out of the blue, Mr Wightman’s expensive Edinburgh lawyers, Gillespie MacAndrew LLP, have demanded that I answer a series of questions. Whilst I am not involved with the case I have no objection to answering questions. But in the spirit of open justice, I thought that as well as swearing a formal affidavit, I would publish my answers here for all to read – just for anyone else who wanted to know but did not have the cash to pay expensive lawyers to do the asking.

QUESTIONS posed by Gillespie MacAndrew LLP

  1. i) the nature and content of contracts or dispositions entered into or granted by the pursuer with or to “buyers” of such plots of land;

Highland Titles print and ship all the documents on behalf of WHE, so I am able to answer that.  All customers are sent a rather grand disposition on parchment – setting out who they are, who is selling the land (WHE) and which bit of land they have bought.  For £30 Mr Wightman -or you – can get your very own copy posted to you in a sumptuous gift pack ready for Christmas.  Frankly they don’t need to ask me. They need to prise open their wallets, visit www.wildcathaven.com and make a loved one a very special gift this Christmas.

  1. ii) the location(s) of plots of land ’’sold” or being offered for sale by the pursuer;
Map showing land gifted to WHE in August 2015.

Paul and Emily O’Donoghue and Helen McGregor and myself met with Duncan Thompson (a partner in the firm of J & H Mitchell, Solicitors) at his offices in Pitlochry on Wednesday July 8th, 2015 to confirm that we could gift a parcel of land to WHE without any consideration (i.e. free, gratis and for nothing – zilch, zippo, nothing coming back). He confirmed that we could do that and so a few weeks later we selected an area well away from the few plots we had already offered for sale to Highland Titles customers and instructed J & H Mitchell to convey 4Ha from our Mountainview nature reserve in Glen Loyne to WHE as a gift Gift of land
Paitna Green Wildcat Haven_106794
.

iii)           the numbers of plots ’’sold’’ by the pursuer and the prices obtained by the pursuer in respect thereof;

This is actually a question for WHE. Highland Titles print and assemble all packs for WHE, and then ship them, entirely at our own expense. We also provide free customer support. We know that following Mr Wightman’s first blog the numbers of packs we were shipping took a nosedive.  Doubtless WHE have provided precise details to Gillespie MacAndrew LLP.

  1. iv) the use to which moneys obtained by the pursuer in selling or purporting to sell such plots has been put;

Not Known.  Again this is not a sensible question to ask me.  All funds raised by WHE were taken directly by them and clearly applied to the work of Wildcat Haven. Certainly no money has come my way (or to any other organisation or person on my behalf) , nor should it. WHE is charitable in its objects and with Highland Titles covering most of the outgoings, the income derived from the sale of plots was able to fund the excellent work done by Wildcat Haven. We donate many tens of thousands of pounds annually to a wide range of charities and good causes mainly in Scotland (but a few in Alderney), from Rotary to Trees for Life. 

  1. v) the timing, nature and content of any communications, contract or other arrangement with Highland Titles Ltd and/or Highland Titles Charitable Trust regarding the ”sale” of such plots and the use of the proceeds thereof;

There has never been any form of communication, contract or other arrangement between Wildcat Haven or Wildcat Haven Enterprises – or anyone associated with any wildcat related organisation and myself, Highland Titles, the Highland Titles Charitable Trust for Scotland or anyone I know or have ever known or their children or any organisation any of them have ever been involved with – regarding the ”sale” of such plots and the use of the proceeds thereof.  Mr W seems to not understand the nature of charity. You give without wanting any return except that good things, like saving the Scottish Wildcat, can happen. 

As stated above HT prepares and ships all orders entirely at its own expense. This is not a contractual obligation, but we have verbally offered to do it for the forseeable future.  Neither the Trust, HT, myself or anyone else has an arrangement in place to recover any expenses from any source. Packs are prepared and shipped completely Pro Bono.  

