New e-petition: licensing of upland grouse moors and gamekeepers

Tired of waiting for the grouse-shooting industry to get its house in order? Frustrated that the government isn’t doing enough to address the widespread problem of illegal raptor persecution? Well here’s your chance to do something about it.

John Armitage has this morning started a new e-petition called ‘Licencing of upland grouse moors and gamekeepers’. The petition needs 100,000 signatures to trigger a parliamentary debate. Here is the petition text:

Given the continuing levels of illegal persecution of birds of prey the Government is called upon to introduce a system of operating licences for upland grouse shoots. Following any proven offence of persecution on the shoot concerned, i.e. illegal trapping, use of poisons, shooting or the interference with or destruction of nests, the licence would be revoked for a period of not less than two years and commercial shooting activity cease.

Linked to the above the Government is called upon to introduce an accreditation scheme or licencing system for all gamekeepers, be they employed in a full time or part time capacity. If an individual then has any proven involvement with raptor persecution, the licence would be withdrawn for a period of three years along with the right to hold a gun licence. Any repetition of an offence would result in the licences being withdrawn for life.

Please note: this petition refers to grouse moors and gamekeepers in England, not Scotland. We probably don’t need a petition in Scotland – one more high-profile killing will be enough to apply pressure on the Scottish Government to act. However, given that some of our raptors frequently cross the border, only to end up dead on an English grouse moor, this petition is equally as relevant to us.

Please, sign this petition (it takes less than 1 minute) and then tweet about it, facebook it, email it, talk about it – just do it. Our time to be heard is now.

Sign the petition here.

61 Responses to “New e-petition: licensing of upland grouse moors and gamekeepers”

  1. 1 william hill
    February 27, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    utter contempt for these excuses for humanity,, they are a waste of life.

  2. 2 Chris Roberts
    February 27, 2013 at 4:36 pm

    Petition signed and shared.

  3. 3 nirofo
    February 27, 2013 at 4:38 pm

    Signed the petition with pleasure, lets hope it will be enough to start to make a difference.

  4. 4 Stewart Love
    February 27, 2013 at 5:12 pm

    Petition signed and have started spreading the word.

  5. 5 Green Sandpiper
    February 27, 2013 at 6:15 pm

    petition signed, facebook thing shared.

  6. 6 Little_Terns
    February 27, 2013 at 7:22 pm

    Signed and shared via Twitter

  7. 7 lawrie
    February 27, 2013 at 7:51 pm

    Tweeted and face booked

  8. February 27, 2013 at 7:57 pm

    Signed and ee-chupped. (Peregrines don’t really tweet)

  9. 9 victori batten
    February 27, 2013 at 8:19 pm

    sick this needs to stop!

  10. February 27, 2013 at 10:34 pm

    The picture is heartbreaking, signed and shared on facebook and retweeted ….

  11. 11 Brian Field
    February 28, 2013 at 7:37 am

    Dear sirs,
    I think it is about time we saw a reduction in the numer of hen harriers and other birds of prey being indescriminately killed on grouse moors by unlicensed gamekeepers. Few are prosecuted and many apper to have a blatant disregard for any species other than the red grouse.
    Kind regards
    Brian field

  12. 12 john witty
    February 28, 2013 at 8:47 am

    signed and pleased to do so

  13. 13 Jonathan Tyler
    February 28, 2013 at 10:33 am

    Great to have a petition to sign, they really can make a difference, may there be many more!

  14. 14 Geoff Williams
    February 28, 2013 at 11:52 am

    I wish every success, i will also raise this topic with my MP; Phil Wilson.

  15. 15 Terry England
    February 28, 2013 at 12:51 pm

    Only we as a species are this cruel

  16. 16 Clare Mills
    February 28, 2013 at 1:36 pm

    When is this persecution going to stop?

  17. 18 Dave Dick
    February 28, 2013 at 5:29 pm

    Well said the Blogmeister..England’s problems with this migratory species are also ours here in Scotland..and that also goes for any young golden eagles unfortunate enough to wander down to South Scotland and North England…and well done John Armitage.

