26
Sep
13

Buzzard licence applicant tries for four more licences

S44-477413The #Buzzardgate saga continues. Mr Buzzard Licence Applicant (the one who successfully applied for licences to destroy buzzard nests and eggs to protect pheasants earlier this year – see here) has applied for four more licences, this time to kill (by trapping and shooting) 16 buzzards and three sparrowhawks.

The details of these latest applications (well, heavily-redacted versions) have only been revealed after the RSPB again applied under FoI for the information from Natural England. The RSPB’s Conservation Director, Martin Harper, has published these redacted applications and has written a good blog about them (see here). Well done to the RSPB, and particularly to Jeff Knott (who wrote the FoI requests) and to Martin for publishing the results.

This time, Natural England rejected all four applications.

There are a number of issues that are a cause for serious concern, not least the secrecy of the full application material – given the huge public interest in this issue, and the potential for setting precedents that would allow other licences to be issued, the details should be available for public interest and scrutiny, not redacted under heavy black ink. Martin writes eloquently about this in his blog.

But what interests us the most is the involvement, again, of the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation (NGO). The latest licence applications were again made by the NGO “on behalf of our member”. We have blogged extensively about Mr Buzzard Licence Applicant and our strong suspicions that he has a recent conviction for possession of banned poisons, including the gamekeepers’ so-called ‘poison of choice’ – Carbofuran (e.g. see here).

Why do we have these suspicions? Well, we know Mr Buzzard Licence Applicant’s real name, and we know that someone with the same name, working as a gamekeeper, in the same region, was convicted for possession of banned poisons. There is a very slim chance, of course, that it is purely a coincidence that Mr Buzzard Licence Applicant shares the same name, occupation and location as the convicted criminal, but there is also every chance that these two people are one and the same.

According to the NGO’s disciplinary policy (available on their website, see here), they ‘automatically condemn any illegal gamekeeping practice’ and ‘In circumstances where an NGO member is convicted in court of a wildlife crime, that person’s membership will automatically be suspended forthwith, pending the decision of the NGO National Committee. The National Committee will at its next meeting decide, in the light of the court’s findings,…..whether the suspended member shall be expelled or re-admitted”. We and many of you (thank you) emailed the NGO after the first buzzard licence had been issued, seeking clarification about whether Mr Buzzard Licence Applicant was a member of the NGO or whether he had ever been previously suspended. The NGO responded with complete silence.

A few days ago, the NGO’s Political and PR Advisor, Charles Nodder, wrote a comment on this blog concerning another convicted gamekeeper (Andrew Knights). Mr Nodder wrote to advise us that he could find no record of Andrew Knights ever being a member of the NGO (see here). We again asked Mr Nodder for clarification about whether Mr Buzzard Licence Applicant had a previous conviction for wildlife crime and if so, how that fitted in with the NGO’s claimed stance of zero tolerance of illegal acts?

Mr Nodder replied: “Sorry but I am not sure what you are getting at here. The NGO is for best practice and against law-breaking. Is that not clear? Please understand that not all people calling themselves ‘gamekeepers’ are members of the NGO.

This website is implacably against raptor persecution and so too is the NGO. We are members of the Partnership Against Wildlife Crime and active participants in the Raptor Persecution Wildlife Crime Priority Group. We supported and publicised the official maps produced earlier this year showing where birds of prey had been confirmed poisoned.

So far as I know, only two members of the NGO (out of 16,000) have ever been convicted of crimes against raptors have both been publicly condemned on conviction and chucked out. The organisation’s disciplinary policy and unequivocal statement opposing raptor persecution are on the NGO website.

The NGO, and the firm stance it is taking on this subject, can probably achieve more in cleaning up game management practice and encouraging people to follow legal routes than any amount of sniping from the sidelines. You should regard us as a key part of the solution, not part of the problem. An organisation to be supported, not attacked.

And on the buzzard licence applicant, we cannot comment on spent convictions any more than you but I can assure you that he has never been convicted of any crime against wildlife”.

It would seem Mr Nodder has chosen his words carefully, but not carefully enough. You see, possession of banned poisons IS considered a wildife crime and in England, this crime can be prosecuted under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981. Or perhaps the NGO don’t consider the illegal possession of banned poisons (usually used to illegally poison wildlife) a legitimate wildlife crime?

So, back to the same question. Is the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation harbouring a convicted criminal amongst its membership? And if so, why is the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation allowed to serve on various wildlife crime committees (e.g. PAW and the Raptor Persecution Wildlife Crime Priority Group)? The legitimate members of these committees should be asking the NGO for clarification and transparency on this issue.

What’s the point of sitting around a table to discuss ways to resolve raptor persecution crime if one of those groups is representing someone with a conviction for wildlife crime? Come on RSPB and the other members of the Raptor Persecution Wildlife Crime Priority Group, ask them the bloody question!

We can also ask them the question: Email to – cnodder@msn.com and info@nationalgamekeepers.org.uk

Dear Charles Nodder/NGO, does Mr Buzzard Licence Applicant, an NGO member whose application to kill buzzards and sparrowhawks you are supporting, have a previous conviction for possession of banned poisons? If so, how does this fit in with the NGO policy of zero tolerance of illegal gamekeeping activities? Thanks.

