More Guga ‘controversy’

I started writing the piece below as a letter to the Times, to complain about an article that appeared in the paper on Tuesday of this week. I’ve since learned that the story was also on Good Morning Scotland on Radio Scotland on Wednesday, but I am unsure as to whether or not this article prompted the BBC to follow it up.

Here is an image of the article, I don’t want to link to the original.

IMG_2645.PNG

On Tuesday 2nd September, a story ran in The Times newspaper on the Guga Hunt titled ‘Scottish SPCA wants end to ‘brutal’ hunt’ and I wish to raise some issues with the reporting of this.

While the SSPCA has raised issues in regards to the Guga Hunt in the past, they have not, to my knowledge, issued a press release on this matter since 2011. The piece in the paper appears to be a rehash of old releases, with no new quotes and referring to SSPCA efforts from over 3 years ago. Why this is deemed to be newsworthy is unclear.

There are also no attempts to gain the Ness men’s perspective, with a quote from John MacFarlane (Dods) lifted from a 2011 BBC documentary. The article also describes Mr MacFarlane as ‘retired from leading the cull’. Mr MacFarlane is currently on Sulasgeir, having led and partaken in this year’s hunt.

I also have issues with some of the over the top language used in the report. I am unsure as to why they are referred to as ‘baby’ gannets. This kind of language is not used when talking about ‘baby’ lambs or ‘baby’ chickens as food sources. It is an unacceptable bias in the article, attempting to humanise the juvenile gannets and make them appear ‘cute’.

The description of the process after death is also unnecessary. Use of words like ‘decapitated’ and ‘singed’ are totally unnecessary in this context. Nearly every animal eaten in the UK is decapitated after slaughter, yet we won’t hear of a piece of sirloin steak having been decapitated, skinned and butchered as part of it’s preparation.

That brings me to the slaughter process. It is described in the article as ‘clubbed to death’ and ‘killed with a stick’. These terms are used, in my opinion, in an inflammatory manner to make it appear barbaric and give the image of numerous blows required to kill each bird. This is not the case, with birds killed by a single blow and are dead within 2-3 seconds of leaving the nest.

We currently have an issue of geese wreaking havoc on crops and land in the Western Isles and the only way of dealing with this is shooting them. This is deemed to be acceptable, despite wounded birds dropping from the sky and possibly dying a slow and painful death.

Do the SSPCA or news media raise issues about this on as regular a basis as they do about the Guga? Or about Halal slaughter? Or the mincing of male chicks, which are of no use to egg laying industry, at birth? No, because these have big industry and money behind them. They continually target a small community and attempt to bring negative world-wide attention on them through half-truths and inflammatory language.

Long live the Guga Hunt!

Progress, progress, progress

I can’t wait for winter. There, I said it. This summer has been the busiest I’ve ever had; 320 hens, sheep, filming, football and a job are all catching up with me. I’m looking forward to getting into a routine and being able to focus on getting things running properly instead of getting them started.

I have 2 sheepdog filming trips in the next fortnight, the World Trial and International, while our football season ends next week with a cup final on Saturday night. That should mean a little more time to myself, once they’re done.

There has been so much happening here in the past 3 weeks and I haven’t been updating this as much as I should have, purely down to long long days.

The hens are settled and starting to lay their eggs. Buckie, the joiner, has built a fantastic hen house and decorated it in his own unique style.

IMG_2480.JPG

I’m currently getting around 20-50 eggs a day, a far cry from the 250 I need to fulfil orders. I hope to be in the position to sell eggs when I’m back from filming, probably week beginning 22nd September.

Buckie has also been busy getting the portacabin ready too. One of the rooms is where I’m going to have my egg packing station. It’s coming together nicely. Just about ready, just needing a clean.

IMG_2570.JPG

I also hope that I’ll be able to show you my egg box labels some time this week. Fingers crossed anyway!

I’ve also been fortunate in that I’m now using a barn on the croft next to mine. It has been particularly useful for storing feed and Buckie was also hard at work here, fitting large double doors that make it much more practical.

IMG_2516.JPG

I was at the lamb sale in Stornoway last Wednesday and ended up buying 17 sheep; 9 lambs and 8 ewes.

IMG_2538.JPG

I’ve since agreed to buy a few more ewes, so I’ll have to sell some lambs soon and maybe move on a few sheep. I have twice as much land this year, so I have plenty scope for expansion. I’m not sure my father will agree, though!

On that, I am putting sub-tenancies in place on the crofts I use. First up is my mother’s croft, which I received confirmation of this week.

IMG_2531.JPG

What a fortnight

First of all, my apologies for lack of blog posts. Summer is a really busy time for me, with croft work, day job, filming and football keeping me busy, never mind throwing 320 new chickens into the mix!

I’m relaxing in Glasgow just now, having spent the last 3 days filming at the Scottish National Sheepdog Trial. We’re filming series 7 of Farpaisean Chon-Chaorach, a programme I have been co-presenting since BBC Alba launched in 2008. This is our Scottish Team

IMG_2355.JPG

Our typical day at a trial begins with us recording our links during the morning and then, after lunch, interviewing the top placed handlers of the day, before a winner’s interview and then our closing piece to camera. Some days, like Thursday of this week, can be very long. We weren’t clear of the trial field until around 9pm. We have two elements to the film crew; the majority film the runs, while the Single Camera Unit (us) film the links & interviews. This is made up of presenters, cameraman and director. Here is a post-National selfie of myself, Catriona, Craig and Neil.