  18. 19 Neil Redpath
    February 28, 2013 at 7:17 pm

    Needless to say I support any Raptor Groups. I remember well before the hunting of fox with hounds ban came in that the Countryside Alliance asked falconers and hawkers for their help. This was gladly given and then they were dumped on from a big height. I bet they won’t help the Raptor Groups to rein in there snooty financiers.

  19. 20 Bill Jackson
    February 28, 2013 at 8:49 pm

    Can we take it that most members of the RSPB will be supporting and signing this petition, here’s hoping.

  20. 21 Merlin
    February 28, 2013 at 9:07 pm

    Duly signed, SGA and the Moorland Association committee,s should resign en masse for their blatent refusal to even acknowledge this problem exists, there should be no room in these organisations for blind fools

  21. 22 chris lamsdell
    February 28, 2013 at 9:43 pm

    there is no excuse – are we not supposed to be the enlightened mammal with the intellect to admire nature, err maybe not all of us

  22. 23 Bill Smithers
    February 28, 2013 at 9:49 pm

    Going to licence Joiners and Plumbers as well? sure they break the law in one way or another – wether they drink drive, rape somebody or take drugs its all illegal. What about all the disturbance caused at nesting time by members of the bird watching faternity – I am a birder myself but i can honestly say some birds might thrive if some people like i seen were licenced!!!. I remember once some dottrell arrived followed by car after car of bird watchers. They were so intent on getting close up views/pictures that they followed them across moorland at nesting time (not just twenty or thirty yards but 7-800). They didnt give a damn about the lapwings mobbing them anxiously or the golden plover chick that they trod on in the process. How often did this happen to a pair of harriers when they tried to set up residence??????

    • 24 Marco McGinty
      March 1, 2013 at 4:21 pm

      You need a licence to watch the television! But to answer your question about joiners and plumbers, they already have to be licenced in some ways as you can’t get work on a building site without a CSCS card. Members of these professions, along with gas fitters, electricians, etc. are all required to have specialist training and licences before they are allowed to trade, and if they choose to ignore safe working practices or are found guilty of negligence, they are soon sacked or fined by the investigating authorities. Many of these people will lose their certification and livelihood, so why should it be any different for the shooting industry?

      There is a major difference with members of these professions that break the law outwith their place of work and the grouse moor operators who refuse to operate within the law on the killing fields. And again, there are differences in the way these employees would be treated if they did commit onsite crime. If an electrician left a live wire unattended and someone died as a result, the employee would be sacked on the spot and would probably spend time in jail, and the employer would receive a massive fine. If a gamekeeper left out a poisoned bait and someone died as a result, he would deny all knowledge. Investigating officers would find banned substances in his possession and he would receive a paltry fine for owning such substances, the moor owner would receive no punishment at all and it would all be swept under the carpet.

      I do agree with your comment about the conduct of some birders, but I believe that most problems nowadays stem from photographers. There are many competent photographers out there and they were probably skilled birdwatchers before taking up photography, but there is this newer breed of photographer with little or no birding skills that seem intent on harassing birds and wildlife just to get a shot. These people have absolutely no consideration for the welfare of the birds they are chasing and if we happen to witness such events, then it is up to us to inform them of their errors.

      • 25 Bill Smithers
        March 10, 2013 at 1:00 pm

        I did ask the question how many pairs of harriers have been disturbed when they set up residence by the sort of treatment the birders give to the plovers etc. How come there is no media coverage on how birders are supposed to go about birding , no licence needed or proper training? I am a birder myself and I have also seen disturbance occur when watching rough legged buzzards – Again how many harriers abandon nests or move on from the place they settle because of this. I strongly feel that we as birders need to get our own house in order before we go licencing gamekeepers. I am not saying some gamekeepers dont do wrong but I have experienced a moor once left for years with no management and when visiting it felt like I was on mars – there wasnt any bird life at all exept vermin. A management plan was followed when a guy bought it for sporting purposes and now four years later it is a different place. Some gamekeepers do good!!!

        • 26 Marco McGinty
          March 14, 2013 at 7:34 am

          I don’t know how many harriers have been disturbed by birders’ behaviour, but I am quite sure it will pale into insignificance campared to the disturbance caused by shooting interests. And I am not condoning poor birding etiquette, but if birders do disturb harriers at their nest, they will have the benefit of being able to fly off and live another day. Chances are, if a gamekeeper knows of a harrier nesting attempt, it will inevitably be the end of the adult harriers lives (and of any offspring).