By the way, we’re still waiting for a response from the Information Commissioner about whether Natural England can refuse to release the name of Mr Buzzard Licence Applicant because they believe it’s in the public interest to keep it secret (see here). We’ll report on that when we’ve had a response.


52 Responses to “Buzzard licence applicant tries for four more licences”


  1. 1 Charles Nodder
    September 26, 2013 at 10:55 am

    To save people emailing, here is my reply:

    The possession of a banned substance is quite clearly a possession offence and not an offence against wildlife. There are all sorts of things prosecuted under the Wildlife and Countryside Act that are not crimes against wildlife and this is one of them. Nor is possession of something a ‘gamekeeping activity’.

    As I said before, I am not at liberty to discuss spent convictions and nor should others be doing so.

    Charles Nodder
    NGO Political Adviser

    • 2 Martin Collinson
      September 26, 2013 at 1:23 pm

      So in a hypothetical situation where an NGO member was convicted in court for possession (only) of carbofuran, are you saying this would not be treated as a wildlife offence by NGO, their membership would not automatically be suspended and there would be no meeting to determine whether they should be expelled?

      • 3 Charles Nodder
        September 26, 2013 at 2:39 pm

        We don’t deal in hypothetical situations, Martin, but were this to happen in reality, the NGO’s disciplinary policy would kick in. You can read it on the NGO website and it speaks for itself.

        • 4 Marco McGinty
          September 26, 2013 at 10:01 pm

          You don’t deal in hypothetical situations? I will point you to the following Natural England responses;

          “Recent observations were inconclusive as to the current locations of nesting buzzards. Whilst two common buzzards were seen to emerge and fly away from the eastern end of ??????? during our most recent site visit, the birds quickly gained height and flew away some distance, suggesting they are not breeding at this location. Another buzzard emerged from the wood twice, flew low and returned to the wood, suggesting it could be part of a nesting pair. ???? and I were unable to locate either a nest or any buzzards in the western end of this wood when we returned to search later in the day.”

          “A nest was seen in and a common buzzard was seen flying overhead, however, it was not possible to determine if this nest was active or even if the buzzard came from this nest.”

          “The conditions on the day of our most recent site visit were near perfect for buzzard observation, being warm and calm, yet few buzzards were actually seen. We were also unable to locate any nests or buzzards where you had indicated birds were nesting in ???????”

          “There is no evidence of serious damage since non lethal measures were implemented, and it is our assessment that none of the first 4 tests have been satisfied for this application.”

          So, if you don’t deal in hypothetical situations, why is the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation prepared to give the applicant full backing, despite the applicant’s statements being based on conjecture and biased, anti-predator beliefs?

          Furthermore, in the Further Licence Application document, an email from the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation to Natural England, states;

          “Further to ongoing applications WLM/2013/1750-1762, I attach on behalf of our member, ??????, a further application for licences to control buzzards and sparrowhawks at ?????? We had hoped this would not be necessary this year but with pheasant poults arriving in a fortnight for release there, ?????? currently has five sparrowhawks and four adult buzzards, plus young, all living in ??????, within a couple of hundred of yards of his pheasant release pen. Non-lethal deterrents have proved ineffective and, not unreasonably, he anticipates serious damage from the moment the pheasants are released.

          Just look at that last clause of the final sentence. Isn’t that a hypothetical situation? But more worryingly is the fact that your organisation is seeking licences to kill protected birds BEFORE the applicant is in possession of his pheasants. How can you possibly trial all non-lethal measures before the perceived prey is introduced to the area? How does that stand with the Code of Good Shooting Practice?

          Typically hypocritical, typically biased anti-raptor nonsense, and baseless in the extreme.

    • September 26, 2013 at 11:12 pm

      Is possession something of a “gamekeeping activity” when the poison is not only found in the criminal’s work vehicle, but also in his home AND inside one of his pheasant pens?!!

    • 6 Circus maxima
      September 27, 2013 at 9:48 am

      Why have Rules, Codes of Practice and a disciplinary policy? To prevent hypothetical situations becoming reality? Of course you deal with hypothetical situations….indeed that’s the whole reason your organisation hired a political officer.

      What if the poison was actually being stored in the shed along with all of the other day-to-day paraphernalia of the job. IE stored with work equipment at the place of work?

    • 7 Circus maxima
      September 27, 2013 at 10:34 am

      Its a bit of a no-brainer that the reason the Wildlife and Countryside Act was brought into existence was to ensure the conservation of wildlife (and geology!). If you break this law, you are committing an offence against species, habitats or important geological features. A fundamental purpose of creating a new law is to clarify an offence and remove conflicts with other legislation. It only deals with wildlife issues.

      I have looked through your disciplinary procedure…http://www.nationalgamekeepers.org.uk/about-national-gamekeepers-organisation/policy/ngo-disciplinary-procedure.
      Nowhere does it use your invented term of “crime against wildlife”. You do have a specific policy on “Illegal killing of birds of prey” which simply refers back to the general Disciplinary Policy.
      The main thrust of the Disciplinary procedure is try to maintain a good public image for the organisation by distancing itself from misconduct, offences, and breaches of codes of conduct. Quote..”The NGO will act swiftly and firmly to condemn, in public if appropriate, anyone or anything proven to have brought the profession of gamekeeping, or the NGO itself, into serious disrepute.” The procedure does not differentiate between possession offences and “crimes against wildlife”.