  1. vi) the ownership of the land from which the said plots were ”sold’’, and the reason(s) (other than referable to the sale of individual plots) for any change in such ownership; and

The land sold is owned by WHE. It was gifted to them by HT in July 2015.

vii)         the nature of any offices held by Mr Douglas Wilson with the pursuer and/or Highland Titles Ltd and/or Highland Titles Charitable Trust, and the periods during which such offices were held by him.

Early in the life of WHE (09664321 – Incorporated on 30 June 2015), Douglas Wilson served as a director of both WHE and Highland Titles and as a trustee of the Highland Titles Charitable Trust for Scotland. However HT planned not only to give WHE land but money too. Because there was a potential conflict of interest, Douglas decided to resign from these positions, which he did as soon as we were able to find suitable replacements. He stepped down as a Trustee of the HTCTS on July 6, 2015 and as a Director of Highland Titles on August 21, 2015. He is a sad loss to the Highland Titles operation as he is an Scottish entrepreneur and businessman with a passion for Scotland and wildlife coupled with experience and competence that would make him a huge asset to any organisation.  Our loss is the Scottish Wildcat’s gain. 

Christmas 2017


Christmas has always been a great time of year for me. My wife and younger daughter have Christmas birthdays, so we have always made a great deal of this holiday season. Hogmanay too. So I am delighted to run an organisation that is dedicated to helping everyone give something special to someone they love – particularly at Christmas.

The giftware trades always pull out all the stops at Christmas and some businesses are only profitable because of the holiday boost. We take on extra staff and everyone works overtime to make sure that all those gifts are packed and posted in time for Santa to deliver them.

This year Highland Titles have taken the decision to “Christmassify” our web site with some holly and snow and Christmas trees. We had fun doing it and we hope you all have fun ordering your Christmas gifts. Remember – order early to avoid disappointment.  Last posting dates are for guidance only. Once we give your order to the Post Office it is really “out of our hands”.

And for everyone who thought you would order your Gathering tickets later, once you found the time – you sadly missed the boat.  As I write, we have two double tickets left to sell and then its all over until 2019.  For everyone who ordered early – I look forward to meeting you next May in Glencoe.

Happy Christmas

Veganism

Let me start by stating that I am an unlikely vegan and not a particularly good vegan. So any ethical vegans; feel free to criticise me and I will not defend myself.  It is true. I am a bad vegan.

As a teenager my loves were chemistry and biology, in that order. But as I approached university, I realised I lacked the maths skills for a career in chemistry. Also a work placement as an analyst put me into the way of professional chemists, who advised me to take any career path other than the one they had chosen.  So I spent three years at Queen Mary, University of London following a degree course in Zoology and Comparative Physiology and a further few years at what is now Royal Holloway, University of London studying for my doctorate in a small, old fashioned Department of Zoology.  During that time, I was elected a Scientific Fellow of the Zoological Society of London, an honour I retain, and I held a Home Office licence which enabled me to conduct small animal surgery under anaesthesia.  Not very vegan.  I also loved meat and all things meaty.

After 13 years in the pharmaceutical industry and five years back in academia in New York I bought a small farm, where I spent five years as an ethical farmer, rearing sheep, pigs, cows, goats and chickens, all with names. From time to time I took one into the barn, killed it, butchered it and ate it.  The children asked not “what is for dinner tonight”, but “who is for dinner tonight”.  All any of us can hope for is a good life and a good death. My animals enjoyed both.

But now I no longer rear animals and I cannot say how they live and die. So I have stopped eating them. I have to report that not eating animals was one of my better decisions and i cannot help but recommend it to all my friends and everyone else as well.

However I am a bad vegan. I put milk in my tea and put butter on my bread. There: I admitted it. Oh and I sometimes even wear leather shoes.  I don’t think I could manage without a splash of Alderney milk in my tea.  Nothing else tastes the same. And on Alderney, the local farmer makes the most wonderful butter from the cream he skims off his skimmed milk.  It is rich and golden and hard as nails. The cows look happy and eat grass in the summer and silage in the winter. The calves are not slaughtered for veal, but have a good life as bullocks until the time comes for them to make the very short journey to the Alderney slaughterhouse.  I feel no need to eat them myself, but it does not seem too bad a life.