          There is a birdwatcher’s code of conduct, which most birdwatchers should follow, but if you do witness human behaviour you perceive to be detrimental to any bird at or near a nest, then it is up to you to approach the offender(s) at the time. You might get a load of abuse for your trouble, but at least you will have followed the code. There’s not much point in voicing your displeasure on a website many months or years after the incident.

          It would appear that you are suggesting that birdwatchers should hold a licence before they are allowed into the countryside armed with binoculars. I could be wrong here, but the mere thought that you would suggest such a thing would lead me to the conclusion that you are actually a gamekeeper or a pro-shooter in disguise. Is this going to be the shooting industry’s next move, calling for birdwatchers to be licenced? What next? Licences for dog walking? Licences for skateboarding and roller skating? Licences for frisbee throwing?

          On your final point about moors and gamekeepers, I will agree that some do good. Sadly this figure will be heavily outweighed by those that wantonly follow outdated and illegal practices. And when you mention that “there wasnt any bird life at all exept vermin”, which species are you referring to when you say “vermin”? The reason I ask being that any respected birdwatcher, ornithologist or naturalist with an understanding of predator-prey relationships and feeding behaviour would never refer to any avian species as vermin.

          So if you are a gamekeeper or pro-shooter, then at least have the courage to own up to the fact and stop hiding behind the “concerned birdwatcher” facade.

  23. 27 Katrina Craig
    March 1, 2013 at 1:25 am

    This really annoys me. It’s dreadul what happens to some birds.

  24. March 1, 2013 at 8:39 am

    I feel very humbled that almost 1300 people have signed this petition already and it’s not yet two days “old”. A good start but the real challenge will be keeping it alive! 363 days to go!! Thank you everyone who has already provided support and to RPS for its prompt promotion of the details initially. To all concerned, please tell everyone to sign and pass on the details to others. Thank you.

    As I understand things RSPB itself will be directing their efforts at the upcoming recommendations made by the Law Commission arising from its review of wildlife regulations in England and Wales. Of course that doesn’t prevent individual members of the RSPB, in their own right, providing their support and signing the petition. The Law Commission report has not yet emerged and it seems to me that, if sufficient signatures emerge in the early days of this petition such could convey to the authors of the Law Commission report the extent of feeling on such matters. Everything to sign for!!

    Again, many thanks to everyone.

    • March 1, 2013 at 3:39 pm

      Hi John,

      I’m curious – are you saying that the RSPB won’t be supporting this petition in an official capacity?

      • March 1, 2013 at 4:40 pm

        Hi. I have posed the direct question now, as incidental feedback I received certainly read as if their focus was to be directed on the outcome of the Law Commission Review. Clearly a simple acknowledgement of the petition and a suggestion that people should sign it , if they agree with the sentiments , would help enormously. I will come back to you with precise details.

        • 31 Marco McGinty
          March 1, 2013 at 6:11 pm

          I hope I am wrong, but I would imagine that due to the royal charter and their inability to comment on game shooting, the RSPB will be unwilling or unable to support this petition. A perfect reason why the RSPB should just withdraw from the charter and wage war on driven grouse shooting. If the RSPB were to be more outspoken on driven grouse shooting and its damaging impacts, the general public, who are largely ignorant to these facts, would be more informed. And perhaps with more people learning of the widespread criminal activities occurring on a daily basis, this would enable the issue to be debated on national stage.

          The RSPB are in the process of rebranding at this very moment, so perhaps this would be the ideal opportunity to distance themselves from this restrictive charter.

          • March 1, 2013 at 6:58 pm

            According to Mark Avery, the RSPB’s former Conservation Director: “It is a step which the RSPB could choose to support as it cannot be said to be anti-shooting, just pro-regulation. Good estates and good gamekeepers would have nothing to fear” – http://markavery.info/2013/02/28/raptors/

            Also, if you look at the RSPB’s ‘Manifesto for Change’ as published in their 2011 Birdcrime report, recommendation #4 reads as follows:

            “The UK is almost unique in Europe and North America in having no form of, or potential for, the regulation of game shooting by individuals or service providers. Given its potential to reduce populations of species of conservation priority, and the serious and organised nature of crimes committed against birds of prey, consideration of stronger sanctions is merited. An option to withdraw the “right” of an individual to shoot game, or businesses to supply shooting services, for a fixed period following conviction for a wildlife or environmental offence, should be considered”.