      Clearly the man on top of the Clapham Omnibus is going to conclude that the confirmed possession of a banned chemical, which has a reputation for use in raptor poisonings, by a gamekeeper (who would never have had a legal use for the chemical)…is bound to be a serious breach of the NGO’s code?

      Is there a secret policy document that provides you with the strange interpretation of your code which you are presenting here??

  2. September 26, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    Charles, thanks for your reply, even though you have still managed to avoid the important question. Don’t worry though, we intend to keep asking it until we have a clear reply.

    What your answer has done though is open up another question. Are you seriously suggesting that a conviction for possession of a banned poison that is typically used to kill wildlife is not considered a wildlife crime?

    Please clarify.

    • 9 Charles Nodder
      September 26, 2013 at 2:44 pm

      No. It is a possession offence. Were it to be used with intent to harm wildlife, that would be a wildlife crime.

      • September 26, 2013 at 2:56 pm

        So, this answer is in direct contradiction to the answer you gave to Martin. You told Martin that if an NGO member was convicted for possession of Carbofuran, the NGO’s disciplinary policy would kick in. But just a few minutes later and you’re telling us that you don’t consider possession of Carbofuran to be a wildlife crime.

        ?????

  3. 11 Marco McGinty
    September 26, 2013 at 6:22 pm

    Firstly, well done the RSPB for this fine piece of work, and well done Natural England for rejecting the applications.

    Secondly, I have some questions for Mr Nodder.

    The NGO clearly states in its objectives, that to ensure quality within the profession the NGO will “uphold the Code of Good Shooting Practice, the Code of Good Game Rearing Practice and other relevant codes.” This Code of Good Shooting Practice holds the following statements and information that should be upheld at all times;

    One of the Five Golden Rules is “Shoot managers must endeavour to enhance wildlife conservation and the countryside”.
    If you truly believe in this, then why are you supporting an application to rid an area of Buzzards and Sparrowhawks? By ridding an area of its predators will clearly weaken its conservational value.

    The Shoot Management section clearly states that “Shoot managers must endeavour to deliver an overall measurable improvement to habitat and wildlife on their shoots”.
    Again, refer to my remark above. Do you agree that ridding an area of its predators will deliver an overall measurable improvement to habitat and wildlife?

    In the Predator and Pest Control section it is stated that “Approved chemicals must only be used for their legal purpose. They must be stored in accordance with the COSSH Regulations” and “It is an offence to intentionally kill, damage or destroy birds of prey, their nests or eggs.”
    Is Carbofuran an approved chemical? Can Carbofuran be used legally in the UK? Can Carbofuran be stored in accordance with COSSH Regulations? Why, if it is an offence to kill, damage or destroy birds of prey, their nests or eggs, are you supporting an applicant to do those very things?

    I will await your response, but on the above evidence it would appear, Mr Nodder, that your very organisation is not upholding the Code of Good Shooting Practice!

    • 12 Circus maxima
      September 26, 2013 at 9:56 pm

      Good questions Marco….I would ask , “Why would a Gamekeeper be in possession of a chemical used for poisoning wildlife?”

      • 13 Marco McGinty
        September 26, 2013 at 10:24 pm

        Quite correct CM. Why would a UK gamekeeper, living in the UK, be in possession of a substance that is banned in the EU? I can’t think why a gamekeeper would choose to do such a thing, so perhaps given Mr Nodder and the NGO’s close links to the applicant, they would be able to shed some light on this?

        However, I have a feeling that many of these questions will remain unanswered.

  4. 14 DaveMH
    September 26, 2013 at 6:34 pm

    Raptor persecution is not only a problem in Scotland, but across the whole of the UK, if the national bodies will not take positive action against their membership, then it is left to those who care truly about the ecosystem which the Raptors are a part of to either gather the evidence directly if qualified to do so, or support the bodies that have officers to carry out these investigations, with members and the public assisting to witness offences and raise concerns.

    By refusing to answer the questions the NGO have shown their position and that they are purely driven by the financial ties of these matters, they have no sight of the larger picture and the environment in which their memberships operates.

  5. 15 Marco McGinty
    September 26, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    Mr Nodder, the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation tagline/strapline is “Keeping the Balance”. Do you agree that supporting an applicant to rid an area of Buzzards and Sparrowhawks, top predators vital to a healthy environment or ecosystem is keeping a balance?

  6. 16 nirofo
    September 26, 2013 at 7:58 pm

    It seems to me that there is more to this than meets the eye, could it be that “someone” is pushing this from behind the scenes to get at least one of these highly irregular applications accepted and therefore set a precedent so that future applications will have more weight behind them. This could just be testing the water to see how strong a response this engenders, fortunately in this instance the RSPB were on the ball, but you have to wonder which way Natural England would have swung without their influence. Would this one have just slid under the net without notice until it was too late, national interest was aroused last time and a petition soon raised to fight it but this time it may well have been too late to do anything. Natural England and Scottish Natural Heritage should be duty bound to make these applications public knowledge so that they may be scientifically looked into by experts, not on the say so of government ministers and gamekeeping organisations who have personal interests. ???

