Those luminaries of hen harrier conservation, The Countryside Alliance, are claiming that the scientific evidence used to show that Bowland Betty was shot was actually just ‘supposition’.
For those who don’t remember, Bowland Betty was a young satellite-tagged hen harrier who was found dead on a Yorkshire grouse moor in 2012 (see here). There followed a post-mortem carried out by the Zoological Society of London, which showed she had a fractured left leg which led to her death. There was then a pioneering forensic examination by scientists at the University College London Institute of Orthopaedics and Musculoskeletal Science, which found a tiny fragment of lead at the site of the fracture, confirming that she had been shot (see here, scroll down to news item 9th January 2013, and later published in the journal Veterinary Record in 2015: hopkins-et-al-2015_bowlandbetty_vetrecord ).
According to a press statement on the Countryside Alliance website (see here), “The Countryside Alliance team has accessed and reviewed autopsy reports and has serious concerns about this claim“.
Hmm, I wonder how many professional forensic scientists are employed on the CA’s team? Probably the same number as the number of professional veterinary pathologists employed by the SGA when they challenged the findings about what had happened to the Deeside eagle (see here).
Of course, it’s not the first time that the Countryside Alliance have been in denial about the extent of hen harrier persecution – see here, here, here and here for starters. Blimey, even Nick Griffin MEP has a greater grasp of the dire straits this species is in (see here) and that’s saying something!
It’s worth remembering that the Countryside Alliance was a participant in the charade that was the ‘Hen Harrier Dialogue’ – until the RSPB, Northern England Raptor Forum and the Hawk & Owl Trust finally had enough after six years of utter game-playing and walked out. Also interesting to note that the Countryside Alliance is still a participant in the PAW England and Wales Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group, along with the likes of the Moorland Association (see here for their view on hen harrier conservation) and the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation (we wrote recently about their contribution to tackling illegal raptor persecution here). Yet another charade, almost identical to the Scottish Raptor Priority Group, portrayed as ‘partnership working’ when it’s anything but.
The illegal killing of Bowland Betty provided tangible evidence of what we all knew was happening to the thousands of ‘missing’ hen harriers on UK grouse moors, just as the Countryside Alliance’s latest denial lays bare what we already knew was their real attitude to hen harrier conservation. Bowland Betty wasn’t the first silent witness and certainly isn’t the last…..watch this space…