            Thus, it would be baffling if the RSPB chose to not to offer their official support for this petition and they would deserve all the harsh criticism that would be aimed at them if they took that route. That’s what happened when they failed to get behind the VL petition, which was astonishing given that Recommendation #1 on their Manifesto is to “Introduce offence of vicarious liability”!!

            But let’s wait and see what their official response is to John Armitage. Also please note that several prominent RSPB staff members have already been tweeting the link to the petition site.

    • 35 nirofo
      March 1, 2013 at 9:40 pm

      I don’t see any reason why the RSPB with all it’s vast resources at it’s disposal can’t send out letters, include it in it’s web pages or blog to all it’s members that this petition exists, what it’s about and the good reasons why they should consider signing it. After all, they are sending out advertising material all the time, why not include the petition with it. If only a quarter of the membership completed the petition imagine the impact this could have.

  25. 36 Brian Moyes
    March 1, 2013 at 10:06 am

    By looking at the statistics it is getting worse and the penalties should be increased to drive down this persicution

  26. 37 Richard Allen
    March 1, 2013 at 3:29 pm

    What with this and hare coursing in Wiltshire on the increase it’s hard to believe this is the 21st century! These people make me sick.

  27. 38 john miles
    March 1, 2013 at 6:34 pm

    Hard to think any thing will come from this. The last e petition was not supported by the RSPB members at all. Just over 10,000 signatures in a year. Shame you did not support us in 1992 in the House of Commons when we were represented by Dale Campbell Savours and you had Elliot Morley! I wonder what happened to him! 21 years have passed and it is worse now then it was then mainly because the majority just sit back and let it happen.

  28. 39 colin smith
    March 1, 2013 at 6:40 pm

    Put an end to this illegal barbaric persecution.

  29. 40 therealist
    March 1, 2013 at 8:18 pm

    Whilst the intention of this Petition is laudable, unfortunately, I believe it to be poorly drafted and ill-considered.

    Perhaps the author is unaware but the Government has spent the last decade or more on a very clear and effective policy of deregulation. Proposing the introduction of a new regulatory system for Gamekeepers flows completely against the tide and is surely doomed from start. Such a system would be far too expensive to implement, be virtually impossible to enforce and, frankly, just wouldn’t work.

    The proposal to introduce Operating Licences for Grouse Shoots also flies in the face of the deregulatory agenda. However, this is perhaps more realistic in that the potential number of Licences involved is relatively small, and thereby potentially manageable and less expensive. Implementation and enforcement would also be realistic because (unlike Gamekeepers) Grouse Moors are static. However, the devil would be in the detail. For example, if a Grouse Shoot lost it’s Licence, then I anticipate a simple name change of the applicant and the Licensing Authority would probably find it near impossible not to grant a new Licence.

    Good luck with the Petition but I feel the draft really needed more investment of careful thought and consultation.

  30. 41 Dave Dick
    March 1, 2013 at 9:17 pm

    Disagree with therealist – in my lifetime I have seen far far too many good ideas and initiatives sunk by over-consultation. The devil may be in the detail but that detail would have to be debated in parliament for any major law change. If the statement that 100,000 signatures triggers a parliamentary debate is correct, then lets get on with it..John’s basic ideas here are good…lets all use our energies to get it signed…plus, the very act of asking for signatures raises the profile with the public.

    There’s been far too much sterile debate and compromise from establishment conservation – time to let these criminals feel the full force of public opinion.