    • 17 Marco McGinty
      September 26, 2013 at 11:09 pm

      Could that person be Richard Benyon?

      It is difficult to say how Natural England would have responded if it wasn’t for the furore caused by the earlier applications. I am quite convinced that the reaction Natural England received from members of the public earlier this year played a big part in these rejections. So we have a lot to thank the RSPB and sites such as RPS for getting that information out.

      It is a shocking state of affairs when information like this is deliberately kept from the public, and I fully agree with your suggestion that these applications should be made available, certainly to organisations such as the RSPB.

  7. 18 Marco McGinty
    September 26, 2013 at 9:23 pm

    I have some more questions for Mr Nodder regarding the application;

    It is evident that the applicant in his original submission did not consider that a roof on his pheasant pens would dramatically reduce Buzzard predation on poults. It could be argued that the mere provision of a roof would completely eliminate this perceived threat. From what I can gather from this later application, it appears that providing a roof has again been ignored. To any sensible person, providing a roof that could eliminate a problem would be deemed as a perfectly acceptable non-lethal measure. My questions relating to this are;

    Why has the applicant refused to consider providing a roof for his pheasant pens?
    Why has the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation refused to consider providing a roof for his pheasant pens?
    Do you agree that providing a roof on pheasant pens is an acceptable non-lethal measure?
    Does the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation agree that providing a roof on pheasant pens is an acceptable non-lethal measure?

    In section 11 the following question is asked;
    Have you, or any persons listed above, been convicted of any wildlife-related or animal welfare offence?

    Mr Nodder, as you or your organisation are clearly involved in this application, could you please explain why this section was left blank, not only in the original applications, but also in these four latest applications? Did the applicant (or your organisation) deliberately withhold information in relation to past wildlife-related offences?

    I would also like to enquire about the perceived Sparrowhawk problem. There is no mention of Sparrowhawks being a problem in the first three applications to kill Buzzards (WLM/2013/1750, WLM/2013/1751 and WLM/2013/1752), and no mention of the applicant carrying out preventative, non-lethal measures to curtail the “problem”, so why has the applicant, included Sparrowhawk in these three applications?

    Furthermore, in the Further Licence Application, once again it would appear that the provision of a roof on pheasant pens has not been considered as an acceptable, non-lethal measure. Why is that?

    And finally, part of the Declaration section reads “I declare that the particulars given are correct to the best of my knowledge and belief”. Does this mean that the applicant has deliberately lied in his application, and the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation, with full knowledge that the applicant has been convicted of a wildlife-related offence, has supported this lies and deceit? What does that say about your organisation?

    [Ed: Thanks Marco. A couple of edits made on your last paragraph]

  8. September 26, 2013 at 9:24 pm

    How many pheasants, grouse and other ‘game’ birds do buzzards, kites and sparrowhawks predate? Probably an insignificant number. So why bother with nest disruption and poisoning?

    • 20 Marco McGinty
      September 26, 2013 at 11:32 pm

      You are quite correct – in the wider scheme of things, raptors have a negligible effect on game birds – indeed, they have co-existed for millennia (with the exception of environmentally damaging introduced game birds), and in natural populations they all interlink to create a healthy, balanced environment.

      However, the majority of gamekeepers, gamekeeping organisations and others involved in the shooting industry believe that game birds should be maintained at unnaturally high levels of population, and therefore have a hatred for anything predatory. This in-built hatred for predatory creatures (based on illogical and unsound beliefs), will see anything predatory being trapped, snared, poisoned, shot or bludgeoned, much of it illegally.

  9. September 26, 2013 at 11:20 pm

    It looks like the NGO need to clarify their disciplinary policy. It should read as follows:

    ‘The NGO defends and promotes gamekeeping within the law and therefore automatically condemns any illegal gamekeeping practice, except that is where an NGO member has been convicted for possession of banned poisons found in a vehicle, home or pheasant pen, because even though these particular banned poisons are routinely used to illegally poison wildlife, especially birds of prey, we don’t consider possession of these poisons a serious enough offence to warrant our condemnation or indeed expulsion from the NGO’.

    • 23 Marco McGinty
      September 27, 2013 at 1:09 am

      Quality! It would appear that Mr Nodder and the NGO are following Richard Benyon’s suggestion that possession of Carbofuran should not be considered a criminal offence.

      RPS – You have suggested that the person with the same name, occupation and location as the applicant was convicted for the possession of a banned poison found in his work vehicle, his home and in a pheasant pen. I am quite interested in the fact that this banned poison was found in a pheasant pen. Would you, Mr Nodder, or anyone else from the NGO be willing to expand on the details surrounding this incident? Was it in a secure, locked container within the pheasant pen? Or had it been laid out with a bait? Or was this deadly, banned poison “just lying around”?

      Mr Nodder – Why would a gamekeeper want to be in possession of a substance that has been banned since 2001? Why would this gamekeeper (that you support) not want to comply with the laws of the land and offer to dispose of this banned substance through legal means? And why would a gamekeeper, knowing that the substance is banned, have it in three separate locations, two of them clearly related to his work? Do you think it wise that the NGO should be offering support to such a person?