IMG_2370.JPG

I go home tomorrow and prepare to do it all again next month for the International Sheepdog Trial.

A big day

I write this sitting at Glasgow Central train station. I am about to get a train to Lanark on the first leg of my journey to take the chickens home.

I have been away from home since last Thursday, as I was filming Farpaisean Chon Chaorach in Ireland at the weekend. Because of this, I had to rejig most of my plans. The 320 chickens had been due to arrive last Friday, but obviously that wasn’t going to work as I was in Ireland, and I couldn’t really turn down a trip that was going to pay me 1/3 of the cost of the chickens!

The company I’m buying the chickens from, JSR Services, have been very accommodating. They were initially supposed to drop them off in Inverness, as part of a bigger delivery that they were making, but said I could pick them up from a farm in Lanark if I wanted to delay things. The problem then was getting a van down to Glasgow so that I could drive it back up. This is where the new series BBC Alba are filming came in handy. They obviously want to film the arrival of the chickens, so it made sense for the cameraman to drive the van down. The next problem was lack of spaces on the ferries. At very short notice, I had to delay everything by another day, as there were no bookings available on ferries to or from Lewis/Harris.

So why am I getting a train? Well, John the cameraman, quite rightly, wanted to avoid Glasgow this morning, so I am getting the 6.50am train to Lanark before I take over at the wheel, pick up the chickens and start the long drive home. Due to busy ferries, I have to go home via Uig/Tarbert, so that adds to my journey. So many things can go wrong today, I just hope they don’t!

Air An Lot TV

What an exciting time here! Air An Lot is going to feature on it’s very own series on BBC Alba (it’s not going to be called Air An Lot tv!)

I had a meeting with MacTV last month and they got the green light 10 days ago. They’ll be following me over the next year as I set up the egg production side of things, along with the croft tourism and everything else that goes on.

We start filming tomorrow, with a cameraman following me as I pick up my 320 chickens.

I have a very busy and very exciting year ahead of me. Bring it on!

Progress

I am currently in the middle of the busiest period of work I’ve ever had, and I love it! Full steam ahead right now with getting everything ready for the chickens and the tourism side of things, so much going on and I don’t have time to blog about it all.

Last week I erected my new signage, and I’ve already had lots of nice feedback about that. I bought a portacabin a couple of weeks ago and I hope to have it in place in the next week. I actually had a local contractor, Danda, here yesterday, clearing the site for it.

It is right behind my house, on the site of the original house (latterly a barn) that was on the croft. My parents knocked it down in 2004 as part of the extension had started to come away but I am now majorly regretting allowing this to happen. It would have been PERFECT for what I’m doing now and would have had such a nice story behind it. Anyway, what’s done is done. Danda (from the next village) was actually the contractor who knocked it down initially, so he knew what was in store.

20140720-124804 pm-46084033.jpg

20140720-124805 pm-46085052.jpg

20140720-124805 pm-46085878.jpg

The stones had been left there for 10 years, just in case they’d be handy at some point, which is now the case.

They were an eyesore to be honest, but one that I had grown accustomed to. You’ll notice that there is still a pile of stone behind the site, that’s being saved for the barn I intend to build in the next year. No point getting rid of that stuff if I then need to go any buy more infill later.

The haulage company I intend to use to get the portacabin over from Stornoway have been busy with the Heb Celt Festival, so hopefully they’ll have time this week to move it. Once in place, I hope that one of my Ness FC teammates is going to paint it for me and I’ll get it up to the standard required. One of the two rooms is going to be my egg-packing station for when the 320 chickens start laying. I had someone from Environmental Health cast their eye over it last week, just to provide advice on what I need to do to get it up to scratch. It won’t need too much work or money thrown at it.

The chickens themselves are due to come in the next week. I was initially supposed to pick them up in Inverness on Friday but I’m now going to be in Ireland until Sunday, filming Farpaisean Chon Chaorach. Plan B is now leave Glasgow at 6/7am Monday, pick up the chickens in Lanark, drive home and get the Uig-Tarbert ferry, drop off the chickens at home and play a cup semi-final for Ness at 7pm. I’ll be over the moon if all that works.

My hen house will hopefully be ready in time for this. It has to be! I’ve been badly let down by a timber merchant and my joiner is short of 4×2. If I can’t get them to him early tomorrow, I’m in serious trouble. I’m so lucky I’ve reduced my hours at work though, there’s no way I’d be able to get everything ready otherwise!

There’s also one major piece of exciting news that I’m not allowed to share yet. Hopefully I’ll get permission to do so this week!

New signage

I am delighted today, I have my new signage up. I approached Comunn na Gaidhlig a few months ago about signs and they are funding 60% of the costs, given that they are bilingual.

My friend Domhnall Cheocaidh designed the logo while I used Hebridean Graphics to produce the signs. I can’t recommend them highly enough.

I now have one sign on the main road

20140714-114111 am-42071387.jpg

And a smaller one at a wee junction in my road

20140714-114147 am-42107439.jpg

No more cage directions!