  31. March 2, 2013 at 12:38 am

    Here’s the RSPB’s official statement, sent to John Armitage today:

    “We agree that persecution continues to threaten the survival of birds of prey such as the hen harrier. Government studies link illegal killing with areas of the UK’s uplands managed for driven grouse shooting. Greater regulation of shooting practice coupled with stronger sanctions is, we believe, the only logical conclusion if the shooting sector fails to tackle criminality and encourage healthy populations of protected birds of prey. We highlighted this in our response to the Law Commission’s review of wildlife legislation – the most fundamental review of our wildlife laws in 30 years. We will be working over the coming months to ensure that the Governments in England and Wales act upon the Law Commission’s recommendations for positive change, though it could take several years for legislation to be introduced.

    In joining the debate on the future regulation of shooting practice, Mr Armitage has provided a welcome vehicle for the public to express their views. We would encourage anyone who agrees with the petition to sign it.”

    • 43 Marco McGinty
      March 2, 2013 at 2:43 am

      They agree with the petitioner’s view and they “would encourage anyone who agrees with the petition to sign it.”, but are they going to put their weight behind it and highlight the issue to their 1million+ members? It doesn’t look like. Surely a snippet in Birds magazine for the next two or three issues, and a page on the website would be easy enough to accomplish. I have the feeling that if the RSPB don’t start getting serious about this issue, this same discussion will be happening fifty years from now.

      Instead of moving away from this highly restrictive and evidently damaging charter, they are prepared to work “over the coming months to ensure that the Governments in England and Wales act upon the Law Commission’s recommendations for positive change, though it could take several years for legislation to be introduced.” Quite simply, the RSPB will waste all this time and effort in discussion with a regime that does not want to change from its outdated, anti-predator beliefs – unless the society were able to speak out unconditionally during this time.

      Why spend months and years making recommendations that will be implemented by the law-makers but then ignored by the shooting estates? Why spend months and years attempting to persuade a right wing, pro-shooting government to ensure that laws are adhered to? This is the same government that tried to introduce the Buzzard management trial, the same government that has sat back while the English Hen Harrier population has fallen to one breeding pair, and the same government that are going ahead with the badger cull this year, despite scientific evidence showing that the proposal is seriously flawed. In a decade or so, when (or if) this new legislation has been adopted, thousands more raptors will have been killed on these estates, and these same estates will simply ignore the new legislation anyway. If any crimes are investigated, then the same corrupt officials will invariably find in favour of the landowners.

      Step away from the royal charter, allow the general public to see what is happening on game estates every day, and in five years time there will be a groundswell of support in favour of a ban. People power can change things, but if the people are largely ignorant of the facts, then nothing will change. Perhaps if the younger RSPB members are regularly seen to be upset at the amount of dead raptors in their magazines, then the parents will start taking an interest. And instead of the fluffy nature/nice landscape photography frequently seen on the RSPB website, show a rolling series of dead or trapped raptor photographs on the homepage (every page?) with a full explanation behind each and every image (a link to the membership page from these pages might reap rewards).

      But worryingly, I carried out a search for “grouse moor” on the website and came up with very little (next to nothing) about persecution in these areas. It was the same for the search “grouse shooting”. Both searches, although showing more than one page, would only allow the information on the first page to be viewed (pages 2 and 3 jumped to an overall search page). Stop hiding away from the fact and get the message out there – there is only so much the average person can do.

  32. 44 Mike B
    March 2, 2013 at 6:35 am

    Wholly supportive, but what chance correcting the spelling in the petition title? Should be “licensing”, as a verb, not “licencing”, “licence” being the noun. But I acknowledge it’s confusing – US English has it the other way round.

  33. 48 Christopher Collins
    March 2, 2013 at 5:24 pm

    Game keepers are just the pits. fines should be much higher and longer prison sentence

  34. 49 Karl Moore
    March 2, 2013 at 7:54 pm

    These people are criminals and should face the full force of the law and the contempt most people feel for them.

  35. 50 Dougie
    March 3, 2013 at 10:48 am

    Gamekeepers who resort to crime are a symptom of the problem. Where that problem exists the landowners must bear the ultimate responsibility.

  36. March 5, 2013 at 10:36 am

    Put and end to this persecution.

  37. 52 Reece Fowler
    March 5, 2013 at 8:35 pm

    “Tired of waiting for the grouse-shooting industry to get its house in order?”