      • 24 nirofo
        September 27, 2013 at 4:52 pm

        If Mr Nodder and anyone else who represents the NGO knew this particular gamekeeper was harbouring illegal Carbofuran in his pheasant pens, (and it seems they did), then why did they not report him to the police or at least urge him to get rid of it SAFELY as soon as possible. If they knew he had this illegal substance in his possession and they knew he had made no attempt to get rid of it SAFELY, then why did they not expel him from the NGO and report him to the police ???

  10. 25 Charles Nodder
    September 27, 2013 at 7:37 am

    A few quick replies before I must get on with the day job…

    Marco, the licensing system would never allow someone to ‘rid an area’ of buzzards or anything else. It contains an absolute legal backstop against the granting of any licence that would adversely impact the conservation status of the species for which a licence is being granted.

    No, the NGO doesn’t condone the possession of a banned substance any more than it condones money laundering or wife-beating – they are all illegal activities and the justice system rightly takes care of them.

    The NGO’s specific responsibility, however, is gamekeeping and so our disciplinary policy takes effect if a member is convicted of an illegal gamekeeping activity or an offence against wildlife. Those are the things for which we have ‘zero tolerance’. And it follows that, yes, we most certainly do condemn the illegal use of poisons in a gamekeeping context.

    The NGO promotes gamekeeping within the law and is actively involved in the Partnership Against Wildlife Crime and the Anti Raptor Persecution Priority Group of the National Wildlife Crime Unit. The law, however, has, since 1981, allowed for the licenced control of any bird in circumstances of proven need and no other satisfactory solution. If a gamekeeper is faced with the prospect of serious damage caused by raptors, and has tried everything he can to deter them without success, then we would far rather he applied to Natural England for a licence, than reached for a bottle of poison. That is why we have been supporting well-founded applications for licences whilst at the same time roundly condemning anyone involved in wildlife crime.

    • 26 nirofo
      September 27, 2013 at 4:57 pm

      Quote:

      “we most certainly do condemn the illegal use of poisons in a gamekeeping context.”

      Does that mean that you have no objection to the use of illegal poisons by anyone other than gamekeepers ?

      • 27 Charles Nodder
        September 27, 2013 at 5:15 pm

        Nirofo. No of course it doesn’t and frankly I think addressing raptor persecution deserves a more mature approach than playing on words.

        And on your points, and those of other contributors, about a specific conviction, I am not at liberty to discuss that because it is ‘spent’ under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act.

        • September 27, 2013 at 10:47 pm

          We believe we are at liberty to discuss the spent conviction because we have not named the offender. We are not discussing the offender as an individual, but rather we are discussing the principle of the NGO harbouring a convicted wildlife criminal amongst its membership – something that the NGO claims it doesn’t do.

          And as you know, Charles, when the buzzard licence application first began, several years ago, the conviction was very much still live.

          Your efforts to dodge some pretty straightforward questions have been illuminating. It has become increasingly apparent during these conversations that the NGO is all for paying lip service to the principle of stamping out illegal raptor persecution, but when it comes down to it, some extraordinary excuses are being wheeled out to justify why those words haven’t been backed up by action.

        • 29 Marco McGinty
          September 28, 2013 at 1:02 am

          Charles, I would just like to address this issue of the conviction being spent, because you appear to be ignoring the point and deliberately sidestepping the issue.

          As far as I can gather, the application forms and its associated documents do not mention anything about spent convictions being exempt from the process. So, why did the applicant, and the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation, acting as his behalf, deliberately withhold this information from a considerable number of applications?

        • 30 nirofo
          September 28, 2013 at 1:15 pm

          Mr Nodder, I made no mention of a specific gamekeepers conviction and if you re-read my question, quoted here for your convenience, “If Mr Nodder and anyone else who represents the NGO knew this particular gamekeeper was harbouring illegal Carbofuran in his pheasant pens, (and it seems they did), then why did they not report him to the police or at least urge him to get rid of it SAFELY as soon as possible” you will see I was asking why you ignored the fact that he was storing illegal poisons and did not report him to the police or ban him from the NGO. Can you please answer this question so that we can move on.

    • 31 Marco McGinty
      September 27, 2013 at 6:53 pm

      Charles, you are stonewalling and you have refused to answer many of the questions set to you.

      The word “area” could easily relate to each of the individual compartments used in the applications (and this word is indeed used in each application), so considering the applicant has already destroyed the nests and eggs of Buzzards in these areas, and now demands that he should be able to kill them, I am well within my rights to believe that the applicant does indeed want to rid these areas of Buzzards.

      If the NGO does not condone the possession of a banned substance, then why has the NGO repeatedly backed an applicant that has allegedly had such a conviction? Why was the applicant allegedly in possession of a substance, banned since 2001 and usually used to kill wildlife?

      The applicant was allegedly convicted for possession of a banned substance found in his work vehicle and in a pheasant pen. Does that not count as illegal gamekeeping activity? If not, then why did this person allegedly have this banned substance in his work vehicle and, more importantly in a pheasant pen? Was the substance stored in a secure, locked container?

      Yes, the law does allow for licenced control in certain circumstances. However, you appear to suggest that the gamekeeper had tried everything in his power to deter predators. Did the applicant try to put a roof on his pheasant pens? If not, why not? And do you accept that the provision of a roof on a pheasant pen would be considered a reasonable solution to counter any perceived threat? I honestly cannot understand why those involved in the rearing of pheasants refuse to roof their pens. Could you please enlighten me as to their reluctance to carry out a simple procedure that would eliminate much of the conflict between the pheasant-rearing industry and conservationists?