A few minutes spent online will catalogue some of the horrors of factory farming. The unimaginable cruelties suffered by some pigs and chickens in particular. The barbaric ritual methods of slaughter practised by some whose lives are still ruled by stone age superstitions. The environmental problems caused by slurry and factory fish farms. I do not need to repeat them here – the information is there for all to see.

My message today is simple. If you eat meat 7 days a week, try to cook without exploiting any animal products on at least one of those days. You will find that a meal can be just as satisfying, just as full of flavour – certainly more interesting than meat and two veg. Again, just go online and search for vegan recipes – or vegetarian if you want a halfway house. If you go out for a meal – try a vegan restaurant if you can find one. My favourite treat when I pass through Edinburgh is a meal at Hendersons.   If you end up somewhere else that caters primarily for carnivores, take a close look at the vegetarian/vegan options. Push your boundaries. Be brave. You never know, you just might like it!

 

Memorial Benches

 

Highland Titles has always recognised the importance of our nature reserves, not just to the benefits to wildlife and the wider community, but to the quality of life of individual visitors , and the impact that these special places can have on them.

A memorial bench is a means of connecting people with their favourite location, place, or viewpoint. We also benefit from being able to provide a place to rest whilst touring the reserve and we therefore fully support memorial benches on our sites.

Thus it was that in late 2013 we began to evaluate suitable benches and after visiting several manufacturers we decided to offer the 5ft (1.6metre) Athol bench manufactured in pressure treated redwood by Scottish Prison Service (SPS) Industries.

The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) is an agency of the Scottish Government and the manufacture of timber products is part of their duty to provide rehabilitation services to Scottish prisoners.

Their principal objective is to contribute to making Scotland Safer by Protecting the Public and Reducing Reoffending. The SPS aims to achieve this by ensuring delivery of secure custody, safe and ordered prisons, decent standards of care and opportunities for prisoners to develop in a way that help them reintegrate into the community on release.

We believe that this is a laudable aim and The Athol Bench is a quality product which is manufactured from sustainably grown timber and which with some care will last for many years.

Twitter Abuse

I have been the victim of twitter abuse, and I have reported this fact both to Fort William police and the Scottish Parliament. Some of the abusers are known and some have wisely sought to stay anonymous. However this may not save them from legal consequences.

Yesterday, Alison Saunders, head of the CPS announced that Hate Crime would be a new priority and I welcome that.

Prosecutors will be ordered to treat online hate crime as seriously as offences carried out face to face in plans announced by the director of public prosecutions. Alison Saunders said the Crown Prosecution Service will seek stiffer penalties for abuse on Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms.

Alison Saunders, Director of Public Prosecutions on hate crime

Published on Aug 21, 2017

The CPS describe Hate Crime as including “verbal abuse, intimidation, threats, harassment, assault and bullying” motivated by hostility (There is no legal definition of hostility so the CPS use the everyday understanding of the word which includes ill-will, spite, contempt, prejudice, unfriendliness, antagonism, resentment and dislike).  The law in Scotland is different, but harassment is still harassment, even north of the border.

According to the Herald, “Wings Over Scotland” blogger, Stuart Campbell, was recently arrested. The Herald further reports “Police said the arrest was on suspicion of harassment and malicious communications”. Stuart Campbell reports on his website that none of the tweets were in any way threatening, but as I learned when I visited Fort William police, a campaign of harassment need not be threatening, merely unwanted and unwelcome.

I note with interest that Andy Wightman MSP, who has blogged and tweeted about me and Highland Titles for over two years, appears to have taken a break from using his twitter account. Recently one of the more agressive web sites, which has targeted me and Highland Titles since 2011, was deleted. I welcome this progress. The future will be a better place if the internet is no longer used as a vehicle for the dissemination of lies and harassment.