    This statement is extremely misleading, considering only a minority of gamekeepers kill raptors. Most have never been involved in illegal activity. There are still a few who break the law, but speaking of “the grouse-shooting industry” is misleading because these acts are not committed by the industry, they are committed by a minority of people who are roundly condemned by the industry and do not represent the majority of gamekeepers and shooting estates. Personally I am sick and tired of people who insist on smearing a mostly law abiding and responsible community for no good reason, based on the actions of a minority of individuals.

    Besides, I’m pretty sure that you can lose a shotgun certificate and firearms license for good if you go to prison for a certain length of time, but I can’t remember if this is true or what the length of time is. But considering gamekeepers need guns to do their job, perhaps that would be a better avenue to consider which would not inhibit law abiding gamekeepers? If gamekeepers lose their gun licenses, they will likely be unable to get back into the gamekeeping profession again. This could be a good way to help solve the problem without penalising the law abiding majority.

    • 53 Merlin
      March 5, 2013 at 11:13 pm

      “Tired of waiting for the grouse-shooting industry to get its house in order?”

      “This statement is extremely misleading, considering only a minority of gamekeepers kill raptors”

      A minority is anything under 50%, judging by the maps recently produced for incidents in England and Wales and earlier ones for Scotland, judging by the lack of Raptors on many Moors, I think you might be splitting hairs.

      • 54 Marco McGinty
        March 6, 2013 at 9:09 pm

        Reece, you are entitled to your opinion, but judging by the distinct lack of raptors on driven grouse moors, it is quite evident that the majority of gamekeepers in this field are involved in serious and prolonged criminal activity.

        If, as you have stated, this is only a “minority of people who are roundly condemned by the industry and do not represent the majority of gamekeepers and shooting estates”, then why are the “majority” of law-abiding gamekeepers and landowners not reporting these rogue keepers? Why are these law-abiding landowners and gamekeepers not reporting the rogues for stashes of banned poisons? Why are they not reporting the rogues for setting illegal traps, for laying poisoned baits, for killing protected species?

        Furthermore, we are dealing with some landowners that encourage criminality, employees that routinely break the law, and corrupt officials that will do anything in their power to cover up any criminal acts carried out by the “profession”, so I’m sure the lack of a firearms certificate wouldn’t be be a hindrance.

  38. 55 Susan Lorrimer
    March 10, 2013 at 9:29 am

    There’s no excuse for persecuting birds of prey, especially for profit – lets set an example, it’s really as bad as elephants and rhinos being poached for their tusks and horn

  39. 56 Stephen Norman
    March 10, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    Having read Simon Barnes article in the times, I am appalled at the practice of killing birds of prey for any reason. Lets stop this and lead the world on conversation in reality not posture!

  40. 57 Ian Rubery
    March 11, 2013 at 10:36 pm

    The persecution of birds of prey is illegal but it is difficult to enforce the law, right? However, if we could bring game birds under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 (!) that would really give the culprits something to think about.
    A “protected animal” for the purposes of this Act is a “vertebrate”, and :- (a) it is of a kind which is commonly domesticated in the British Islands, (b) it is under the control of man whether on a permanent or temporary basis, or (c) it is not living in a wild state.
    So perhaps there would need to be so tweaking, but the stumbling block is always enforceability and application of the Act would make every difference (in more ways than one, but so what?).

  41. 58 clive lowe
    March 26, 2013 at 7:37 pm

    Lets hope we can stop the persecution

  42. 59 Chris Place
    March 29, 2013 at 12:13 pm

    If I can be of any assistance to you guys in this very important campaign please dont hesitate to contact me, i am retired with time on my hands and looking forward to spending many happy days on The Isle of Mull watching eagles.

  43. 60 bob Ballantyne
    March 30, 2013 at 8:33 pm

    It is the landowners who should be clamped down on. We cannot really blame a gamekeeper for doing what they are told or implied to be told.
    How about taking their land bit by bit for every incident on their estate. Radical but might work.

  44. 61 Marco McGinty
    March 30, 2013 at 10:54 pm

    Bob, I agree that landowners should take their share of the blame but I have to disagree with you when you state that the gamekeepers are not to blame. They are repeatedly breaking the law because they want to kill raptors and other predators, not simply because they are told to. Would you deliberately break the law if your boss told you to do so?

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