      You also give your reasons for supporting his “well-founded applications”. Could you please explain, as to the reasons why the gamekeeper had made an application to kill Buzzards and Sparrowhawks BEFORE the applicant had introduced pheasants into one of the areas? The application states that all reasonable non-lethal measures must be taken before applying to kill protected birds. How can you possibly trial all reasonable non-lethal measures when the predators have been incapable of killing a non-existent prey?

      Furthermore, from the evidence given by the Natural England surveyors, it would appear that the applicant had exaggerated about the perceived problem and had (deliberately?) failed to carry out a number of non-lethal preventative measures to the suggested standards. Not exactly well-founded.

      And can you please tell us why the applicant, having allegedly been convicted of a wildlife-related offence, deliberately withheld this information from the series of applications? And why did your organisation, representing this man and with full knowledge of this alleged conviction, choose not to mention or include this fact in any of the applications?

      • 32 Marco McGinty
        September 30, 2013 at 10:59 pm

        Charles, it is interesting to learn that you could find time to respond to others, yet you have refused to answer my questions, the majority of which could have been answered with a straightforward yes or no.

        But then again, this refusal to answer questions appears to be the normal procedure once someone from the shooting industry has been defeated, so I shouldn’t be surprised.

        • 33 nirofo
          October 1, 2013 at 1:15 am

          You’re right Marco, I’m still waiting for a reply to my question? It seems when the NGO are backed into a corner they just don’t bother to answer, I guess we can draw our own conclusions from that.

  11. September 27, 2013 at 10:28 pm

    To be honest, we’re still astounded that Charles and the NGO do not consider the possession of banned poisons, that are routinely used to illegally kill birds of prey, a ‘wildlife crime’. More on that to come as we explore the definition of a wildlife crime…

    But in the meantime, here’s another question for Charles:

    You said in an earlier comment, “Nor is possession [of banned poisons] something of a ‘gamekeeping activity'”. Could you please explain then, why the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation supported Project SOE – a pesticide disposal scheme that ran in 2011 whereby gamekeepers could dispose of illegal poisons [in their possession] for a nominal fee with no questions asked? See here: http://www.projectsoe.org/index.php

    • 35 Charles Nodder, Political Adviser. NGO
      September 29, 2013 at 4:10 pm

      So would RPS rather that the NGO had not supported Project SOE? Would you prefer it if we were not members of PAW? Would it have been better for us not to publish Defra’s 2013 poisoning maps? Should we stop hosting the Campaign Against Illegal Poisoning, free of charge, on our many game fair stands? Perhaps you also think we should stop regularly reminding 6000 gamekeeper members, through our magazine and online, that crimes against wildlife are unacceptable? Would you rather we didn’t chuck out people who, nonetheless, still go on to poison raptors? Should we, indeed, leave the Raptor Persecution Priority Group? The NGO’s job would certainly be much simpler if we did all these things – but prospects for raptors would not improve, I suggest. Its time to reflect on what really matters here, rather than harping on about a spent conviction for possession where there was no suggestion of use let alone anything dying.

  12. 37 Merlin
    September 30, 2013 at 9:30 am

    Having just got back from holiday reading this came as a surprise. a mate who shoots with some people with connections told me about a month ago there were attempts being made to get licenses to cull more Buzzards, Sparrowhawks and Red Kites, I laughed it off at the time. be interesting to see if an application for Red Kites appear in the near future. unbeleivable actions once again though from people who have the cheek to call themselves gaurdians of the countryside. Charles shame on you for trying to defend these actions

  13. September 30, 2013 at 10:18 am

    Sorry to move away from the discussions about the conviction for a short while but, I would like to ask the NGO about ongoing or future applications. The applicant (whether correct or not) believes that the licenses previously issued have not improved the situation, I would be interested to know if by removing the breeding buzzards they might have inadvertently made the problem worse (an unoccupied territory must be most welcome to non breeding or prospecting buzzards).
    Also what in your view is the final agreeable outcome here? Are you suggesting that a continual slaughter of buzzards be allowed in areas where pheasants or other game are shot?

    Dispersing birds from surrounding areas and non breeding birds that get moved on from occupied territories are likely to be attracted to any area that offers less competition for food and breeding places, surely looking at mitigation and acceptable loss is the only viable solution.

    Disclaimer * The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the sender and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of any affiliated groups and associations or any other individual(s) within those groups and associations.

    • 39 Charles Nodder, Political Adviser. NGO
      September 30, 2013 at 12:51 pm

      Happy to try to address Merlin and Mike’s points:

      This was and will never be about a cull in the sense of reducing the overall buzzard population. Indeed, the licensing system could never be used for that purpose because a licence cannot be issued if it would impact adversely on the conservation status of the licenced species. So this was only ever about the removal of specific birds in exceptional circumstances for the prevention of serious damage (Section 16(1)k of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981).

      The law allows for this and the modest outcome we would like, Mike, is for Natural England to administer it properly, following due process, so that those with genuine need, who have tried all other satisfactory solutions and for whom buzzard removal under licence is the only remaining option, can get a licence. Indeed, if their applications meet all the published tests (genuine need, everything else having been tried, etc), then a licence cannot, by law, be unreasonably withheld.

      The question of what happens when you remove a resident, territorial bird is an interesting one and as I understand it the generally accepted wisdom is that another bird will move in and take up the territory. But they key thing here is that in general, buzzards are not a problem to gamekeepers. It is the few individual birds that particularly key in on taking gamebirds that present the difficulty and these seem to be few and far between. So, if you remove the habituated, educated problem bird, although it may well get replaced, the likelihood is that the replacement bird will not present the same threat.

      If you read all the papers on the free range chicken farm, you will see that removing the problem birds seems to have addressed the difficulties there and that no further licence applications are anticipated. I would envisage the same thing happening in an equivalent gamebird scenario.

  14. September 30, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    Thank you for the prompt reply. I have a bit of a problem believing that this applicant was unlucky enough to have 16 of these few individual birds causing him difficulty, how do you suppose that we might be able to identify such a problem bird(s) to ensure that we are not killing the wrong buzzard(s) thus not solving the predation problem that is being suggested, are we instead in danger of submitting requests to enable the control of
    buzzards that are not a problem, that could potentially be replaced by problematic birds?

    Disclaimer * The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the sender and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of any affiliated groups and associations or any other individual(s) within those groups and associations.

    • 41 Charles Nodder, Political Adviser. NGO
      September 30, 2013 at 2:57 pm

      Mike,

      The issue here is that licences to control just a few buzzards were refused by Natural England in 2011 and 2012. There are now several families of buzzards locally that share this predatory behaviour, having presumably been taught by parent birds. That is the point. If gamekeepers can legitimately take early action, under licence, as the free range poultry farmer was allowed to do, the problem could quickly be resolved.

      And in the context of this website, the availability – via licensing – of a legitimate route for solving problems, subject to strict legal tests, provides a safety valve which should reduce the temptation for people in desperation to break the law. But a safety valve can only reduce pressure, of course, if it works and that is why the NGO is trying to get NE to follow due process and apply the same standards to game management as it has applied to free range poultry farming.

      And come to that, the same standards for buzzards as are used for assessing the licenced control of cormorants (much less common), for as one of NE’s own papers released by the RSPB states, there are “No grounds for NE to treat birds of prey as special cases with different thresholds of proof.”

  15. September 30, 2013 at 4:31 pm

    Thank you again Charles,this is where my doubts raise themselves, how do you know that all these buzzards are subject to this behavioural trait and what happens if the next buzzards to occupy the sites have the same traits? How do you ensure that these buzzards are the only ones killed, again with the thought in mind that you could remove non problematic birds only for them to be replaced with a problem bird(s)?

    It all seems to be premeditated, particularly given the fact that at the time of this particular application the poults had not yet been released and reading all the other short comings listed by various contributors on here it doesn’t appear that non lethal methods had not been fully tested either.

    Forgive my scepticism but supporting these particular applications doesn’t appear to fit in with the reasoning given.

  16. 43 Merlin
    September 30, 2013 at 8:25 pm

    Charles you didn’t address my points, were, or are there to your knowledge, licenses being applied for to control Red Kites? that was one of them. The original license was to destroy a few nests and eggs, now its to kill 16 Buzzards, how many will it be next time and how many more gamekeepers will start to apply for them? I’ll remind you of the figures we have to hand, 2% losses to Raptors, figure supplied by BASC, you expect to shoot less than 50% of what you release! In a few extreme instances you can lose up to 25% from certain pens. You say that all methods of solutions have been tried, this is rubbish. Farmers can cover complete orchards with cheap netting to protect against birds, Builders cover complete buildings with cheap netting to protect the public from falling debris, Fish farms cover huge areas of water to protect fish stocks yet Gamekeepers and their employers are so tight fisted they wont spend any money, time and effort trying to cover these vulnerable pens from Raptors. As is done in the USA.
    Finally the person involved in the license application has previous for possession of a banned substance that is used mainly to commit wildlife crime, you can split hairs but I would be surprised if anyone else shares your view. It would be better appreciated, especially by the law abiding members of your association if you stood up and admitted you made a mistake in selecting this person to support on such a land mark application

    • 44 Charles Nodder, Political Adviser. NGO
      October 1, 2013 at 11:01 am

      Merlin,

      As far as I know, no-one has applied to control Red Kites but you could always check NE’s licensing statistics on their website.

      The original applications in this case (2011, 2012 and 2013) were to control the adult birds of prey causing the problem. It was NE who came back with the nest destruction idea and licence as the various documents show.

      I entirely agree with you that impacts by buzzards on game in general are not such as to be a major problem for gamekeepers and I wrote as much yesterday on this site. But the wildlife licensing system exists precisely to deal with exceptions (in this case a rare instance of 25% losses).

      The pen roofing issue is not about cost it is about practicality. A pheasant release pen is intended to protect vulnerable poults from ground predators and from wandering whilst they acclimatise to their release environment. Usually located in a wood and with trees within it to provide roosting, it should be as large as possible and would in most cases be impossible to net. Furthermore, the principle of the open topped pen is that as the birds get stronger and wiser, they release themselves when they are ready by flying out over the top. The ‘early developers’ get out first and the weaker ones later on when they too are ready. None of that works if you have a roof on the pen.

      And finally, yes, it would be nice if no-one had any ‘previous’ but in the real world people do. They get prosecuted, serve their punishment and in time the justice system regards them as rehabilitated. So too should the rest of us. A man here is now trying, despite his history – perhaps even because of it, to do the right thing by getting a licence for what he says he needs to do. NE is there to judge such applications on their merits and they have known throughout about the ‘previous’ (which, incidentally, was declared on all applications – why it fails to appear on the versions released on the RSPB website I am trying to find out).

      In a bizarre way, the case makes a pertinent point rather well; that there is a right way and a wrong way. The NGO is pleased to support those turning their back on crime and choosing the right way. In the interests of reducing raptor persecution, others should think about doing so too.

      • 45 Marco McGinty
        October 1, 2013 at 6:57 pm

        I am quite sure that the documents on the RSPB website are the very same as those issued by NE. If there was any information in these sections, it would have been redacted by NE before being released under FOI. However, these sections were clearly left blank, and I do not believe that the RSPB would alter them in any way.

        Also, I would still like to receive an answer as to why the applicant, supported by the NGO, applied for a licence to kill Buzzards and Sparrowhawks before pheasants had been introduced to the area?

        But, the refusal to roof pheasant pens is down to choice? Instead of having small, roofed pens that would effectively stop predators from gaining entrance, the industry deliberately build large, unroofed pens that allows access for predatory birds? That doesn’t quite fit in with the “tried all reasonable, non-lethal measures” statement. Why, in all the years, has the idea of smaller, roofed pens never appealed to the industry?

        Forgive me for thinking this, but that would lead me to believe that the applicant, the NGO and the wider pheasant-rearing industry is actively seeking conflict where birds of prey are concerned.

        • 46 nirofo
          October 2, 2013 at 12:23 am

          Quote:
          “Forgive me for thinking this, but that would lead me to believe that the applicant, the NGO and the wider pheasant-rearing industry is actively seeking conflict where birds of prey are concerned.”

          Marco, you’ve done it again, you’ve hit the nail right on the head! However, I think there’s more to it than straight forward conflict, I’m totally convinced that the majority of gamekeepers actually go out of their way to persecute protected birds of prey. I don’t think they can help themselves doing it because they actually enjoy it, in any case who’s going to stop them, the law doesn’t care in the slightest, they’ve proved that time and time again.

          As for the NGO coming clean on where they stand, I think we’ll have a long wait, I’m still waiting for a reply from Charles Nodder, I won’t hold my breath.

          • 47 Marco McGinty
            October 2, 2013 at 3:19 pm

            I also agree with your sentiment that a number of gamekeepers will seek out raptors to persecute, and many of them do enjoy this side of their job.

            Yes, that looks like another day when Charles has failed to respond (in this post, and the following one), so I shall assume that he has been soundly defeated and cannot offer any reasonable explanations or answers.

      • 48 Merlin
        October 1, 2013 at 9:01 pm

        Charles thank you for your reply, I’ll draw a line under the discussion about the Gamekeeper with a conviction as we aren’t going to agree, criminal re offending rates though are currently around 26% and this gamekeeper has been refused licenses to kill 16 buzzards and 3 Sparrowhawks, I admire your faith.
        Again I’ll disagree with you over the roofing, it can be done if you wanted and the roof removed when the pheasants are strong enough, this would mean change though and that is one thing the shooting fraternity is opposed too, you only have to look at the lead debate to see that.
        Another point of discussion though is honesty, I’ve travelled to many RSPB nature reserves in this country and seen many waterfowl collections at the Wildfowl trust reserves, many of the reserves have thousands of birds there, all these reserves attract raptors, none of them seem to attract the predation levels that some Gamekeepers seem to claim. Only recently Alex Hogg blogged about a Goshawk, quote “The goshawk will kill over and over again. The largest number of pheasant poults I lost on a stubble in one strike was 35” now this has to be some kind of record, I’ve been out with Falconers hunting pheasants with Goshawks, If they kill there’s no way they’re leaving that kill to chase again, obviously you can check up with Falconry clubs or any of the old falconry books to double check on this but I’m very confident you wont find any entry’s in anyone’s falconry diary claiming 30 plus head of game in one day from one bird. In all the studies done on wild Goshawks no other person has documented this behaviour, do you think that’s strange?

        • 49 nirofo
          October 2, 2013 at 12:11 am

          Merlin, you do surprise me, you don’t really mean to say that you doubt the wisdom of Alex Hogg, the acknowledged lead gamekeeper in his field regarding Goshawk kills, surely not !!!

          • 50 Merlin
            October 2, 2013 at 9:12 pm

            Nirofo, whilst writing my post I couldn’t help thinking of a film clip. Robin Williams in Good morning Vietnam trying to teach the Vietnamese, English. Williams character turns to the class and tells them if you think someone is not being straight with you, you say to them “you are full of shit man” not sure why that kept going through my mind :-)

      • October 30, 2013 at 3:12 pm

        “The NGO is pleased to support those turning their back on crime and choosing the right way.”

        Wow, with ‘forgiveness’ like this Nodder should have the Nobel Peace Prize.
        Who needs zero tolerance when we have our very own Mother Nodder.


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